ISPO Award Trophy
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Successful ISPO Brandnew Winners: What They Do Today

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An innovation is no use if no one knows about it! To change that, there is ISPO Brandnew. This award makes young brands known and shows their exciting potential. But what exactly does winning such an award entail, and what happened to the winners afterwards? We wanted to know just that from national and international start-ups. 

ISPO Brandnew is the world's largest platform for start-ups in the sports industry. Since 2000, ISPO has been searching for and naming the most promising newcomers. Former award winners, including GoPro, Naish Kites, Maloja, Nixon, and On, are shaping the market today. The main problem for many young brands, however, is name recognition. An innovation is of no use if no one knows about it. Changing that is one of the main tasks of ISPO Brandnew, in other words: young brands are moving into the spotlight thanks to ISPO Brandnew. But is that really the case? We wanted to know from former winners: What did ISPO Brandnew bring in terms of PR and attention? We also asked how the company has developed in the meantime and what the challenges are for the future.


"A good push"

For Stefan Decker of Fiftyten, ISPO Brandnew 2018 was a "good push" and, according to him, brought a lot of attention. Above all, he says, it led to the young company also receiving inquiries from the USA. As a result, the startup visited an overseas trade show in spring 2019. Since last year, Fiftyten has been in the black, he said, even though current cost increases for aluminum, for example, make it necessary to constantly re-calculate. "We have to juggle a lot, and sometimes it's a battle in the fog." But there are also good developments, he says: "We are currently in a project with the Fraunhofer Institute to reduce weight in our cabins. We are also looking at materials made from renewable resources." Material tests are already underway with the prototype, he said. Fiftyten has been producing one of the most advanced living cabin systems on the market since 2017.


"Good reporting and valuable contacts"

Alex Shirley-Smith was inspired when he saw a TV documentary about the rainforest as a young boy. He decided to become an architect at some point and build tree houses himself. Almost 20 years later, in 2012, he presented the prototype of his Tentsile in London: a tent that can float between trees. Then in 2015, Tentsile won at ISPO Brandnew. Founder Shirley-Smith confirms that the win mainly brought "good coverage and recognition." In addition, "the award provided greater exposure in the European outdoor market. The show allowed us to get on the shelves of some of the biggest retailers and make contacts within the outdoor industry that have proven invaluable."

Since then, Tentsile says it has continued on its path of making the best and largest tree tents and giant hammocks in the world. The company plans to continue educating people about the dangers of deforestation and practicing methods to be kinder to the earth. "The challenges we face today and in the future revolve around the implementation of Brexit and global shipping and logistics," Shirley-Smith says. However, he says he hopes "we can overcome these obstacles and continue to offer great products for use in the outdoors."

Tentsile: big tree tents and sustainable goals
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"Tailwind from the classic sports industry"

Creating maximally motivating and health-promoting training experiences to combat exercise fatigue in our society - that is the vision of ICAROS, founded in Munich in 2015. Winning at ISPO Brandnew 2016 was the first of several awards in the meantime, and was therefore "something very special" for CEO Johannes Scholl. Above all, he says, the recognition from the "classic" sports industry for the radically new concept provided "a lot of tailwind and self-confidence." "Last but not least, the opportunity to present ourselves at ISPO and the media attention that came with the award were extremely helpful for our still very young company."

The ICAROS Pro product, which was introduced in 2016, can now be found in top fitness and wellness facilities around the world, he said. In 2018, ICAROS won for the second time - the ISPO Award for the ICAROS Home product. "Our first steps into the consumer market were then extremely accelerated with the onset of the Corona pandemic; today, these products represent more than half of our sales."

Currently, he said, the company's main focus is on content production and the implementation of additional features. "We also continue to be active in the medical field: we are currently completing the BMWi-funded N.E.X.T. project - a self-learning VR therapy system for stroke patients, the initial results of which are extremely promising."

ICAROS: booming end-user market
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"This went all the way to Japan"

"German and Austrian, but also international media reported about us directly from the fair. This went as far as Japan," recalls Christoph Fraundorfer, founder of My Esel. The project started back in 2014, three years later the GmbH was founded, and then in 2018 came ISPO Brandnew. Since then, he says, an extremely large amount has happened. "While there were 100 bikes we sold in 2018, there were already 1150 bikes in 2021. So we have increased our sales more than tenfold," Fraundorfer tells us proudly. Nevertheless, the Corona pandemic has "not helped" her business with wooden bikes. In uncertain times, potential buyers "tend to go for well-known brands with a good reputation," says the founder of My-Esel. At the moment, he cites delivery problems from suppliers as a challenge. However, the company would have used the time to be able to guarantee delivery capability in 2022 with a larger warehouse. The Austrians are also working on the topic of after-sales. "We want to offer our customers the best possible service with speed and reliability.

My Donkey: regional and sustainable production of wooden wheels
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Andreas Maxones/My Donkey

"Gain a good confirmation of our path"

Even though the boards were not yet ready for production in 2016 when they won ISPO Brandnew for the 10'0" Allround SUP: "We were able to generate international contacts, and even got to know an American licensee. This then financed us for two years," says Stefan Klare, managing director of Tripstix. Even though the award "came almost a little too early in retrospect - we were on everyone's lips." They could not have used the attention at the time "unfortunately" so well. But: if something hadn't gone so well in recent years, ISPO Brandnew had motivated them to keep at it. "Winning was simply a good confirmation of our path." The young company already has a lot behind it, including moving production from Korea to Europe and developing a new technology. Now, he said, the new product is up and running, and the first shipment was completely sold last year. Now he has to tackle reducing production costs, Klare cites as the next challenge for the young company, which manufactures inflatable boards.

Tripstix: new technology and production in Europe
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Chris Gollhofer/Tripstix

"Provided contacts to new markets"

"The T-bar has been a pain in the ass since 1934 - until now" is the motto of the Swedish company Boardie, founded by Niclas Stjernberg and Erik Englund in 2015. Their goal: to breathe new life into drag lifts with a visual and ergonomic lift. "ISPO Brandnew 2018 gave us contacts to new markets and allowed us to attract both investors and new customers," says Boardie founder Niclas Stjernberg. He says the win "really validated and encouraged them to continue developing our company." Since that time, he says, the company has expanded its presence, especially in Scandinavia - about 30 ski resorts already use the innovative hangers. And the next goals have already been set: "Today we are taking the first steps to equip ski resorts in the European Alpine region with Boardie. After the pandemic, we believe that all ski resort guests deserve a more comfortable ride on the ski lift." That's why the company is "actively looking for cooperation partners in countries like Austria, Germany and Switzerland to achieve this sooner rather than later."

Boardie: Present in Scandinavia, now looking for partners for DACH region
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"We noticed every award immediately"

"Things are going very well" - with these words, Managing Director René Wegner describes the current situation of Headis GmbH. No wonder, in 2019 ProSieben aired the 1st Headis Team World Championship as a Saturday night show with Stefan Raab, and for the second fun game HesherBall Super RTL is on the starting line. "Winning at ISPO Brandnew has always brought us a lot of brand awareness. The first time in 2010 we entered the race with a prototype, and were looking for producers and distribution partners. We found them at the trade show," Wegner says. In 2015, there was an award for the charity project "Headicao," which aims to provide Headis to disadvantaged children around the world. And again, media attention made further company expansion possible, according to the managing director.

During the Corona pandemic, the strategic direction had to be completely changed due to a lack of Headis events, but "we used the time to develop new trend sports, and we now have six patents pending." Of those, three have already been awarded to licensees, he said. "Our challenge is always to position all projects well in the market, and also to have firm partners." Carstensen Import Export is on board as a new licensing partner - for the production and distribution of HesherBall.

Headis inventor René Wegner (left) playing against Thomas Mika
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Benny Hörle
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