What do you get when you put a handful of engineering expats on a New England beach with kiteboards?
A company, apparently.
The company has created a tiny, durable device that delivers metrics on extreme sport activity. In other words, that gnarly air you just got – be it while snowboarding, skiing, kiteboarding, motocross, and more – can be measured, for bragging rights, and, more importantly, performance documentation and user data.
For now, however, the startup will fittingly begin to market the product to the kiteboarding community. While each member of WOO’s five-person team hails from a different country – Germany, Netherlands, France, South Africa and Michigan, to be precise – the one thing that united them all upon their migration to Boston was kiteboarding. Believe it or not, our Eastern slice of seaboard has prime conditions for the extreme watersport.
In fact, WOO even started out of cofounder and CEO’s Leo Koenig’s beach bungalow in Winthrop, Mass. The company has since moved into Pingup’s shared space in the Leather District, as it awaits the close of a seed round (WOO has already raised $1 million).
But no matter what, the team will always make time for kiteboarding, Koenig told BostInno. In fact, they typically try to keep Friday afternoons free just in case perfect conditions crop up at South Boston’s Pleasure Bay.
“As soon as the wind’s up, they drop everything and go kiteboarding. … I mean, testing,” joked WOO’s head of marketing Sally Berold.
It’s the risk-taking attitude and passion that the company shares in kiteboarding that it also applies to growing WOO.
The startup has already inked a $250,000 distribution deal with leading brand BEST Kiteboarding, starting in the end of July. “I will be so proud if I go into a retail store in the Netherlands and see the WOO right there in my local kite shop,” said Ytsen Zielstra, the startup’s COO. “We can’t wait to get this thing in people’s hands.”
What’s more, the company sees its discreet yet powerful device being used in professional competitions to rank athlete’s performance at competitions, like the X-Games.
In fact, WOO has already received a letter of intent around global events and media from Red Bull, the energy drink brand responsible for hosting the Cliff Diving World Series off of Boston’s Fan Pier for the past three years.
The advantage of using WOO in a competition is that teams and panels could get measurements of performance in real-time. “Maybe it wouldn’t a judge that would score the run, but data that would do that,” explained Koenig.
There’s also a big marketing play possible with WOO’s soon-to-be wealth of consumer data. “There’s just tremendous value in seeing what the customers do, their tricks. [Brands] can say, ‘Now we know who the customers are and what they need, so we can personally engage with them,’” added the executive. For example, snow sport brand Burton could send a 20 percent off discount deal for a snowboard designed to meet the needs of the athlete.
The company also wants to encourage people of all ages to embrace a more active lifestyle, especially kids. “We want it to be like they’re no longer playing Tony Hawk in front of their TV. They actually clip this thing to their skateboard and go out and play,” added the CEO.
WOO has started prototype manufacturing in small batches, and is currently testing them in a beta, according to the company. They’re also looking to add four more to its squad. Whether or not onboarding actually happens literally on a kiteboard is undecided.