Capitalising on the peak ski season in North America and Europe, young entrepreneur Rob Joseph’s sports-tech startup Anti Ordinary closed off 2023 as a breakthrough year with a record run of sales for its innovative ‘beanie helmet’.
After raising $650,000 through a seed round last year to help bring his latest version of the Anti Ordinary protective headwear to the market, investors would have been buoyed by the one million page impressions achieved in the first week of launching the new product to the market last month.
“In the first weekend of the A2 release, we recorded the biggest sales of any year since we entered the market,” Joseph tells Business News Australia.
“There’s been a lot of great feedback online and the reception from the market has been phenomenal so far with purchasers from 18 countries in the first 48 hours.”
The A2 is the updated version of Anti Ordinary’s sole product, the beanie helmet, an innovation described as a world first in protecting against brain injuries from high-risk outdoor sporting activities.
“We’re currently targeting snow sports aggressively right now, but we have a design that can expand into cycling, skate and other action sport categories quickly,” says Joseph, a finalist in the 2023 Brisbane Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.
The Anti Ordinary beanie helmet’s patented technology comprises more than 80 individual parts based on a polycarbonate frame that is designed to flexibly ‘shape shift’ around any person’s head contour.
Effectively it acts like a beanie while delivering the benefits of wearing helmets, supported by independent testing that Anti Ordinary says proves its product to be up to 32.4 per cent safer than traditional helmets.
“It passes all the international certifications for snow sports helmet safety with the best drop test results that anyone has ever seen for a snow sports helmet,” Joseph says.
“It’s by far the best technical solution for head protection and, on top of that, it looks good and feels good as well.”
Joseph first launched the Anti Ordinary beanie helmet in August 2022 after five years of research and development, and the early response was encouraging with the A1 selling out after every manufacturing run.
Since then, Joseph has refined the product further with a design that is 30 per cent thinner and lighter.
“Every part was changed to make it thinner and stronger than version one and we have now created a product that actually beats our safety record from the first product,” he says.
“We have the best drop test certification safety results published in the world, up to 39.4 per cent better than industry standards, beating our own records from the A1.
“It’s been heralded as the best helmet in the world, but it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a helmet at all.”
Joseph’s inspiration for Anti Ordinary – a name he says reflects the opposite of ordinary and even the extraordinary – stems from his love of outdoor sports.
“Being a Queenslander, I was late to snowboarding, but I have always been into action sports as a competitive wakeboarder and riding motorbikes and mountain bikes. I have pretty much grown up wearing helmets.”
As a medical engineering student in 2017, Joseph’s penchant for ‘inventing and tinkering’ led him to look at improving personal safety on ski slopes.
“What I noticed was that people who don’t wear helmets wear beanies, so I figured instead of trying to make a helmet that’s comfortable, why not try to make a beanie that’s safe?
“In terms of snow sports, anyone who says they prefer to wear a helmet rather than a beanie would be lying and we’ve been able to mix the two in a way that you don’t have to compromise anymore.
“Initially I thought it was going to be a whole lot easier than it was to get to this point and, seven years later, we now have our second product.”
The latest funding round for Anti Ordinary was backed by a multi-family private office in Brisbane, as well as Brisbane Angels and early investors.
“The capital raise has stepped us forward in a huge way, and I’m in an office right now surrounded by pre-production units that are about to hit America and Europe to make our sales,” Joseph says, adding that the latest capital raise has been structured to eliminate the need for further external capital.
“If we do choose to raise again it will be purely to accelerate growth and press the throttle a little bit harder. We’re working to get to profitability in the next season and a half, and these funds will get us there.
“We've managed to build enough units this season, but they will sell out, which is nice. We’re comfortable with starting slow and building responsibly.”
Anti Ordinary currently operates a direct-sales model via its website, although the company is exploring options to establish a retail distribution network. Joseph reveals that he has been approached by about 10 retailers looking to become stockists in Canada, the US, UK and Poland.
“We do have fulfillment warehouses, but we are lucky we can run the business from just about anywhere. We love being here in Queensland but sometimes we have to be near the snow to get closer to the market.”
Growth in a 'stagnant' market
Joseph put the success of Anti Ordinary down to the strides it has made in a relatively ‘stagnant’ market.
“It’s a market where not much has progressed for a long time and people really want the product we are making,” he says.
Joseph also concedes that Anti Ordinary is a ‘polarising brand’.
“It’s such a radically different product and it takes a lot of time for some people to get used to it.
“People don’t naturally believe us because we have such good drop testing results and the best that anyone has ever seen. People always ask how it can be so comfortable and look so good while being so safe.”
Some of Joseph’s highs are when he bumps into snowboarders on ski slopes in the US who rave about the product while unaware that he invented it.
His ambitions for the product are lofty.
“We want to be the biggest helmet manufacturer for the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane,” Joseph says.
“We’re starting with snow sports, but cycling, skating and mountain biking are very close to what we do, and we have built this product with that in mind as well. So, there’s a big future ahead for us.”
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