Eindhoven and Munich are target cities for Australian sports business

If, as an Australian entrepreneur, you have been developing the European market via London for years, the looming Brexit will be a serious problem for you. An alternative is, therefore, more than welcome. So it’s no surprise that an Australian trade delegation of sports and technology related entrepreneurs has visited Eindhoven in recent days – and will also have Munich on their agendas in the coming days. The visit is part of a trip that’s focused on finding new European entrances for sports-related business from Australia. Besides Eindhoven and Munich, the group visited Amsterdam and will be going to Duesseldorf and Berlin. Sports And Technology organised their visit in Eindhoven.

“As an Australian sports technology company you are born global but you die local”, Martin Schlegel, director of the Australian Sports Technology Network (ASTN) and leader of the delegation, says. According to him, concentrating on the Australian market alone will bring an Australian sports business nowhere. ASTN works with universities and sporting federations to understand the problems they have and connect them with startups which can solve those problems and come up with new products. Also, they run an acceleration program where they help startups to find commercial business models. And if they already have validated their products and services in Australia they actually connect them with global markets. “The entrance to Europe has always been London, but with the Brexit that no longer will be the case.”

“The entrance to Europe has always been London, but with the Brexit that no longer will be the case.”

The shape of the market is one of the similarities between Australia and the Netherlands. Both countries also have lots of different sports. “We both love hockey and our Olympic Sports. The Netherlands is a big football country and in Australia, we are very diversifying in sports. Cricket, rugby, baseball and American football are big in Australia as well.” Another reason for Schlegel to visit the Netherlands is the ‘very open business culture’: “It is also easy for English speaking companies to start their continental European journey from the Netherlands. And that is probably the difference with Germany, the language. Germany in itself is a very big market, but it has its barriers such as language.”

In Amsterdam, the Australian group visited the Sports and Analytics Conference. From there, it went to Eindhoven, where the Australians met with different Dutch entrepreneurs in the SX Building who explained the Brainport way of working: business, knowledge, government, and sports working closely together. To show, not tell, the Eindhoven hosts led the group to FieldLab De Tongelreep, Holst Centre at the High Tech Campus and the FieldLab ‘Sport and Beweeg’.

One of the participants is Louise Lorkin, CEO of Albion. They have developed female protective undergarments and apparel in impact sports such as cricket and rugby. What did she think of their visit to Eindhoven? “This is fantastic: the innovation, the possibilities and the way companies work here. What we have seen today is the openness in the collaboration. Sharing of knowledge form business to sports to academics. I think it is a cultural thing, you are not afraid to share.”

In February she already visited ISPO Munich, a leading trade fair for professionals in sports. “It is a good way of getting to know how to get our product can work into other sports like soccer and motocross. We have done so much testing. There is so much injury in impact sports and nobody has looked at the impact on women’s bodies.” She hopes to learn more about distribution possibilities and making connections with the market and to set yourself up as a company in Europe.

In the evening the delegation travels to Duesseldorf where they will visit DFL Sports Innovation Summit. With a short stopover in Berlin, it’s off to Munich again. “We want to visit the organiser of ISPO to get an understanding of what they do, what trends they are seeing in the sports market.” The group will stay in Munich for three days – enough to get a good first impression of the post-Brexit opportunities for Australian sports business in Europe.

Photo: interior of the SX Building in Eindhoven