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The startup ATO-Gear has been working together with the sports brand adidas since last month. In shops selected by adidas, runners can test the brand’s new running shoe with the smart insole, Arion. The runners receive an analysis of their running style on paper: foot strike, cadence, body strain. This collaboration is one of the upward developments after a challenging summer, CEO Andrew Statham says. Sitting in the coffee corner on the top floor of the SX building, home of ATO-Gear, Statham talks about the collaboration with adidas and the “rollercoaster of a startup”.

About two years ago ATO-Gear came into contact with adidas. That contact was mainly exploratory. “Their focus on innovation and professional analysis to improve running performance was in line with the creation of our Ultraboost 19”, Valentijn Bouman, Senior Manager Brand Communications at Adidas, says. For the sports brand’s latest running shoe, the company has challenged itself to forget everything about running, Bouman tells. “This model is fully developed with feedback, data and test data from thousands of runners around the world, combined with scientific research.” The collaboration with Arion (ATO-Gear) fits in with this development. “In the store, runners can have a comprehensive analysis done.” The runner data is immediately analysed and people are given a personal report to take home. This allows them to improve their “running technique”. A team, trained by ATO-Gear, from adidas comes to running shops in Rotterdam, the 16th of March, and Amsterdam, the 29th of March. Earlier Alkmaar, The Hague, and Amsterdam were visited.

Statham: “It’s all going very fast now. This collaboration with adidas. And we have developed a new prototype which is more on the ‘health’ side. Together with Sportplein Eindhoven, we have started a project to investigate whether this new technique can be used to treat rehabilitating athletes.” For this project, the startup receives a subsidy from Metropoolregio Eindhoven. With the smart running insole the startup wins prizes and within a year about a thousand pairs of insoles were sold. Worldwide. The team expanded to England. And ATO-Gear also has discussions with investors and manufacturers from Asia.  Still, the summer of 2018 was very challenging, Statham says: “The fundraising had to go well.” It did, within twenty-four hours the amount was collected. 

During XL Day pitching ATO-Gear won tickets to Shanghai. Last December, after consultation with HighTechXL, Statham, and co-founder Jurgen van den Berg did not fly to Shanghai but to Taiwan and Hong Kong. There were already contacts there. For example with a manufacturer from Taiwan. Who will produce the new prototype, which ATO-Gear designed here in the Netherlands. Via mail and telephone, they had contact about the design. During the visit, the last details were discussed to make the prototype. The first copy came in last month.

This prototype and the project with Sportplein are for the long term, Statham continues. In the short term, investments are needed to be able to run production: there is demand for the insoles, but there are no more copies in stock. The visit to Asia also yielded suppliers and manufacturers with whom ATO-Gear enables a larger production. In the Netherlands the production is of high quality, but quite expensive, Statham explains. “We want to add that production by making larger quantities in a cheaper way. Production in Asia has to come to the Netherlands by boat. That takes time, so we also need that local supplier for short-term production.” 

The Eindhoven startup ATO-Gear works together with the sports brand adidas to make people run smarter, with the smart Arion sole.Statham spoke to potential investors in Asia and there were a few interested parties, the Englishman says hopefully. “Perhaps that will lead to the necessary investment in the coming months.” It is important that investors have the same vision for the company, Statham believes. “We are looking for someone who can help us with our current growth and is on the same wavelength regarding the future.” For the near future, that is mainly the running world.