ZWEIKAMPF: “We Created A Niche And Set A New Standard.”

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Jakob Schmied, founder & CEO of ZWEIKAMPF, developed 3D printed shin guards out of a personal need. Learn more about the story & team behind this successful Austrian startup:

Describe ZWEIKAMPF in 50 words or less.

ZWEIKAMPF is a very innovative and unique company focusing on the athletes’ special needs.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

When my father asked me back in 2012 if I could imagine founding and running a company together with him I totally agreed within seconds. I always wanted to live my own dreams and run my own business. I always sensed it as great luxury not being dependent on others. Having the chance to decide for yourself and with your own team what to do next offers huge possibilities, for example the possibility of failing, then dealing and eventually learning from mistakes.ZWEIKAMPF

How did you discover the need for ZWEIKAMPF and get started?

It all started with an injury I had few years ago. I suffered from a chronic periostitis of my shins and playing football without pain was nearly impossible. Because I never thought about making any longer pause for regeneration my doctor gave me the advice that I should at least try playing with perfectly fitting shin guards to prevent my shins of any further dents and of the impact of any blows. From that moment on I started looking for the perfect shin guards and because I could’t find any I tried to find a way to create the perfect shin guards on my own.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

I have to answer this question from 2 points of view. On the one hand as one of the the leading companies in the 3D printing industry our company Bernstein Innovation will change the world by setting the standards in this segment.

On the other hand ZWEIKAMPF will also lead the high tech sports equipment market into a new era by being one of the few masterminds and lateral thinkers, that already see the unexpected possibilities of 3D printing for this industry.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

Success occurs on many different levels. Basically every single day is successful, as we are convinced by the concept ‘learning by doing’ – also when we make mistakes. Making mistakes and handling these is definitely one of the key factors of our success. But the most important factor of being successful is having fun. In my opinion, you won’t ever lose track as long you have fun doing the things you love.

ZWEIKAMPF: "We Created A Niche And Set A New Standard."What is the intention for the customer? How do you think they will use your 3D printed shinguards?

Hopefully they will use them the same way as they used their old shin guards before, namely by wearing them during games. Joking apart, in our opinion we created a new niche. During the development process our steady goal was to combine the best possible qualities in our ZWEIKAMPF shin guards to offer the players a new and yet unknown feeling while wearing perfectly fitting shin guards.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

We are happy and proud, that we had the chance to build our company on 100% equity. For the future of course it’s our goal – as it is for every other startup – that our products, like ZWEIKAMPF shin guards, all our product developments as well as our very specific design services will fuel our company. In this context 3D printing always builds the basis.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building your startup?

I think, the most challenging point was when we started our business in 2014. We had no special know-how and experience in 3D printing and we knew that on the one hand it would be of particular importance to build up this specific know-how as fast as possible to catch up with other companies. On the other hand, we saw a big chance by our nescience in the 3D printing industry, because we were able to see and think processes differently and without any inhibition.

If you could get back to the starting line in 2014 and had the chance to start your business again, would you do anything differently?

Basically I wouldn’t make anything differently. The decision of starting my own company with my father maybe was the best one I’ve ever made in my life. I started with zero experience in business life and I had the chance to make experiences in these 2,5 years I never had dreamed of before. I had the chance to learn so much from really great people like my teammates and great advisors. So all in all this time was a complete success for me as a person.

So, actually the point is without all the know-how and all the experience I carried together over the past 2,5 years I would never get back to the starting line.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

I never thought about getting lost anywhere with our company. We had and still have a strong believe in what we do and after scanning and analyzing the market we knew that our product would have a good chance. As I already said, we created a niche and set a new standard as we took a step forward by challenging the big players like Adidas and Nike with our revolutionary product. It definitively helps us, that we are always driven by doing everything exceptionally. We never want to be comparable.

What do you look for in team members?

When we’re hiring people the basis of everything is sympathy. If you’re not able to stand somebody all their knowledge and skills get worthless immediately. We then trust in good old manners like strong handshakes for example. After sympathy and good manners we always try to imagine how a candidate could help our team by yielding in their skills and personal strengths. And maybe most importantly, we try to hire people who are willing to learn every day.

Why would a talent join your team?

We are a very special and innovative team. A team of friends working on a clear and great vision. We live and love what we do. As I just said a few days ago in a weekly meeting, having fun together is our primary goal. Yes, we really believe that: Having fun is our primary goal! You maybe ask yourself why? And here is the easy answer: Life is way too short to waste time on things you don’t love and fun always leads to where you want to be. So, a place where people work without laughing, can’t be the right place to reach great goals!

What was your most memorable moment so far?

Oh, that’s a difficult question. I think there are many important and memorable moments but I want to highlight a moment that happened on this one very special day not long ago:

I knew my grandmother was going to die and I took a little break trying not to think of her. I was in our company lying in our little gym, resting, my eyes were closed and right in that moment of silence I got a call of Harald, our CTO. One moment I thought about not answering the phone, because I wanted to have this few silent minutes for myself. However, I finally answered the call and it should be a very good decision. Harry frenetically told me about an e-mail, a very famous Austrian football player sent us a few minutes before, a picture of him holding our shin guards and a very special message was attached. When I saw the picture and read the message back and forward again and again I started celebrating as I had won the World Championships. An indescribable and through and through emotional moment.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

The basis is, that you have to believe in yourself, your idea and what you’re doing. Build a clear vision. Then gather cool, motivated and intelligent people around you and tell them about your vision. One advice: Just hire people you’re sure that you wanna spend a lot of time with. Then believe in these people and their skills. Then shape your people and create a fabulous team. This maybe your main job as a founder. You have to be the coach, be the motivator, be the visionary, be the friend. Listen to your people. Listen to their needs. Work as a team, live as a team and most importantly believe in each other. Show them your feelings, ask them about how you’re doing. You will fail, but that’s normal and good, if you learn from these mistakes and have people around you, who will discuss the things that went wrong. Mistakes in general will happen, more often than you maybe want them to happen. But it’s part of the game. You will learn from your mistakes. Your whole team will learn from them, if you don’t blame anyone for making mistakes.



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