What does it take to transform a great idea into reality and promising start-ups into successful innovators?Which risks, opportunities and potentials are associated with the process? We’re looking for fresh founders, start-ups, ingenious minds and small companies who want to change the bike world with their visions and ideas.
The world is full of interesting people with brilliant ideas, small companies with great products, and enthusiastic start-ups standing at a crossroads between success and failure. However, many of them don’t know which direction to turn, either due to a lack of capital , a lack of networking and PR skills, issues with structure, or just a lack of media visibility. Others are just oblivious to the exceptional nature of the bike industry and the special rules that apply to it. Many aspiring entrepreneurs don’t succeed because they have no experience with building a business from scratch, nor the skills to lead it to success – whether that be leadership and finding the right staff, or processes, tools and organisational structure.
When we founded 41 Publishing in 2011 with just € 6,000 in startup capital from our Grandma Schmitt, we had a clear vision and ambitious goals, but honestly had no idea of how many surprises and challenges were heading our way. Today we are one of the most influential and innovative publishers in the bike sector, with our international magazines ENDURO, GRAN FONDO, DOWNTOWN and E-MOUNTAINBIKE regularly setting trends and providing important impulses in their respective segments. Furthermore, they actively help shape the future of the scene and the industry with their comprehensive comparison tests, real world buyer’s guides and opinion articles. The same goes for the Oscars of the bike world, the Design & Innovation Award, which we created in 2012 and has since been separating the wheat from the chaff among thousands of submissions to identify and award the most exciting, innovative and outstanding products of the season.
The Cycling Innovation Accelerator is the bike world’s first global startup platform and was designed to provide the best support for great ideas. Robin Schmitt, President Cycling Innovation Accelerator
Embarking on such an ambitious entrepreneurial journey and creating several brands from the ground up was a daunting task but at the same time a fun, exciting experience. We devoted a lot of thought, heart and passion into achieving our goals, working hard and taking risks, but we were fortunate to have had the support of some great mentors and pioneers to help us along the way. Today, with four internationally established magazines and an industry-leading award under our belts, we are still far from perfect, but we have gathered a huge wealth of experience in risks and opportunities, company development and structure, HR, product testing, sales and marketing. As a central interface of the bike world, we’ve seen countless companies come and go, examined mistakes and success stories and learned from them. Long story short: we really know what matters. And that’s great, but what’s even greater is that we are now passing on our experience and helping others the same way others helped us.
It doesn’t matter whether Mahatma Gandhi actually said it, but “Be the change you want to see in the world” is a great mantra and we’re always trying to implement it in our work. And that’s exactly where the Cycling Innovation Accelerator enters the picture: we want to invest in ideas and people who develop, improve and do the things we want to see in the (bike) world.
We’re crazy about bikes and put our heart, mind and soul into everything we do. Since 2011, we’ve already been global innovation leaders and have actively helped shape the bike world. The Cycling Innovation Accelerator is the logical next step. Robin Schmitt, President Cycling Innovation Accelerator
Every great product, success story and business venture starts with a small idea. In the early stages of a new entrepreneurial initiative, very few founders really know what fate has in store for them. And for those who think they know, a brutal reality check often lies in wait just around the corner. However, after the first shaky steps usually comes a boost of confidence and self-assurance. At the heart of every great venture lies a problem we want to solve or, better still, a gap we want to fill. For Ferry Porsche, it was the car of his dreams that didn’t exist – so he set about building it himself. For Markus Flossmann, founder of YT Industries, it was a cheap DJ bike that the kids at the local dirt jump spot could actually afford. For pro racer Iago Garay, it was the struggle to find a frame protector with a cool design, so he founded DYEDBro, adding a splash of colour to countless bikes while at the same time reducing wear and increasing their value. For Ruben Torenbeek, bike engineer and founder of RAAW, it was the urge to create his own brand and build a bike that was more robust and durable than many bikes available on the market. For Sven Erger, founder of Rebike Mobility, it was the lack of a platform for used e-bikes. The list of exciting stories is virtually endless and all the people we’ve mentioned have one thing in common: it wasn’t an easy journey but all of them approached it one step at a time and were supported by mentors in the process, sometimes progressing faster, sometimes slower. Some got the wrong support and had to overcome obstacles along the way, others found the right partners straight away.
Cycling Innovation Accelerator – why now?
Especially for small companies, the market entry barriers are rising ever higher, because large companies and corporations have access to far more resources, whether it’s for production, scaling, investment or marketing. Moreover, there’s a huge demand for know-how, expertise, networks and above all, capital for change and growth in the bike sector – not just for the big players, but especially for smaller ones. And it’s precisely the small brands, tinkerers and visionaries who make up a large part of the innovative power of our industry!
We turn strong ideas into strong companies. The C.I.A. offers a unique blend of angel investors, networking, media reach, expertise and know-how. Erik Bötzle, Financial & Legal Director
At present, there’s no such thing as a global start-up accelerator for the bike world but we’re determined to change that! If you know us, you also know that we don’t like to just publish and repost press releases or YouTube videos. The main objective of our work isn’t just to be there, but to actively shape the scene and industry. Whether it’s through our comparison tests, compelling stories, strong opinion pieces, purchase advice or the Design & Innovation Award, it is our aim to give clear recommendations and feedback, both positive and negative. The leitmotif of 41 Publishing company is “We set trends and shape the cycling world”, so the Cycling Innovation Accelerator feels like the next logical step forward.
We have strong ideas for the bike industry, but we can’t develop and implement them all by ourselves. At the same time, we know that the world is full of inspirational people and start-ups with excellent ideas and a mindset similar to ours. And that’s exactly what we want to promote and support – because strong ideas deserve the best support! With the Accelerator, we’re investing in the changes and the future we want to see in the bike world. If we support promising start-ups and companies with clear USPs, helping them grow sustainably, avoid expensive mistakes and launch great products that improve our bikes, the scene and the way we ride bikes, then their success is also ours.
Who’s behind the Cycling Innovation Accelerator?
The head and president of the Cycling Innovation Accelerator is Robin Schmitt, co-founder of 41 Publishing, investor, serial entrepreneur and visionary. Together with his brother Max, he founded ENDURO, GRAN FONDO, E-MOUNTAINBIKE and DOWNTOWN as well as the Design & Innovation Award. From their own start-up, which kicked off with a € 6,000 loan from Grandma Schmitt, they developed over the past 10 years what has become one of the most influential media companies in the international bike industry with over 30 passionate collaborators worldwide.
Robin loves to tackle new projects and exploit potential, not just engaging with the future, but actively shaping it. With a strong sense for trends and potential, unique product as well as industry experience from thousands of tests, a very strong global network in the bike industry, media, retail, influencers and professional athletes as well as in business management and building, he has a unique combination of assets from which countless start-ups can benefit. The Accelerator is a separate company of Robin Schmitt, operated independently from the editorial teams of 41 Publishing.
As financial & legal director, experienced entrepreneur and passionate rider Erik Bötzle takes care of law and order at the C.I.A while start-up analyst Manfred Schmitt assesses both the potential and risks of startups weeding out pseudo-innovations and thus avoiding empty promises and unscrupulous exits right from the beginning.
41 Publishing Co-Founder Max Schmitt is part of the international Board of Advisors, which consists of successful entrepreneurs, experienced start-up founders, lawyers, financial experts, international sales managers, business developers and marketing experts. The board supports the Accelerator with the evaluation of product ideas and business models as well as with networking, know-how and investments. The Board of Advisors includes Bob Margevicius (Executive Vice President Specialized Bicycles), Mariano Gon (Global Sales Director Ibis), Bastian Dietz (Director Global Business Development SQlab), Frank Aldorf (Senior Strategic Advisor) and Isabel Skelton (Entrepreneur, Digital Strategist).
As a long-standing executive, strategist and brand maker, I’ve had a decisive role in shaping brands, products and customer experiences in the bicycle industry. Put simply, I’ve built brands, that other brands want to be. I’m delighted to offer my skills, expertise and network to such a remarkable innovation accelerator. I want to contribute to sharpening ideas, professionalising companies and helping them develop and grow to the next level. So: let’s roll! Frank Aldorf, Senior Strategic Advisor & Advisory Board Member
What can start-ups expect from the Cycling Innovation Accelerator?
In a nutshell, no start-up bullshit! Let’s leave empty promises, astronomical market potential faff and unscrupulous hasty exits to the classic start-up scene. We want to make good things happen and, above all, stand behind what we do. We didn’t create the Accelerator because we had to, but because we wanted to. Fun, inspiration, support, respect and fairness are at least as important to our definition of success as a successful, sustainable exit.
There are many start-ups with strong ideas, but success requires significantly more than that. We analyse every potential applicant and offer selected start-ups the best support. Manfred Schmitt, Start-Up Analyst
Whether it’s road or off-road, performance or leisure, analogue or electric, hardware, gadget or digital service – the C.I.A. team and the Advisory Board cover the entire spectrum of the bike world. And more importantly: they’re all up for it!
Thanks to our extensive industry and product experience, our global network, our own entrepreneurial and start-up knowledge, our skills and communication channels as well as our capital, we can accelerate the success of strong ideas while at the same time help start-ups avoid serious mistakes.
Qualified start-ups can expect honest criticism, media coverage and, in the best case, a reliable partner on equal terms which brings along capital, expertise, experience and a network – regardless of whether their issues are legal, organisational or product-related. In this way, we can build a defensive shield around new ideas and give founders the freedom to focus on their work while implementing them. Pragmatic, goal oriented support with our hearts and minds.
If you are interested in the Accelerator and would like to apply, you can do so until the 30th of January 2023 at cycling-innovation-accelerator.com.
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of GRAN FONDO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words: Susanne Feddersen Photos: Various