Successful communication for textile start-ups

Interview with Philip G. Schwarz, Wearable Life Science

ANTELOPE by the Nuremberg-based start-up Wearable Life Science (WLS) is the world’s first performance enhancing sports clothing. This year, the company aims to conquer the German market with its high-tech textile. We asked CEO Philip G. Schwarz how successful communication for textile start-ups works.

ANTELOPE co-founder and CEO Philipp G. Schwarz / Source: Wearable Life Sciences GmbH

ANTELOPE co-founder and CEO Philipp G. Schwarz / Source: Wearable Life Sciences GmbH

Mr Schwarz, if you had to classify your business as belonging to a specific segment, which would it be – textile, sport or high tech?

Our product is active sportswear and we are clearly part of the textile sector. Our target group comprises consumers – from professionals, via amateur athletes, to people who simply want to keep fit.

Although your smart sportswear is not yet on the market, your company is already present in the media. How did you manage that?

At first, the media echo was rather a side effect. We sought feedback about our prototypes from partners and customers at start-up events and founder competitions. In the end, we won several prizes, including the Handelsblatt’s ‘Weconony’ founder award in 2014 and two ISPO Awards. In 2015, our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo was the most successful in Germany. We even faced the jury in the VOX founder show, ‘Die Höhle der Löwen’ (The Lion’s Den’).

How many orders have you received so far?

The first delivery goes to successful rower Marcel Hacker who is training for the 2016 Olympic Games with our suit. And we have already received around 1,000 orders via Indiegogo.

You have been advertising your products heavily. Aren’t you worried that your product will be copied before it even reaches the market? And aren’t your expectations on its success extremely high?

Naturally, anyone who wants to be successful must be quick. And they must know what the customers wants. We believe this is the only way to develop products that are fit for the market. Start-ups tend to be very secretive. They work on a technology for so long until it is fully developed and only then begin looking for users and marketing partners. We relied on openness and sought partners and feedback from the word go. Into our sportswear flows the expertise of textile and electrical engineers, software and IT experts, sport scientists, sales, marketing and PR experts – and the wishes of our customers.

Many technology-oriented start-ups struggle to raise funds. You attracted around € 900,000 via crowdfunding…

Crowdfunding campaigns not only raise capital. They also attract attention and are a good indicator of whether a product is likely to be well received by potential customers. Users who invest in a product via crowdfunding do so because they believe in it. We enter uncharted terrain hand-in-hand with our customers.

What is your advice for young companies in the textile sector?

I can only suggest they obtain regular feedback from experts and potential customers at the earliest possible stage. If you have not yet built up a network, go somewhere you can be sure of finding experts, for example, at fairs such as Techtextil.

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Lilliffer Seiler

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