Behind an iffy name is a well-designed bag for traveling with athletic equipment
Douchebags™ was the 2018 Gazelle of the Year winner in Oslo.
Ski and snowboard enthusiasts travel more, and they have increasingly more advanced equipment. Why is it so hard to bring the equipment along? This was the start for two young entrepreneurs that broke that code. With barely a prototype, it took off internationally. Before the startup company was one month old, it had distribution agreements in 10 countries and had won an innovation prize at the world’s largest sports exhibition, ISPO.
It all started in summer 2009, during a week of sunny glacier skiing and epic surf in the beautiful western part of Norway. During that week, Swedish twin-tip and free skier legend Jon Olsson met up with Norwegian product engineer and entrepreneur Truls Brataas. The two discovered a mutual passion for action sports, traveling, and smart product design.
With Olsson traveling more than 300 days a year for the past 10 years, they knew that they wanted to design new types of travel bags that reflected the needs of a modern skier. They interviewed 150 skiers, snowboarders, and surfers to find out what the core user really wanted in a travel bag. They even went to airline companies and worked together with luggage handlers to learn how to make bags better suited for travel. No other bag is treated as well as the Douchebag™. This is because it has been designed with the input of the baggage handlers themselves.
Douchebags™ had to develop new technology. Therefore, they involved ski bum and designer Per Finne. They also involved the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Technology Transfer Office to ensure that the Douchebag™ intellectual property was secured. Brataas sewed the first ski bag. With the prototype, he went to Asia to find a manufacturer.
According to the company’s website, on Jan. 1, 2012, the “the world’s lightest, length adjustable and fully compressible wheeled ski bag” was released. The offerings have expanded to bags for bike and camera equipment, backpacks, duffel bags, wheeled luggage, and laptop sleeves and cases.” was released. The offerings have expanded to bags for bike and camera equipment, backpacks, duffel bags, wheeled luggage, and laptop sleeves and cases.
The entrepreneurs believe their reason for success is innovative products, Olsson’s huge international network and brand, and the international innovation award the company received at a very early stage. However, none of this would have been possible without extremely hard work. Just before Christmas, Brataas, 34, was awarded the Young Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young. The website says, “We are merging an urban and active lifestyle to challenge the traditional approach of luggage. Our mission is to make better journeys through smarter travel gear. We want people to be able to travel however they want, while bringing whatever they need. We develop travel gear for the long journeys as well as the short.”
Over the last four years, revenue has increased from NOK 8 million to NOK 77 million, almost tenfold growth, with 80 percent of sales from abroad. Profit last year was NOK 15.5 million. The staff has expanded from four to 22. Four retailers in North America are selling their bags, in Boston; New York; Long Lake, Minn.; and Blue Mountains, Ontario. The company has a warehouse in Los Angeles.
According to Brataas, “We are rebels, action wild and creative, but also professionals.” To get to meetings in Oslo, they use longboards, no taxis.
Brataas and Olsson still own the largest shares of the company, with 27.91 percent and 26.04 percent, respectively. In addition, the company has six so-called strategic owners. One of them is the alpine legend Aksel Lund Svindal with 5.52 percent.
To learn more, visit douchebags.com.
Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway.
This article originally appeared in the January 25, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.