Gary Elphick and Jason Rogers are both into sports. In fact, both of them are actually instructors of several sports from surfing to snowboarding. The pair used to get annoyed with the fact that, not just their students, but they themselves were going into shops to buy sporting equipment, and realising they just purchased the wrong equipment – a mistake that hinders progression and growth for both students and instructors alike.
In addition to that, the Elphick and Rogers also saw amazing and unique designs that appealed to them, however would find that it was never available in the equipment they wanted or needed. This motivated the duo to do something about it, and their startup Disrupt was born.
Disrupt, which is part of the current muru-D class two intake, creates 100% unique customised sports equipment that performs better for users and also has a unique look. Being keen surfers themselves, the founders chose surfboards as the first product line to launch and test, hence the first iteration of their brand prior to muru-D, Disrupt Surfing.
What sits behind this is a platform that uses data to help users develop the unique shape and size of the equipment – on a surfboard that would be features like the size and volume of the board. On other equipment, like a cricket bat (which Disrupt will be beginning to offer soon), a user’s arm length would be vital data allowing a customer to see how good their trajectory will be in hitting the ball based on the bat they have created.
Everything about the design and artwork of Disrupt equipment is customisable; users are able to upload their own images or they can collaborate with one of the local artists the startup works with.
“We are using data and technology to help educate people what goes into creating [equipment] and are inspiring creativity” says Elphick.
“What we are building is actually a customised sports platform, the idea is that we have identified 1126 different product lines that we can and believe should be customised. We are starting at the beginning with surfing, but we see the vision as being a lot bigger than that.”
The vision around the technology powering Disrupt is a big one. Right now, the platform uses a mix of technology and manual input to feed data into its system. Eventually, the plan will be to have a platform that is able to read people and their metrics in 3D as well as tap into other data, in a internet of things (IOT) type play.
To give you an idea what that could look like in a future iteration of the platform, a surfer looking to purchase a new board would have their biometric data such as height, weight and fitness level scanned into the system and this would then be overlaid with location data to determine the types of waves that person is most likely to surf. This will help the platform recommend the right shape of board for that individual. Essentially, Disrupt is about creating a line of ‘smart’ sporting products from surfboards to table tennis bats.
When it comes to the manufacturing side of the business, up until about two weeks ago, Disrupt had four manufacturing units spread across Australia, the UK and the US. But now, a majority of the manufacturing is being pushed into Thailand and China.
“China no longer are taking the position of being the cheapest in the world [when it comes to manufacturing], they now have about 20 years experience in doing these type of things,” said Elphick.
“They understand how the industry moves, so we are trying to use them as partners. What we are doing is linking manufacturers directly with western customers, so we customers put in all the details and design specs and that feeds straight through into our Asian manufacturers.”
Regarding the recent muru-D China trip, Elphick says it was a chance to not only strengthen relationships from a manufacturing perspective, but really understand and tap into some of the world’s largest growing sports economies. For example in China, table tennis and badminton are massive markets, and in India, cricket is huge. Understanding the different sporting economies within the different global regions is critical to the success of Disrupt’s global expansion.
The team has also surrounded themselves with advisors to help them get there. Two recognisable names from the Australian startups scene are Jodie Fox from Shoes of Prey and Matt Fayle from The Loop.
Fox understands manufacturing and how to change manufacturing processes, and has gone through the process herself. She also understands consumer demand and how that is changing and beginning to head down a path of more bespoke and customised goods. Whereas Fayle has a deep knowledge and background within Australia’s creative industry. He understands the challenges that artists are currently going through working out how to monetise their work and is helping Disrupt enable artists to do that.
Prior to entering muru-D, Disrupt had some very early customers and revenue coming through the door: Elphick says, “The advantage was that we made a heap of mistakes upfront. But those mistakes allowed us to learn a lot quicker than starting from a zero base because as soon as someone pays money out they are a lot more vocal in their opinions”.
When it comes to the next steps post-muru-D demo day, Disrupt knows that even though there is revenue coming through the door, in order to successfully launch into new countries they will need capital behind them to make a significant impact in each new territory – especially because most sports are seasonal and the window to make a ‘big bang’ will be a limited one each time.
Elphick has told Startup Daily that the strategy around this raise is to dilute as little capital as possible. The team is therefore working hard to take advantage of grants that Disrupt is eligible for in Australia, Europe, China, Singapore and Hong Kong. So far in-depth research by the team has identified around $600,000 worth of grants that the company is eligible for. Elphick claims the startup is making good progress with the grants so far.
This is a smart move, especially when consider grants in the Asian region. Hong Kong, for instance, has a program where startups operating for over 12 months in the country that qualify can have 80 percent of any loan up to a million dollars underwritten by the government, meaning that investors get a sweeter deal because startups that qualify for this have access to more capital, which in turn means their stake in the company does not shrink. Also the Chinese government is very pro-active in helping out companies that give their manufacturing industry access to new markets.
On top of the grants, Elphick says that Disrupt would then look at taking on a seed funding round of $400,000 to $500,000 of ‘smart money’ preferably from someone with a background in sports retail or experience in a global go-to-market play for ecommerce platforms.
Disrupt will launch its new platform this Friday.