Since the movie Concussion came out in 2015, we have more of an awareness of the elephant in the room. Oh yes, brain injury, CTE, inferior helmets. For the longest time, people were hoping we’d avoid the topic.
Not many want to talk about helmets and how they can/cannot/could help protect our athletes from traumatic brain injuries like concussion. It’s understandable since reading through the research quickly demonstrates that it’s a complicated topic with diverse opinions.
To the rescue are new helmet companies that are springing up around the globe. Here’s my bold prediction: None of these helmet startups will be successful.
I say this not because of their innovations or specific technology. It’s their business model that will be their demise. They are trying to do things the old fashioned way. Create an exclusive and proprietary helmet, refine it, test it, market it, and destroy their competition. Sadly no. It just won’t happen.
Part of the issue for these startups is the raw cost of innovation combined with the high cost of sales and marketing. Prior to the sale of a single helmet, startups are looking at upwards of $20 million to get a helmet on the ice/field/road/slopes. Factor in the cost of competition and the retail price of their helmet will never be attainable to the masses.
One hopeful company in the United States, VICIS, has recently been getting press on their new football helmet. They managed to raise more than $20 million for a helmet that can only be used at the upper levels of sport. At $2,000 (CDN) per helmet, they are hoping to gain acceptance and endorsement from the pros.
Their misstep may seem like their per unit cost. But even at half that price, the helmets would not be successful in any youth sports program. Producing one type of helmet for one specific segment of one sport should not make sense to any logical investor.
The reason why the diverse helmet industry exists today is because manufacturers are able to compete with each other on a relatively level playing field. Most companies are still using foam as a cushioning method. While foam offers very little head protection, at least all manufacturers have equal access to the material.
Creating an exclusive technology and hoping to conquer a sport is just that – hopeful thinking. The market will not be that kind to your company.
“The winner of the helmet race is not going to be a single company. It’s going to be a creative thought – a new way of doing things. A system that produces a safer helmet and can be used by everyone. Only when this happens can we begin to protect athletes at every level of participation.”
At HeadNorth, our goal is to create a better system that is available to all manufacturers. We want to see a product on the shelf that can help all our athletes, including those learning to run and skate, all the way up to the record-setters in their sport. That’s a solution where we all win.