Vicis is back.
The former Seattle startup darling, who suffered a major and sudden fall in 2019, has just unveiled a new and improved version of its high-tech football helmet called the ZERO2.
The launch marks a milestone in Vicis’ roller coaster ride in recent years.
After Vicis left the University of Washington in 2014, he attracted attention for his unique ZERO1 helmet, which featured special layers to mitigate the effects of bone-breaking hits that cause shock and harm to professional footballers’ health.
Over five years, more than $ 85 million has been raised from more than 400 investors including current and former NFL players Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Alex Smith, Roger Staubach and Jerry Rice.
Former Seattle Seahawks recipient Doug Baldwin wears the Vicis Zero1 helmet in a preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)
But even as the helmet of NFL stars and NCAA teams gained ground – Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes still wears the company’s helmet and will do so at Sunday’s Super Bowl – Vicis bumped in recent years to several problems.
Insiders say the company focused too much on gaining market share from incumbents rather than making profits among other things. The problems surprised some shareholders. Vicis couldn’t raise more money before the company closed and more than 100 employees were laid off in December 2019.
Last year, a New York investment firm bought Vicis’ fortune out of bankruptcy for less than $ 3 million and started a new company. It helped bring back a small group of early Vicis engineers and marketers who were building a second version of the company helmet that just debuted Tuesday.
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Jason Neubauer is a longtime Vicis Product Development Manager who currently leads around ten Vicis employees in Seattle. He said his team continues Vicis’ original mission to protect athletes and improve the safety of contact sports.
“We wanted to do it for the people who left all their blood, sweat and tears behind to bring us to where we are,” said Neubauer. “It was really worth it to feel like we are completing this mission that we all began together.”
Vicis has kept its brand under the new owner Innovatus Capital Partners. The company formed an LLC called Certor Sports late last year to acquire sporting goods brands, including many that struggled during the pandemic.
The ZERO2. (Vicis photo)
Innovatus, which has assets under management of more than US $ 1.5 billion, previously invested US $ 18 million in soccer helmet guide Schutt and, with Certor, bought the remaining shares in the company from Kranos Corporation.
Innovatus is now using the production capacities of Schutt to manufacture the Vicis helmet and its sales channels. This is one of many improvements to the Vicis business and manufacturing model.
“We are much more efficient,” said Neubauer.
The ZERO2 is the result of the feedback Vicis has received from players and equipment managers over the past three years. It is 15% lighter than its predecessor; has improved fit and comfort features; and gives the player an expanded field of vision.
The helmet also maintains the innovative malleable outer shell that absorbs impacts on the head and ranks # 1 in the latest safety ratings for helmets from Virginia Tech – higher than the ZERO1. Vicis also figured out how to lower the price of the helmet – it starts at $ 699; The ZERO1 debuted at $ 1,500 – without sacrificing quality.
Neubauer said nine NFL teams have already received samples of the ZERO2. Vicis plans to bring out more sizes and a youth version of the helmet later this year.
The pandemic continues to pose challenges for sporting goods manufacturers as the leagues pause games.
“It’s been a very challenging environment and we’re expecting some rocky roads,” said Jeff Holland, Vice President, Innovatus. “However, we are confident that there is a tremendous desire to return to competition, an unending demand for better performing products, and we expect an epic surge in activity as the vaccine launches and restrictions continue to ease.”
Holland said there are plans to launch new Vicis products for additional sports in the future and he expects the Seattle team to continue growing.
“We are excited about the opportunities that arise at the intersection of health and safety, technology and sport,” said Holland.
Vicis was originally founded by Per Reinhall, the former chairman of UW’s mechanical engineering division. Samuel Browd, professor of neurological surgery at UW; and former CEO Dave Marver, who stepped down in November 2019. Marver is now the CEO of Onward, a Netherlands-based medical device company. Underground engineering professor Jonathan Posner is another co-founder; He left the company in 2015.