- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
- 0 Shares
Technology has caught up to almost everything we do and use today, and that's why it's not surprising that one of the last old ways of doing things in sports recovery appears to be coming to an end.
It was a question that surfaced while looking at body surfers in Laguna Beach three years ago. Anthony Katz asked himself: Why isn't there a better ice bag for players to ice down with after games?
Katz thought of this while looking at the wet suits they were all wearing, thinking there had to be a better material than that plastic bag to hold the melting ice.
After getting sheets of the neoprene wet suit material, Katz worked on the next solution. Although he couldn't stop the ice from melting, he realized that he'd have a worthwhile invention if he slowed the melting and somehow took out the air that filled the bag as the ice melted. He took the idea to a company called Marton, which helped design a cap with an air-release button. Once the cap is on, and the ice starts to melt, the air release valve decompresses the bag, which forms an ice cast against the body part.
The last step? Creating easy wraps with Velcro so that plastic wrap or an ace bandage would never be needed. Katz dreamed up wraps for the most needed areas of ice down, including the shoulder, back and knee.
Katz got the product, with the name Hyperice, into the hands of Kobe Bryant and other athletes through high-profile performance training companies on the West Coast.
"We were now ready to take on investors, and we wanted a third of them to be athletes," Katz said.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu lives and trains in California. Once he saw and used the product, he was in.
"I got this call from Polamalu's team saying they wanted to buy all the stock we had left, but I had to keep something left over," Katz said.
A deal was struck. Polamalu and his investment partners agreed to buy 15 percent of the company for $500,000. Hyperice was already worth more than $3 million and hadn't sold a single product.
Kobe and LeBron James liked the product but couldn't come to terms on an equity share. Other athletes consummated deals, including Blake Griffin, Rudy Gay and Hope Solo. New York Knicks broadcaster Spero Dedes liked the idea so much that he got in, as well.
This week, another huge name comes on board: Adrian Peterson. Peterson had an Oklahoma connection with Griffin, so Katz sent Peterson the product before his incredible comeback season last year, but heard nothing. Until Katz found out that Peterson was trying to buy 30 Hyperice devices for the AAU women's basketball team in Dallas that he supports.
"Adrian told us it helped him stay healthy," Katz said. "Obviously, part of our mission is to be a recovery brand, and Adrian was just using our product in what will go down as one of the most unbelievable recoveries in the history of sports."
Now it's time to make money for the company, which started selling last July. Katz says the company is selling things so fast that anything that is made has already been ordered. That's partly due to large team demand. The University of Oregon ordered more than 100 Hyperice devices, which range in cost from $80 to $120.
The company has outsourced a sales division that sells team accounts and will eventually sell to sports retailers. For now, consumers who are buying one at a time can buy off Hyperice.com.
"We're growing really fast," Katz said. "There's a lot of demand for what we're making."