How the founders of snowsports safety startup ANTI proved their product worked — and Steve Baxter wrong — by bashing each other over the head

ANTI co-founders Rob Joseph and Liam Norris, with CTO Brodie Robinson. Source: Supplied.

ANTI co-founders Rob Joseph and Liam Norris with chief technology officer Brodie Robinson. Source: Supplied.

Brisbane-based startup ANTI has taken home the title of Australia’s Emerging Creative Startup 2018 for its super-safe snowsports beanie, following a pitch that saw the founders bashing each other over the head with a wooden stake.

The startup won the title at the annual Creative3 event hosted by QUT Creative Enterprise Australia, and will now travel to London to participate in Virgin StartUp’s StepUp mini-accelerator, before heading to Copenhagen to compete in the Global Creative Business Cup finals.

Founded in early-2017 by Rob Joseph and Liam Norris, ANTI creates snowsports helmets disguised as beanies.

Medical engineering student Joseph tells StartupSmart the helmets are fashioned from a material that is initially soft but hardens on impact, which the founders have developed to bring up to snowsports safety standards.

“It took the best part of six months to have the concept really solid,” Joseph says.

“Nobody has done anything like it before,” he adds, and so there are a lot of “fiddly bits” to figure out that have taken some time to perfect.

Winning the Creative3 competition is “a massive confidence boost,” Joseph says.

The co-founders and their three staff members have “been in the trenches for a little while now,” he adds, and now it’s “brilliant to be getting out there”.

Joseph sees the trip to Europe as an opportunity to gain exposure to a “whole new set of people who view things in a different way”.

The pitch to prove Steve Baxter wrong

ANTI’s memorable pitch sees one co-founder hitting another over the head with a sizeable wooden stick. But early on, Joseph says, this was simply the way they proved the concept to themselves.

“We started on the hand, and got a bit of confidence,” Joseph says.

Over time, “the bits of wood have gotten bigger [and] the hits have gotten harder,” he adds.

It makes for an entertaining pitch, but this unusual demo also allows people to buy into the startup’s vision.

In fact, they introduced it into their pitch after River City Labs founder and Shark Tank investor Steve Baxter told the founders “he didn’t believe it would work”.

“It’s a product that people don’t naturally trust,” Joseph says.

“Once we show people they can trust it they really get behind it. It’s great fun to show people, but we’ve got the science to back it up as well,” he says.

The sky’s the limit

ANTI is focused on creating “the safest helmet we can,” Joseph says.

While Australia doesn’t have specific snowsports helmet standards, compliance with European and US regulations is something the startup has been “working to since day one”, he adds.

Some people see the product as “a beanie that’s kind of safe”, but Joseph says the company starts from a point of safety and tries to make that “as comfortable as possible”.

ANTI is planning to launch its helmets on Kickstarter in early-November — a move that’s more about getting the product out to as many people as possible, more than it is about raising money.

And there are more products to come.

“There are a lot of markets we can go into,” says Joseph, citing BMX and skateboarding helmets as examples.

However, there’s also a potential market for creating helmets for children with epilepsy. Typically, the helmets available for these children are “expensive and unsightly”, says Joseph.

“We’re chasing that dream and seeing where the tech itself will take us,” he adds.

Joseph’s advice for other startup founders is to simply meet as many people as possible.

The co-founders have tried to come across as “enthusiastic, coachable and friendly,” he says, and “people have been so kind with their time and their advice”.

These co-founders have also entered a lot of pitching competitions — a strategy that has paid off so far. However, Joseph says this might not be the route for every founder.

“Sometimes it feels although we shouldn’t have done so much,” he says.

“It gets us out there, but it’s a lot of effort … a pitch competition can take a lot of your time,” he adds.

NOW READ: Meet Creatively Squared, the Brisbane startup heading to Copenhagen to represent Australia in a global pitch competition

NOW READ: Vero co-founder Chris Hexton on the pitch approach that secured $4 million from Square Peg Capital


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