Bulgaria has something like a tradition and a brand for climbing products thanks to Walltopia, the global market leader producing climbing walls, generating €45m in annual turnover and employing over 700 people. It also has at least 40 climbing clubs, tells us Aleksandar Sashev, marketing manager at Climbro. Twenty years after Walltopia was founded, it was about time for other companies in this domain to start appearing.
We recently stumbled across an Indiegogo campaign suggesting there’s a new player in the climbing market. Climbro is a young company that has developed an innovative training system for climbers – an intelligent hang board.
By scientists for sports climbers
Climbro is a system of a hang board and mobile application that helps climbers improve their performance by training according to specific goals. The board integrates sensors transmitting the pressure applied on its holds to the mobile app via Bluetooth so that the app can measure current performance and give personalized recommendations. According to Sashev, Climbro is a product of long research on the matter and is a global innovation because it combines training hardware and intelligent software.
The whole system is designed by two sports scientists who have published more than 45 scientific articles on climbing physiology and performance in world-renowned journals, explains Sashev. Two of the engineers on the team are part of the Bulgarian Academy of Science (BAS). Prof. Stoyan Tanev and Prof. Plamen Trendafilov, who have developed the whole electronics and mechanisms of the Climbro hang board, are both working at the Aerospace Techniques and Technologies departments in the Space Research and Technology Institute of BAS. But they are not the only scientists on the team. Prof. Michail Michailov, who has worked on the algorithms for the mobile app, is teaching theory and Methodology of Sport in the National Sports Academy. And Prof. Jiri Balas from Charles University in Prague is a dedicated researcher in muscular adaptations and bioenergetics of physical activities. Not least, the application itself was developed by the current CEO of the company Nino Pelov, who joined the venture a bit later, bringing in close to 20 years programming, including two years in CERN. What unites them all is that they are climbers, and wanted to create a product that would serve them but also other climbers’ needs. So Climbro was created.
Indiegogo and the market
At the beginning of December after years of work, the team launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign aiming to reach €50k in sales through the platform. In the first ten hours, 23% of the modest goal was reached, with 11 boards being sold. The campaign is a kind of validation effort for Climbro, yet even if not successful it won’t change the plans of the company, as there is a potential market and it is a large and interesting one, that will in the next years only grow and there’s not too much competition, as Sashev tells us. According to the International Federation of Sport Climbing, there are around 20m regularly training climbers, which is the number only of indoor ones. In addition to that, with sport climbing being part of the Olympic games since recently, the market for training technology will only grow, Sashev is confident.
The first orders in the campaign came from the DACH region, Bulgaria, the UK, and France, and the biggest markets for Climbro are indeed the US and all countries around the Alps. And the UK and France are where they have a sort of competition of two companies developing training hang boards. “What makes us stand out is the application and the fact that for the first time in climbing we are providing not only raw data but usable one, that could easily help everyone track and improve personal performance based on real data,” he explains. The system is targeted at end consumers, but also at trainers and gyms and there are different subscription models according to the needs. Not least, typically Bulgarian, Sashev sees the competitive advantage of Climbro also in its affordability, with the price of €800 per piece being 30-40% lower than similar other products.
The Indiegogo campaign of Climbro, where early adopters could purchase the product at almost half the price will last for another 36 days. “Our goal is to sell 100 boards, and start producing,” says Sashev. But even if not through Indiegogo, the team is determined to bring their technology to the market in the next year.