Before we start I may add I have been a fan of KiteHero from the start. I work for ATBShop who I believe were the first Uk store to sell the products. I love photography and video – and I LOVE kiting so it all seemed so obvious to come up with the idea… Sadly however I did not come up with the Idea – Ryan Roberts from Atlanta, GA did!
So Ryan, for those who don’t know who you are maybe you can introduce yourself? Sure, so my name is Ryan Roberts and I reside between Atlanta GA with my girlfriend Jessica and New Smyrna Beach, FL where I work full time with a company know as WeatherFlow. We own iKitesurf, iWindsurf and a handful of other consumer brands. Most of my background is in software development and I have a huge passion for kiteboarding and photography.
Are you a kiter yourself? What makes you tick? Yeah, I got into kiting in the really early days back when people on the beach were hot launching c-kites directly down wind of the guy holding on for dear life. Live and learn! Spent most of my time riding on the snow and transition from being a snowboarder to a snowkiter. From there, things just evolved. I spent a good 3 or 4 years riding straps, gave boots a try and am now helping push the wakestyle sceene. Liquid Force has been really supportive and I have been on their gear for about 5 years now, I ended up on a really weird quivver this year though, 15 Envy, 13 Hifi Comp, 10 Havoc and a DLX 138 with some Synergies. As far as what makes me tick? For the most part I am just a super motivated guy with a need for many different outlets, kiting, photography, Kitehero and travel are a few of them.
How and where did it all start? Is it right that KiteHero has only been going since 2009? So there are TWO of us behind Kitehero. The whole photography thing was always really frustrating for me when I rode, mostly because I was the only one with a digital camera and any know how to shoot for my friends while they rode. I spent some time trying to mount the GoPro on my lines with many failed attempts. Long story short, about 4 months later I met Jim the other founding partner. He has a background in product design and prototyping and had been working on a line mount system. A few months later we did our first production runs, and a few months after GoPro released the HD so we made some adjustments and have been running that setup since.
Who is behind the brand KiteHero? Most of that was my idea, but it has seemed to work out pretty well for name recognition and at the time went hand in hand with the “Hero” line of cameras that GoPro produces. We have considered re-branding and opening up to new markets, who knows what the future may bring…
Has working at KiteHero become a full time profession? If not are there any plans for this?
Right now it’s been an evening/weekend thing! It all comes back to needing that outlet, having the ability to nurture things from day 1 to where we are now has been pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong though, we sell a ton of stuff and are super thankful for the support everyone has given us. Doing this full time would be justified by market demand, and could really weigh on my loyalty with WeatherFlow so it’s been an afterthought for now.
What were you doing before KiteHero? Most of my time was spent in digital advertising. I had worked with a few agencies, and e-commerce boutiques writing software and doing what I could to pick up side work. Earlier on before things got rockin I really hoped to open an agency and support the client base I had built up. Once things evolved I realized that having control over my own projects gave me the benefits of doing what I loved most, and reaping the rewards of the incredibly hard work we have put forth.
Within the last two/three years you have moved from the drawing board to retailing products in over 30+ countries. Have you found time for plenty of â€œbusiness tripsâ€ or has the power of email and the Internet killed the requirement to travel? Haha, well, business trips for me have been pretty minimal. Jessica and I are heading to Cabarete for a couple of weeks and hope to shoot with a couple of new products Jim and I have been working on. Word of mouth has done amazing things for the product, and keeping up with things by email and occasional phone calls has pretty much covered things for us on the sales/marketing side of things. Either way, we really hope to grow so traveling more would be awesome.
Since your launch you have bought out a couple of new products for other ranges of cameras including the finmount system, Is there any other secret projects you fancy spilling the beans on to your friends at Board-Mag? Yup, we took feedback from GoPro users and most of it was pretty simple. Fix the broken housing issue, and fix the camera loss issue. Jim handles most of the product development for our line and he’s pretty much a mad scientist behind a CAD program. Our first fin mount is pretty awesome, it’s horizontal but still didn’t handle the potential for broken housing and camera loss. We wanted to eliminate this issue 100%, so after iterating a few times and me testing mounts that cost me a couple cameras we finally landed on what we are calling a “nest” mount. The vertical nest shot on R4 mode with a GoPro gives you some of the shots you are seeing in this post. They are pretty incredible, and you can shred as hard as you want without fear of loosing your setup. Not only that, we are working on different applications for this individual mount. We are also working with Contour cameras and will be releasing a line mount for their camera line soon too.
Am I right in thinking your mounts were originally designed for GoPro cameras? Where can you see them next year, do you have a good relationship with them as a brand? Not to throw GoPro under the bus but they have seemingly adopted the Google mentality. Our line was designed around GoPro’s to start but we have some really great friends over at Contour who have been giving us plenty of room to help them out with their camera’s and potential mounts. Over the next year we are anticipating almost a 40% growth, along with the possibilities of bringing on someone to handle all the shipping work I have to do!
Do you plan on continuing to develop accessories for the GoPro range of cameras or will you be focusing more heavily on other brand support? I think at this point we dont really care what brands we are working with, it’s more about facilitating action sports and photographic aspects of what people love to do. Obviously it’s really nice to work with good supportive people that share a common interest, so as those relationships arise in the future we’ll do what we can to nurture them and hopefully get new products out for customers who might snowboard, ski or wakeboard.
Out of all the products in the KiteHero line which is the most successful and which is your personal favourite? By far the most successful is the Kitehero Line Mount, and my favorite is definitely CAMRIG.
Below: Dom Moore (GoPro Photo of the Day)
HD video rocked the world and 3D HD is the next big thing. We have seen evidence of a new 3D enclosure for GoPro cameras. Will you be supporting the new technology and what are your thoughts on it? We have two on pre-order, my personal opinion is it’s really cool but I have no clue how much of a fad it is. I just hope that if we start designing and testing mounts for it I don’t end up loosing two cameras at a time. Either way, the 3D kiteloop indy’s to switch are going to look pretty killer!
Are you always on the look out for new ideas? If someone came to you with a great mount idea would you be interested or rather come up with the ideas yourself? Absolutely, if anyone out there has anything they want to present to us we are all ears. Feedback from our customers is huge, and we really appreciate the support everyone has given us.
Is there anything you would like to add or shout out to all your fans out there reading this? We have fans? I’d like to thank everyone who has helped us out, Bill Tai, Gary Siskar, Dom Moore, Brandon Scheid, Paul and Marina at the Kiteboarder, all the riders in our photo gallery (thanks for submitting the shots)
Thanks Ryan, Its been fantastic hearing what goes on behind the scenes at KiteHero and even better to hear your plans of expansion and future support for new brands. That Nest mount is looking awesome. Another KiteHero mount to add to my camera bag no doubt! All the best over the next coming months – seems you have a lot on!
Interview: Marcus Woodbridge
Content and photos: Ryan Roberts