Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CounterKicks Interviews: Adam & Ryan Goldston – Athletic Propulsion Labs Founders (Part 1 of 2) by CounterKicks.com

Athletic Propulsion Labs is the newest entrant to the athletic footwear industry and they come with a special pitch: The first performance basketball shoe designed to instantly increase a player’s vertical leap. Led by 23-year-old twin brothers Adam and Ryan Goldston and backed by decades worth of sneaker industry insiders, the pair have set out to establish Athletic Propulsion Labs as the ultra high-end performance wing of the footwear world. Launching with the $300 priced APL Concept 1 shoe exclusively sold at http://APLbasketball.com, the Goldston’s are aiming high and want to take your feet along for the ride. Continue reading for Part 1 of 2 in our in-depth interview with Adam and Ryan Goldston, Athletic Propulsion Labs Founders…
(*UPDATE: Read PART 2 of our APL interview right now.)
Counter Kicks: Introduce yourselves to our readers.
Adam Goldston: We both grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California. We played basketball for USC under Tim Floyd. And then for a brief time we played football for Coach Carroll there as well.
We were brought up in and around the athletic footwear industry. Our dad was a top executive at Reebok, L.A. Gear, and worked with Converse as well. A lot of people who look at APL don’t know that we have this company experience because we have our dad and a lot of the people that he worked with have been mentoring us since we were young. We always hung out with our dad in his office growing up and met all of his executives and friends, so we’ve been in this industry from a young age.
Our dad, since he was a top executive at Reebok, he helped work on the Pump and Energy Return System (ERS). When he worked for L.A. Gear he was responsible for the lighted shoes. He patented a lot of technologies by himself and he’s been teaching us about the footwear industry for many years. The education is actually invaluable because you can’t learn that in school or anywhere else, you just have to get that from first hand experience.
So, about three years ago we decided that we wanted to create the most innovative athletic footwear company ever and it would be centered around breakthrough technology designed to dramatically increase athletic performance and hopefully vertical leap, which we achieved. That’s a little bit about us.
CK: So growing up you lived around the Boston area when your dad worked at Reebok?
Ryan Goldston: Yeah, we were actually born in New York and when we were one and a half years old our dad took a job at Reebok where he was the Chief Marketing Executive of the company. So we moved to Boston, and he worked on the Pump, Hexalite, and all those technologies. We used to get to see everything early. Then when we were five years old we moved out to Los Angeles and that’s when he took a job at L.A. Gear.
And actually, Adam and I were the first ones that tested the L.A. Gear Lights. It was because of us that the lights for the little kids moved from the back of the shoe to the side of the shoe because my dad brought us back some samples and we were walking around the house and we couldn’t see our lights. So we kept asking to each other, “Can you see my lights?! I can’t see them!” And Adam would say the same thing to me. So we were telling our dad this and that’s when he got the idea that you should move the lights for the kids from the back to the side whereas for the adults you could keep them on the back. So it’s funny little stories like that which we’ve been involved in with the industry since we were little kids. We used to test out the products for Converse for the little kids and for L.A. Gear so we’ve been involved with it since a young age.
CK: That’s one of the things you wonder about a new company – where they’re coming from or what their background is, so it’s interesting to hear your dad was in the industry and you guys were around it growing up.
A. Goldston: Yeah, some of the guys that are part of our team now, we’ve known since such a young age that they’ve been helping us and they’ve had industry experience for 20 or 30 plus years. And so, we’re young guys in the industry but we’re surrounded by people that are seasoned veterans that have been involved with Nike, Reebok, adidas, and all these companies so we really have great experience on our side.
Since we played basketball at a high level, we know about the performance aspects and what players expect and things of that nature. So we used our playing experience along with their technical experience to build a new product. And also, we worked on the APL patent for a long, long time. It’s something that we’ve always been interested in because my brother and I, especially me though, have always been obsessed with vertical leap. That’s all I cared about when I was playing basketball. I could always shoot the ball, dribble, and do all that but all I really cared about was being able to jump higher. I did Air Alert and Jumpsoles and all of that stuff works but you have to put in so much effort to be able to get the results that you hoped you could achieve. So we had always wanted to create something that instantly made you jump higher. That was always my goal. I was always like, “Man, I wish I could just put on some shoes and jump like Lil Bow Wow did in Like Mike.” Ours aren’t that much of an increase, like 5 feet in the movie, but they will increase your vertical leap because that’s what they’re designed to do. There’s never been anyone else to do what we did. It’s real exciting stuff for us over here at APL.
CK: As a new brand, what is Athletic Propulsion Labs all about?
R. Goldston: Our company, APL, is singularly focused on creating world class, high performance athletic footwear products that are unlike anything that’s ever been seen in the industry. We’re beginning with the launch of our basketball shoe line and our goal is to do something in the category that’s never been achieved before. We’ve been wanting to create a shoe that makes you jump higher. There’s been the Jumpsoles, there’s been the Air Alerts, and there have always been products that allow you to train to jump higher. We wanted to create a shoe that made you jump higher instantly. Our goal is to constantly strive to develop innovative products featuring the highest quality materials, workmanship, and that will make you jump higher. That’s really our mission and our goal, is helping you jump higher.
We’re trying to be like the Ferrari or Lamborghini of the footwear industry. We want to create something that’s exclusive, that’s got great materials, and is based on fine-tuned engineering. When we designed the shoes, it wasn’t designed with a specific price in mind. We wanted to create something that really was revolutionary, so we didn’t want to reverse engineer anything. We really just wanted to create the most expensive shoe that we could so we didn’t even sacrifice cutting corners anywhere. Whether it was the upper, outsole, midsole, sockliner, or anything. And especially with the Load ‘N Launch technology. We spent so much time choosing materials, engineering it, and constantly making changes because our goal was to make you jump higher. So that’s pretty much the goal of our brand and our company. Our mission statement is to create a basketball shoe that instantly makes you jump higher – and that’s what we did.
CK: Where did the idea originally come from for the APL Concept 1 shoe?
A. Goldston: We began thinking about the creation of the company back in 2007 to 2008. When we created the branding of Athletic Propulsion Labs, we immediately knew that we had come upon something really unique and special. After that, we started working with trademark lawyers and we registered the trademark in many countries around the world while we began conceptualizing the basketball line. So we wanted to create a basketball shoe that was unlike anything anybody’s ever made before. We worked with an amazing group of footwear experts and advisors for the company and then internally we began to develop the technology and shoe design concept around the promise of creating the first shoe that would actually instantly increase your vertical leap. Because that’s all that we wanted: Increase vertical leap, increase vertical leap, increase vertical leap. We knew that we needed to have a niche to enter the basketball shoe market because if we came in competing with an adidas, or a Nike, or even a Reebok, that we would get slaughtered. For new companies, unless you have a truly amazing concept or technology or something, you can’t break in. Nike came out with the waffle sole, Under Armour came out with moisture wicking fabrics for their clothing line – so you need to have something powerful to make a statement and that’s what we wanted to do with the Concept 1.
Our shoe design and fabrication was inspired by two of the most exotic automobiles: the Pagani Zonda and Koenigsegg CCXR. They’re both million dollar plus carbon fiber bodied supercars. That’s what we wanted to create our brand around. We wanted to use carbon fiber and expensive materials, and materials that appeared to look exotic and things of that nature. So we wanted to engineer our shoes to be like the cars – super high performance. And that was our basic premise for the company, everything is super high performance. The Concept 1 shoe is designed to be the best playing shoe possible and everyone that’s worn our shoe swears by it now. We utilized styling that makes a strong statement about those who can purchase our shoes because it’s so exclusive and it is so expensive. And the amount of time and effort that went into selecting the design, the materials, and working on our device in Concept 1 is reflected in the product we’re introducing.
CK: Talk about the new Load ‘N Launch technology in the shoe.
R. Goldston: People for decades have been hoping that they could get a basketball shoe that would instantly make them jump higher or give them a competitive advantage on the court. Our company slogan “Stop Dreaming. Jump Higher.” basically says that we’ve created something that you can stop dreaming and jump higher. And it also translates to the basketball court in other areas because you’re lighter on your feet, you feel like you can move better, and you’re more explosive and that’s really what we were going for. And we’ve been working on the development of this revolutionary, patent-pending technology for 2-3 years now. We’ve gone through numerous rounds of development, working prototypes, and engineering refinements to get where we are today which is a shoe that makes you jump higher.
The Load ‘N Launch technology device is placed in the forefoot, just in front of the ball of the foot and the flex zone. The technology features a propulsion device that compresses in the “load” phase and then releases in the “launch” phase to help drive the athlete upward. This will provide the wearer with greater velocity and height than the conventional basketball shoe. And that’s basically the bread and butter of our shoe – the compression in the load phase, and the release in the launch phase. That’s really how the device works. The second you put on the shoe, you feel as though you have a powerful piece of athletic technology under your foot. It would be similar to sitting in the supercars that Adam talked about and you’d feel the torque and horsepower the second you’re in the car. You know when you put on our shoe that the shoe’s going to make you jump higher. It’s just one of those feelings. You can feel the device and you can see the device on the bottom, so it really adds to the perception that this shoe is going to make you jump higher.
CK: Are you able to talk about the Load ‘N Launch device from a technical level? Is it a mechanical type of system inside? What exactly is in the forefoot that makes up the Load ‘N Launch technology?
A. Goldston: Actually, it’s an extremely complicated device because we spent a lot of time engineering it. I can’t give you the actual, I want to say “ingredients”, of the device yet because the patent isn’t available to the public, but once it is, you can dissect it almost. It’s a bunch of different components combined to make one device which we call Load ‘N Launch. We also have a shank throughout the shoe that helps transfer energy from the heel to the forefoot to help maximize the Load ‘N Launch technology.
Once our shoe is released and the patent goes through with the patent office, it’ll be readily available for anybody to look at it, but until then we’re not giving out specifics of the device. But as you can see in our SLAM Magazine ad and other pictures of the shoes, you can see the device on the outsole of the shoe. You can look inside and get a gist of what’s in there but the actual materials and the technical stuff we can’t go into too much until the patent goes through.
CK: How does the Load ‘N Launch technology know or differentiate between an intended vertical leap and, say, hard running or sharp cuts on court where the athlete might not want that added upward boost?
A. Goldston: I’m actually happy you asked this question because it makes me feel like you really understand our technology. A lot of people ask me that question and they don’t really know how to phrase that question or will say, “Does it really work?” or “Won’t you always feel like you’re walking on a diving board?” When you differentiate between cuts and the actual vertical leap, that makes me feel like you really understand it.
The Load ‘N Launch technology is engineered to respond to direct downward pressure which releases as the athlete rises off the ground. It doesn’t respond to horizontal cuts or things of that nature because when a player makes a hard cut on the court, they’re not engaging the load phase and therefore they do not experience the launch phase. Our device works in two phases. You have to load it, which comes from direct downward pressure – it doesn’t come from lateral or side pressure – you have to put direct pressure on the device to make it release and give you the launch. Once you load it and then you launch is when you get the bounce up and you have to put your complete forefoot down on the device. And usually when you make a cut in basketball, it’s usually on the inward part of your first metatarsal or big toe and so you don’t put enough pressure on the Load ‘N Launch technology to make it engage so you really don’t have to worry about it. Even though you do feel a bounce when you’re playing, it’s a positive bounce, it’s not an unstable bounce.
Imagine you were riding a bike and someone was pushing you on your back to make you go faster, that’s what it feels like when you’re playing basketball in the Concept 1 and you’re not engaging the device. It just feels like you have an extra bounce in your step. It’s actually a great feeling and everyone that has tested our shoes has pointed out that they feel like they have almost twice as much energy, they say, because they have so much more explosion in their steps, even when the device isn’t engaged. Just playing in the shoes and having the device there makes everyone feel more confident.
CK: From the people who have wear tested the Concept 1 so far, do you have maybe an average measurement of the added extra vertical you would receive from the shoe?
R. Goldston: Everyone that’s worn the shoes has jumped higher. One of the main things that we’ve noticed and they’ve noticed is the more and more you wear the shoes, the more used to you get to the jumping motion that’s necessary for the shoes to fully propel yourself up. So it’s one of those things where over time you’re almost steadily increasing the vertical from it while wearing the shoes, of course. There’s been people who have gotten as high as 3.5 to 4 inches. And there’s times when Adam puts on the shoes where he gets as high as 5 inches. There’s an exit sign at the gym we both work out at constantly that looks like it’s gotta be at least 11 feet. Before Adam had APL’s on, he couldn’t come close to touching it but after constantly wearing the shoes and getting used to the jumping process and how the technology works, he can with ease touch the sign whenever he wants now. We’ve seen those kinds of results with the people that have worn the shoes. The longer they wear the shoes, the more used to they get to the technology, the better the Load ‘N Launch technology works and the more it propels you up.
A. Goldston: Yeah, I’m barely 6 feet tall, if I’m lucky.
CK: Have you had any thought about “tuning” the Load ‘N Launch technology perhaps for different shoe models so that you can increase the boost of the vertical leap? Like if you wanted to create a shoe with double the propulsion for someone that specifically wants to dunk in the shoes that can’t otherwise.
A. Goldston: The device can do that, and we have the potential to do that I believe, but I don’t think we’ll be going there anytime soon. The device that we created for the Load ‘N Launch technology, the one that will be releasing, is the staple of our product line so I think we want to try to keep it steady and always use the same device. We can’t see into the future but as for right now, the only device we’ll be promoting for the basketball line is the Load ‘N Launch technology that’s releasing right now.
CK: How did the overall shoe design and technology come together? How was it designed and who was all involved in that?
R. Goldston: As we mentioned before, we’ve been around the footwear industry for a long time. We’ve had the benefit of meeting and talking to tons of people that our dad has worked with. So, the way we got in touch with one of the designers was through a previous relationship. His name is Tuan Le who runs Breitenbush Design [and was the original creator of the And1 Tai Chi, among his publicly known footwear designs]. Once we met Tuan, we explained the mission of the company and what we hoped to accomplish with the Concept 1. As soon as we told him about it, his mind started racing and he was just throwing designs at us left and right. In fact, the way Tuan creates his designs is all by hand. He doesn’t use the computer. So every time we wanted to make a subtle change, Tuan re-did the whole drawing which was pretty incredible.
Once we did that, we eventually came to a few different designs that we were set on and then went through the sample process. From there, Adam and I made our own tweaks to the design. We added a couple things you see on the shoe such as the green piping and the translucent outsole. And then we wanted to make sure that the Load ‘N Launch technology would really fit in with the shoe and make you jump higher. That took many rounds to get the propulsion mechanism and the materials used in the device to the point where it was ideally suited to increase the vertical leap on indoor and outdoor basketball courts. Once we had created a device that was delivering an instant increase, that’s when we really started to look at the materials for the shoe, from the carbon fiber on it to the rebound EVA midsole, to the crystal rubber outsole. It was things like that which we started to do at the end, but we really started at the beginning with just brainstorming a bunch of different designs and explaining the things that really attracted Adam and I to the industry and to the designs and materials that we liked. We showed Tuan the Pagani Zonda and the Koenigsegg CCXR and we showed him how we loved the carbon fiber ones which were the super expensive, super exclusive ones, and we made it clear that that was how we wanted the imagery of our company to look. And once we really got a shoe that we believed embodied that imagery, that’s when we created our production model.
CK: When exactly did initial work on the Concept 1 shoe begin?
A. Goldston: We had to do the device first. The device was the thing that took the majority of the time the first two years. Then around last March is when the APL Concept 1 basketball shoe went into development. So I would say roughly a year. The design phase was intense and the engineering requirements for Concept 1 were unlike virtually any other development process for a basketball shoe. The Load ‘N Launch device is so critical to the overall construction and performance of the shoe so the combination of a performance last, high tech materials, and vertical leap improvement generated the APL Concept 1 shoe and that’s what makes the shoe so different from anything else. Incorporating all of those different things into one is what made it so difficult so if we wouldn’t have had the Load ‘N Launch technology developed first and the way we wanted to implement it, I don’t even know how long it would have taken us to come up with Concept 1. It was so hard to design the shoe around the device because most of the time when you think about shoe technology, it’s something that’s relatively thin in the heel or something like that, so our technology being a predominant force in the forefoot is what made the shoe hard to design for. But it’s also what makes our shoe different from any other basketball shoe.
CK: How long ago did the Load ‘N Launch technology start to develop?
A. Goldston: The concept for the technology started roughly a year prior to when the designs were generated. So around March 2008. But the actual technology itself started to generate around March 2009 and that’s when all the design concepts for the actual uppers and everything started to come together. From that point we’ve gone on and changed certain aspects of it but that’s really when we started the process of getting in the working prototypes that we could use and test and evaluate.
CK: How long did it take to get to the final production version of the Concept 1? And how long have people been wear testing the shoe for to date?
A. Goldston: You know, the wear testing process has gone on for quite a few months. I’d say it’s been roughly 8-10 months that we’ve been wear testing the shoes and evaluating everything. It’s really picked up within the past 6 months in terms of wear testing and constantly getting new samples, fine tuning the uppers, fine tuning the technology, that’s when it really picked up because we made some substantial changes to the upper. We made it much more supportive and a higher performing shoe. And so we wanted to see how it worked with different sockliners, different linings, different materials. We were using all types of different forms of materials to really see what would give the consumer the best performing shoe and the best looking shoe. So, within the past 6-7 months it’s really, really picked up. We’ve been having people wear test the shoes since then on a pretty regular basis with a bunch of different results coming from it.
R. Goldston: And the best part is that from every single sample run, we had better and better results. If you look at the results from the first sample run to our last confirmation sample testing, the results are unbelievable how much better they are because our shoes just continually became so much better and now it’s not comparable to any other shoe on the market.
APL’s Concept 1 shoe is available for pre-order right now exclusively at http://APLbasketball.com

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