Chris Sackett: Twiceme’s advisor and one of the most influential leaders in the action sports industry

We had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Sackett, former VP of Bell Helmets and President for Fasthouse, to discuss market trends, the future of the motorcycle and bike industry, and where he sees Twiceme fit into that future. Chris Sackett works closely with us as an advisor.

Published on:
March 26, 2024
Updated on:
March 28, 2024

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We recently had the privilege of sitting down with Chris Sackett, an industry expert and advisor to our company, to gain his insights into the evolution of the action sports industry and its future trajectory. Known as one of the foremost leaders in the field, Chris's journey from motorcycle racing to pioneering safety innovations at Bell Helmets and Fasthouse offers invaluable perspectives on where the industry is headed.

During my time at Bell, we listened to everyone who had an idea on how to allow our helmets to better perform and protect. That was in our DNA and one of the main reasons, I believe, to why we grew so fast and took so much market share.

Chris’ background - a love for mountainbiking and action sports

Chris started early in life as a motorcycle racer, both within cross-country but also desert racing in the Southern California desert at the age of 12. The freedom of motorcross catched his interest from a young age.

His passion for motorcycles led him to work in the motorcycle industry from a young age, starting at just 17. Additionally, he was the first hire at Bell Helmets when they regained the US trademark for motorcycling in 2003 — a milestone the brand had been striving towards for years.

Chris has worked at, and with, several startups in the motorcycle industry and action sports. Thus he has a good sense for when something might actually make it in this crowded and highly competitive industry.

Most of my passion and experience, before I came into leadership positions, was around product development and product innovation. I’ve always been passionate about the product. It’s my background and my passion.

As Chris moved upstate to Santa Cruz to work for Bell is also when his love for mountainbiking grew. Today, he says, his love for both these sports are almost equal.

Leading the industry’s giants - Bell Helmets and Fasthouse

Chris was, as mentioned, the first hire at Bell when they got their US trademark for motorcycling back. And since then he worked there from 26 years of age until he became the Vice President at 35 years of age.

And he stayed there for another 10 years as VP, leading the industry and the company to become the behemoth it is today. Nobody could compete with the innovation, technology and drive Bell had. Something we’ll dive into more below.

He then joined Fasthouse to bring life to the startup, once again leading a brand to huge wins and successes.

How Chris has witnesses the shift in safety mindset within the industry, and what he sees for the future

When Chris started working in the motorcycle industry as a young kid, wearing a helmet was something you might wear. If you even had one. People didn’t really think about the dangers of riding motorcycles, and the extreme damage that would happen if you fall on a motorcycle. The adaptation of helmet laws changed that, and since then it’s only been going upwards.

About 30 years ago, helmet laws for kids were introduced. As a result, we now have several generations who have grown up always wearing a helmet. This has significantly changed the perception of helmet use, as well as the view on not wearing one.

But it wasn’t until brands like 6D Helmets, and it’s founder Bob Weber, started focusing on particular types of energy management and specifically making the helmet better at protecting your brain, that things started changing for real. Lower speed energy management and rotational forces hadn’t really been in anyones focus before they came around.

I have to give Bob Weber and 6D Helmets a lot of credit for the work they did, and still do, around driving innovation for energy management in crashes.

Then, obviously, MIPS pops up and brings something completely new to the market. A rotational system that can be relatively standardized in implementation, at a reasonable price, with the science to back it up. All of this really pushed the envelope on innovation and made sure that the incubents couldn’t stay ahead unless they innovated.

If you think about it, EPS has been used in helmets since 1956. And it hasn’t really changed that much since then, because even though Bell tried numerous other materials there hasn’t really been any other material that comes close in terms of protection and price. Obviously, today you take into account more factors, like rigourous testing protocols using real-time data, and optimize the thickness of the EPS liner, etc.

I remember at Bell, we would always try to find something that would outperform EPS to use in our helmets. But we could never find something that beat it, taking into account all variables. And, I mean, still to this day it’s the primary material that works best in helmets, but it’s in different combinations with other technologies and more.

The importance of brands’ focusing on safety

Chris believes that safety innovation is paramount for any brand. Anything that makes people safer is beneficial, particularly in today's society. Many people are apprehensive about exploring the world and living an adventurous life. Any measures a brand can take to reduce both perceived and actual risks will positively impact society. It encourages more people, especially the young, to experience life outdoors instead of in front of a computer. As you might guess, Chris opposes his kids spending all day in front of the computer. Fortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, his children share his passion for mountain biking and the outdoors.

It's beneficial to have helmet brands that are driven by a passion for safety. In today's era, this often translates into market share growth. If they can demonstrate that their helmets have features that reduce the risks of venturing out into the world, and they are among the few that offer it, they're likely to succeed. This is one of the main reasons why Bell grew so rapidly. We had employees who are deeply passionate about safety and innovation, and our goal was to become the best brand in the world.
We were also very receptive to new innovations for that specific reason. Our policy was always to listen when a new technology or startup proposed ways to enhance the safety of our helmets. I believe this is one of the primary reasons Bell grew rapidly and gained substantial market share during that period.

During Chris' tenure at Bell, the brand introduced new technological advancements almost every year. He credits this success to a talented team given plenty of autonomy, a culture of collective achievement, and an open mindset. Even in his executive role, Chris often engaged in detailed product discussions. With a robust system for considering suggestions from all sources, be it new startup technologies or simply employees, they evaluated every idea to enhance helmet safety. Furthermore, they had state-of-the-art equipment and their own testing facility, which Chris believes is crucial for quickly testing new concepts.

Unfortunately, Chris mentions that many brands today assume they have complete knowledge of the market. They believe they understand what consumers are willing to pay for and what interests them, often without conducting any market research. This complacency, or adherence to the status quo, allows new competitors to enter the market and take market share. Chris believes this is a significant mistake. Disregarding the experience and knowledge others can offer due to industry experience can hinder progress.

If someone has enough passion and excitement about a new technology to bug you month after month, you should probably at least listen to what they have to say. Take that information in, sort through it, ask the market, and then decide after if it’s interesting or not.

The future of market research with real-time mass market data.

In the beginning, Chris says, "we did what most brands did, and many still do, we looked at our competitors."

What technologies are they implementing?

Which new innovations or helmet designs are they focusing on?

The issue with this approach is, if you're only doing what everyone else is doing without taking any risks, you'll end up with the same results as them. So, at Bell, they recognized the need to innovate faster than others to genuinely gain market share. That’s when Chris and his team began spending considerable time in the field, engaging with customers and attending events. They were consistently customer-centric, always seeking feedback and suggestions. Although this was a time-consuming activity, Chris sees real-time market feedback as a crucial factor that can quicken innovation cycles.

Initially, we observed our competitors, but quickly understood that to surpass them, we needed greater vision, passion, and enthusiasm for innovation and new technologies. We then began actively testing new technology solutions, seeking feedback from customers, athletes, and the market. This process was time-consuming, often requiring me to be away for months at a stretch.
That’s why I believe real-time market data, like what Twiceme offers, can significantly expedite innovation. Additionally, it provides standardized data suitable for statistical testing.

Tools such as the Twiceme dashboards can standardize and catalog market data input more effectively than previous methods. If such a tool had been available during his time at Bell, he would have been thrilled. This is because it allows for broad, preferably mass market, input. This data can be used to scientifically test different hypotheses against each other, understand customer preferences, and ultimately produce the safest helmet.

One of the things that has gotten me most excited after first hearing and learning about Twiceme is absolutely the data dashboards. Had I had that at Bell, it would’ve been game changing. Especially since nobody else has it yet, or at least doesn’t know how to use it to its full extent.

Why Chris chose to advise Twiceme.

When Chris was first introduced to Twiceme, it was through Terry Lee, an influential figure in the action sports industry, former CEO of BRG (Bell, Riddell, Giro) and current Executive Chairman of Riddell Football. What sparked Chris's interest was Twiceme's ability to provide potentially life-saving information about a person to rescue patrols in a standardized way worldwide.

When our daughter was three months old, my father-in-law tragically died in a motorcycle accident. From what I gather, faster medical attention could have likely saved his life.
This experience resonates deeply with the concept of Twiceme. Its mission to save lives is shared by everyone in the helmet industry. By adopting a standard like Twiceme, we can collaboratively make a significant difference.

A lesser-known fact about Chris is that he studied to become a firefighter and served as a reserve firefighter for two years. In the US, paramedics are permitted to administer life-saving drugs on-site, much like emergency doctors. However, without knowledge about the patient's medical history, allergies, or diseases, they cannot. In many cases where timely care is critical, immediate access to more information is beneficial.

Twiceme represents the future, in my view, from both the consumer's and brand's perspective. It's hard to imagine why one wouldn't want their information or contact details embedded in the equipment, standardized for easy access in emergencies. Moreover, for brands, the slight increase in cost is offset by the valuable data insights it provides, helping to understand consumers and the product lifecycle.

In a world where a lot of parents don’t allow their kids to take any risks or explore the outdoors, essentially rolling them up in bubble plastic and keeping them indoors, we have to find ways to mitigate the risks and percieved risks, in Chris’ opinion. Twiceme allows parents and others to be in control, yet allow their kids to explore the world.

How brands should consider incorporating new safety technologies into their equipment

When incorporating new safety technology, if you can find something that’s relatively low cost to add, with a lot of layers of upside potential and value for the end-consumers, that’s really exciting. It’s sort of what I thought of when hearing about Twiceme for the first time, and still do. Twiceme opens up so many doors beyond the integrated hardware, by innovating within the digital domain, without end-consumers having to charge their gear or jump through loops to use it.

A brand has to always weigh three aspects; safety value for the consumer, willingness to pay, and the business aspect for the company. When these three are matching, you have something really exciting going on.

Chris recalls his time at Bell and Fasthouse, believing that they succeeded in accurately approximating the willingness to pay for features and the value of safety. This is key when a company is focused on growth and gaining market share, as profitability can sometimes be a secondary concern.

Sometimes, introducing new innovation can be challenging. You may believe strongly in a new technology or material, but if it adds an extra $100 to the consumer's cost, you may find it too high to sell effectively. If you can't sell the feature, it won't bring value to the consumer, and you're doing the company a disservice.

Importance of marketing

Finally, let's talk about marketing and funding. Traditionally, the brand has been responsible for marketing the features of the equipment. MIPS has altered this to some extent by establishing a strong brand image among consumers, but it's still the brand's responsibility to convey that value to the consumer.

Chris remembers that MIPS initially struggled to communicate this value to the end-consumer. Even though both Bell and Chris saw its worth through research papers, test values, and science, it necessitated considerable marketing. A large brand like Bell was instrumental in advancing this to the consumer. This was because the price remained relatively high and people were unaware of the harmful effects of rotational forces on the brain.

Twiceme indeed has an advantage over many other technologies. Its functionality is easy to understand, and upon a closer look, one can see its endless possibilities, all while maintaining a relatively low price. Everyone wants quick assistance, easily accessible contact details for their loved ones, and a secure way to store important personal information.Moreover, Twiceme, as a brand, is a smart investment. It's currently leading the bike and moto industry in terms of awareness, second only to MIPS. While this might not hold true for all industries, Twiceme's omni-industry approach suggests that it will likely penetrate other sectors quickly.

Twiceme is available in over nine segments, ranging from sport helmets and gear, to construction helmets and harnesses. Since the brand can spill into new segments, this can lower barriers to entry into new markets. And now that 24 brands are part of that journey, it’s beginning to look a lot like the early days of MIPS journey.

Final thoughts

Chris reflects on the significant changes in the market throughout his career and eagerly anticipates the innovations that technological advancements will bring. The extraordinary opportunities offered by AI, mobile phones, and more have never created such excitement for enhancing safety.

About Chris Sackett:

Chris Sackett is an industry veteran and have a long history of leadership positions at large action sports companies, like the VP of Bell and Fasthouse. He’s currently running his own company and advises companies within his expert domain. He works closely with Twiceme as an advisor.

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