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Swiss sportswear company launches global equity crowdfunding offer including NZ platform

Wednesday 24th February 2016

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Australian-founded, Swiss-based premium sportswear brand Skins has launched a global equity crowdfunding campaign today incorporating New Zealand, Australia, the UK, and Europe.

The offer involves raising a minimum of $800,000 in New Zealand and Australia through the Equitise platform and the rest in a parallel offer on the UK-based platform Seedrs. The company hopes to attract $4.42 million from retail investors in an overall fundraising of $9.8 million.

Equitise co-founder Will Mahon-Heap said he understood it was the first time New Zealand had been involved in a global equity crowdfunding offer and it’s also the inaugural use on his trans-Tasman platform of a traditional angel investment model, whereby investors’ shares in Skins will be held on their behalf through an Equitise nominee company.

The minimum investment for Kiwi investors is $55, which equates to 10 shares. Rewards vary depending on the size of the investment, from discount vouchers to lifetime free product. Larger investors are also being offered the chance to watch the Wallabies at rugby training.

Skins makes sports compression clothing and sportswear designed to improve performance and the Wallabies was one of the teams it sponsored in the latest Rugby World Cup. The company would have loved to also have sponsored the All Blacks but adidas got in first in a deal that was “ a little pricey for a little company like ours”, said Skins executive chairman Jaimie Fuller.

He said the company included Australia and New Zealand in the crowdfunding offer because it had better brand recognition Down Under. It sells into 43 countries, including New Zealand.

“The whole crowdfunding process is more advanced in Europe compared to Australia, less so in New Zealand,” he said.

The offer represents 10 to 12 percent of the company’s capital and kicks off with 243.5 million pounds already committed by management, including Fuller, to show skin in the game.  “Management wanted to put our money where our mouth is,” he said.

The 20-year-old company is valued at 18 million pounds pre-offer and has achieved A$43 million in revenue this year and A$5 million in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.

Skins was founded by a keen Australian skier who wanted to develop a garment that improved sports performance and aided recovery. After consulting experts, including NASA scientists, and five years of design and testing, he produced the first pair of Skins tights in 2002.

Fuller said all the product sold out in 11 days and within six months the company was virtually broke with no money to manufacture more gear. He came in as a 49 percent investor and helped grow the company internationally. The company shifted its headquarters and incorporated in Switzerland to take advantage of tax benefits and proximity to its major markets.

Some of the funds raised will be spent speeding up research and development of its patented technology but the bulk will go on consumer and brand marketing with a planned launch of a broader range of sporting products – think branded hoodies and caps – to build on its compression wear.

“Guys like me don’t run, cycle or go to the gym or play football. We still believe in the brand and want to be able to wear it,” he said.

The challenger brand is best known for being activist on ethics and governance in sport, most notably calling for reform in FIFA, the football governing body, last year.  

Fuller said the company was now moving into its next phase, being active in social programmes involving sport. It’s launching a Rainbow Laces campaign in Australia in April to fight homophobia across six sports. 

It got agreement from UK-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights charity Stonewall to copy its 2014 campaign, where a pair of rainbow-coloured laces was sent to every professional footballer in the country. They were urged to lace up and show support for LGBT individuals in the game. Players from over 70 clubs laced up, with Arsenal even creating its own video. The Australian campaign includes rainbow-coloured leg-ropes for surfers.

“We want to do for sport what Bob Geldof did for music,” said Fuller. “A challenger brand has to believe and act like one if it’s going to compete with the big brands and their marketing budgets.”

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