RockTape: Go Stronger Longer | Greg van den Dries

About Greg van den Dries

Greg van den Dries is the founder of RockTape, a company that produces kinesiology product to allow injured athletes to remain active. The company started in 2009 and has grown exponentially. Currently it has 13 international offices that service 60 different countries. RockTape is Greg’s 7th startup company. Prior to starting RockTape, Greg spent 20 years working as an entrepreneur in the tech industry. He resides in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife and two children.

Interview Transcript:

Alan
Welcome back and building here today with Greg van den Dries he is the founder of RockTape. Greg, welcome to the show. Thank you. So, Greg, for the listeners here and of course we’re videotaping this and this this RockTape has really taken the the industry by storm in terms of your you’re saying is that go stronger longer and helping do is stabilize some of the muscle groups and and use its sports figure you often see it on basketball courts, the NFL and young people wearing the tape. But I want to, I want to get back into how did you? How did you get started into, into starting RockTape. And moving from the tech industry? What was your background prior to that?

Greg
Sure. Um, well, after I got out of prison, I was on a work release program. I’m kidding. Yeah. I have a 20 year tech vet, here in Silicon Valley, sellin bits, boards and bytes, for many, many years, loved it. But in probably 1999, I got exposed to kind of the confluence of technology and sports. We had a startup back in 99, called sport brain and it was the predecessor to what we now know as Fitbit. And we developed a internet enabled pedometer and raise $19 million, and then promptly lost it all during the.com crash. But that product really helped me understand the the opportunities associated with bringing technology into health and wellness. And so that piqued my original interest in that that space. And then I did a couple other gigs. I was a senior VP at Gateway computer, if you remember them, did it turn around for a wireless company. And then got involved with another wearable tech company. Back in 2007. We were making integrated heart rate monitoring technology that got woven into clothing. And at that time, no one was doing that. And one day, a little company called Adidas. Americans call it a Ditas. But it’s really Adi Deus came calling and they wanted the technology. And they ended up buying the whole company in 2008, right before the GFC, the global financial crisis. And after that transaction, I had a lot of time on my hands. And I was a competitive cyclist at the time and training for a big race and I got injured. And so I went to my local PT and got taped with a similar product. Absolutely loved it solved my injury. Problem was it wouldn’t stick on me because I was writing a lot at the time. And that’s kind of when I had the epiphany that perhaps I could maybe make a better product.

Alan
So you so you’ve ventured out into is it 2009? Roughly?

Greg
Yeah, well, that’s kind of when the concept hit me. We didn’t really get started until about 10 2010.

Alan
Okay, and then when you started out, was it just you? Or did you have a couple people?

Greg
It’s just me, me and my garage. I sat down, did a lot of research and figured out how to make a better product.

Alan
And so when you when you started out, I guess initially the RockTape most people are doing it for the end, you see this all over the place. But but you know, how long was it before you went from concept to actual product?

Greg
About a year, you know, it took me about three months to really identify the properties that I was looking in looking for in the new product, then it took me another good six months to identify a supplier who could make it the way that I wanted. Having spent a lot of time in in tech, I’d spent many, many years on factory floors in China. And the thing about China is, you know, it’s just as easy to get a good deal as it is to get a bad deal. And when you’re starting something, the last thing you really want to be worried about is quality control. So while I looked for manufacturers in China, I also looked for manufacturers in South Korea, because I had spent a lot of time there. And long story short, Koreans are very quality conscious. You pay a little bit more obviously but you get a superior product. And as an entrepreneur, I knew that my time was spent better in the sales and marketing side rather than on the manufacturing side. So I went to Korea instead of China to find the contract manufacturer that could meet my specs.

Alan
How did you decide on the name RockTape?

Greg
Oh, funny story. So I made a list and At the top of the list were all the usual candidates, you know, muscle tape, you know, fit tape. And every single one when I did a URL search, I found that it was taken. So I got down to about number eight or nine on the list which was RockTape. And lo and behold, the URL was available and I thought, I guess that’s an okay man. I wish I could say I was a marketing genius but it was simply love.

Alan
I visiting here today with Greg foundries and Greg, I need to take a quick break and we’ll be right back after this message.

Alan
Welcome back and visit here today with Greg den Idris He is the founder of RockTape. And in the first segment, we talked about the inspiration to move into starting this new company and, and but I want to start this segment with the question of what exactly is kinesiology tape?

Greg
It’s a great question and we get it all the time. So Kinesiology Tape is it’s an elastic therapeutic tape. What makes it different than probably all the other tape that you’ve ever used, including white coaches tape is is that it stretches. Whereas white tape is rigid tape it does not stretch. So typically in injuries, you you use white tape to immobilize an area, you restrain the movement, right? So if you sprained an ankle, right, your coach tape tape sharp and that provides stability on that joint. Kinesiology Tape is exactly the opposite of that. Because it stretches, it allows mobility, so you can still be active. And that’s why athletes love this so much. It still provides stability, but it doesn’t reduce range of motion. So that’s one key component about kinesiology tape. The other key aspect is is that it decompresses an area rather than compresses. And so why is that important? So by decompressing the area where there’s an injury, you actually actually promote fluid dynamics. In other words, you can move fluid in and out of that area. So if you have a sprained ankle, it tends to swell, what you want to do is remove that lymphatic fluid that’s causing the swelling and get that dissipated. It also accelerates blood flow into that area, which accelerates recovery and healing. So those are the two key principles behind kinesiology tape, they ended the day it stabilizes, but it also decompresses. The third and less important but interesting aspect of Kinesiology Tape is is it provides a proprioceptive cue. So that’s a fancy way of saying, when you put tape on skin, it helps your body understand where it is in three dimensional space, right, just like a high top basketball shoe doesn’t really prevent an ankle row. What it does is it touches the athletes skin on the ankle, and gives them a proprioceptive cue that they’re about to roll their ankle so they can take preventative measures. So in our case, when we take a let’s say, a 13 year old girl who texts all day like this, you take a piece of tape, put it on the upper traps, and provides that proprioceptive cue to get back into that natural open position.

Alan
You know, it’s interesting that it’s such a simple concept, but it took the industry in a while to figure out this concept of how it could revolutionize the industry. Now, how does how does your tape RockTape differentiate from the competitors out there?

Greg
Great question. And we get it all the time. So the short answer is we’re stretchier stickier, and just way cooler. So we stretch about 180% versus 130%, which is most of what the competition does. And we’re about twice as sticky. So we actually stay on the skin for a much longer period of time, which is the original problem that you know I was trying to solve. The important aspect of that is is if you have a tape that’s very, very sticky, but doesn’t stretch, you can induce skin irritation and that’s not good. So being able to get the balance between stickiness and stretching. This is kind of our secret sauce. That’s what makes us very, very unique. Last part is we’re we’re just way way cooler. We make it in probably 70 different styles and colors. So we’ve licensed the MLB team so you can get it you can get The Red Sox you can get the White Sox you can get the Dodgers boo, verse, you can get the Giants and it comes in just a bunch of fun different patterns and styles.

Alan
Yeah, you know when this the I imagine that when you’re getting started out trying to get the right channels for distribution was not I mean it was a strategic decision. But you mentioned earlier that you’re looking at now moving stronger into the retail markets.

Greg
Yes. So we are primarily a medical company we, about 75% of our revenue comes out of the medical channels. So we sell to doctors, hospitals, clinics, physiotherapist, chiropractors, that type of thing. But healthcare is an interesting beast. The cool thing about RockTape and and this is true for all Kinesiology Tape is is it’s very cost effective. So what we have found is, is that there is a very large market on the retail side of the business for self care. So you may get injured, you may go to your chiropractor or physical therapist for a lower back issue. And they’ll work with you to get you through this continuum of care where they give you some corrective exercises and then they might take you to help support the corrective exercises that they’ve they’ve given to you. It taping is fairly simple. So what we’ve determined in conjunction with our medical professional channel is is that there is a great opportunity for consumers who have gone and seen a professional and started their rehab journey to be able to go to CVS or an REI or Dick’s Sporting Goods and pick up a role and self tape.

Alan
I’m using here today with Greg band injuries and Greg and Edie take another break and we’ll be right back after these messages. Talk more about rock tape.

Alan
Some people see a father and his son fishing together, while others see a succession plan. Welcome back in business here today with Greg banded Reese. He’s the founder of RockTape. And Greg in the earlier segments we talked about either you’re getting the concept of RockTape launched in the in and how it has evolved into the company that it is today. But are there other non athletic uses for the tape that that are focused in on?

Greg
Sure. As I mentioned previously 75% of our businesses through medical channels so I think one out of four Americans suffer from lower back issues, right it is a pretty pervasive injury slash illness and it ranges from overuse to degenerative discs to you name it. So in our medical channel, we have about 35,000 medical pros throughout the world that use our products every day for therapeutic applications, and they can range from again lower back to Achilles tendinitis, runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, rotator cuff injuries, ACL, MCL, you name it, we’ve developed a application for pregnancy taping. So when you’re pregnant, you add about 20 pounds out into the front of the body, which destroys your posture, which leads to lower back issues. So we’ve developed basically a baby belt taping application that offloads that additional weight back to larger muscle groups to resolve those kinds of issues. Mentioned postural correction. The list goes on and on. RockTape is really kind of like duct tape for the human body.

Alan
So when what are some of the other products you mentioned about the pregnancy tape? You know that and also a lot of 75% for medical uses, but but when you’re looking at it to the future, what are the markets right now that that are out there that you haven’t ventured into yet? Sure.

Greg
Well, we have a lot of blue ocean to cover with tape. There’s 13 International RockTape offices now that cover about 60 countries, and they’re all in various stages of development. But between the medical community and the retail community, we have a lot of opportunity to sell more more tape but we also make a lot of other products. We like to think of ourselves as a movement company, not as a tape company. So in addition to tape we also sell protective apparel. So we’re kind of big in the CrossFit industry. So we make a variety of products from knee sleeves and gloves and wrist wraps. For that particular market, we also sell a line of topical analgesics. So these are things like kind of like Ben gay, but Ben gay on crack, they’re really, really powerful. And they’re designed to work in conjunction with the tape. So you can actually lay tape on the injured area, then hit it with the analgesic, keeps that structure nice and warm. We sell a lot of mobility products, we also sell over a million dollars, a year worth of education. So not only do we sell products, to the medical professionals, but we also teach them how to use it. And that’s a wonderful thing, because the medical profession has to obtain 16 hours of continuing education credits every year to keep their license current. So they’re often looking for innovative and interesting classes to attend to satisfy that requirement. And so that’s turned out to be a very big business for us as well.

Alan
You know, I’ve noticed in the industry of the wearables, a lot of companies have struggled, moving into the industry, but you’ve got you’ve you push through all those obstacles, and when the few that have really found success with that. So in the question of when you’re when you’re looking at with 2020 hindsight what you did, right? And then if you had to go back and do it again, would you do things differently?

Greg
Well, that’s a tough one. I can tell you that as an entrepreneur, I get this, this question frequently, which is, I got a day job. But I got this idea. And I want to get started. But I can’t justify quitting my day job and making a full time commitment to this new thing that I want to get going. And I was in that same place. Even though I’ve done seven startups. Failure is scary. And every entrepreneur sits there and struggles with this. I struggled with it too. I struggled with it for probably a good year before I finally convinced myself that this was the right thing to do. So if I could do anything over, I would have probably jumped in a lot sooner.

Alan
And so and when you’re looking at the company today, you’ve done this pretty much by yourself. I mean, you haven’t taken outside money, is that correct? That is correct. Yeah. So it’s also fun to and that must be, I guess you had experienced in the first in the first seven companies that you did have not oil in that direction. So how is life for you?

Greg
I think over my career, I’ve probably raise 50 to $60 million in venture capital for a variety of entities. And it’s not good, it’s not bad. It’s, it’s a way to do it. Obviously, if everyone could roll their own and sell fun, people would do that. But there’s certain industries and classes of products that just are capital intensive. And so you need outside capital to get those things started. Tape was a very interesting project for me, I can remember the the day that I placed my first order. And I can remember the day that I received that first order, it was a whopping one pallet of product. And I had it shipped to my garage, and there I stood looking at this big pile of product. And I was like, now I gotta figure out how to sell this stuff. So I was very fortunate in that I was able to figure that out without having to go out and raise a bunch of capital. The bottom line is it’s all about hustle. You know, if you if you’re a good Hustler, you can figure things out.

Alan
How has technology played into this with the the internet and you know, the the being able to use that as an artist have you used that heavily?

Greg
You know, if I had started this business 20 years ago, I’d be sending you a roll of tape in the mail along with a VHS cassette deck, right. Completely different kind of business model. And I probably would have had to raise a bunch of money. But with the power of the internet, we’ve been a digital first brand meaning that we’ve been able to go out and develop our customer base primarily through social media. Social media is an incredibly powerful marketing tool, and we utilize it extensively. In addition, I can deliver I think we probably have the largest Kinesiology taping video library in the world now there’s probably over 200 online videos that you can watch in HD. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the Internet. So it’s played a significant part.

Alan
How the heck did you navigate this minefield and moving through business and continue to own 100% of it? And, and get where you are today?

Greg
Yeah, it’s it’s a great question. And we could probably talk for hours on this. But when I get asked this question, it’s typically from a entrepreneur who’s thinking about starting their own business, right? And the first thing I asked them is, is what problem are you solving. And they either know, or they don’t. And if they don’t, I tell them go back to the drawing board. Because if you don’t understand who your customer is, and the problem that you’re trying to solve, you’re bound to fail. So job number one is really understanding the problem, and then developing a solution that really resonates with that that consumer or customer. So after that, then it’s about well, you know, how do you get sales? Marketing? How do you figure out logistics, you know, manufacturing, there’s a plethora of issues that any entrepreneur will face. It’s all about leverage. At the end of the day, if you are solving a true business problem for a consumer or a customer, then the next big challenge is how do you appear to be this larger customer or company than you actually are when you’re starting, because if you’re trying to go out and close a $10 million deal with, you know, on a b2b side, right? Typically, customers don’t want to buy from some young whippersnapper who’s just, you know, trying to figure things out. So you really have to create a presence around yourself and around your company. And you do that, or at least I’ve done that. By leveraging the power of the internet. It’s a wonderful way to go out and create not only a brand, but a presence that consumers and businesses can then find, discover, and then interact with. You have to be spot on with social media and your ability to interact with those inquiries as they come. Because in today’s environment, when someone sends you an email, or send you an Instagram direct message, you gotta be able to be in a position to respond immediately, or you’ve lost a golden opportunity.

Alan
It seems like the the more technology advances, it’s that quickness, for execution. That becomes so critical.

Greg
Yeah, speed is life. It always has been in the startup world, and always will be in an established business. There are many competitors, in my industry and in every industry that are waiting for you to pause to take a breath so they can jump on that opportunity and steal market share. You cannot afford to rest.

Alan
How do you stay ahead of the competition?

Greg
I don’t sleep. Every night I think about, you know, what is my competition going to do tomorrow, right and the next day and the next day? So we try never to rest on our laurels. We’ve achieved great success, but that’s in the past. You got to think about what’s coming down the pipe and get ready for it.

Alan
Say your 13 countries 60 offices correct. And and in the US presence. What is your what is your your scale here?

Greg
Oh, we’re small. Again, we’re a small business. We employ 23 People here in the United States. We use a lot of contractors, obviously to help us both domestically and internationally. But we try to keep our footprint small, not because of costs, but because we have to remain nimble. If I had 450 employees, we’d be having a very different conversation.

Alan
That just speaks to the effect that if you use technology, right, you can. Absolutely, Well for more information on RockTape where would a person go?

Greg
rocktape.com.

Alan
I’ve been visiting here today withGreg van den Dries and founder of RockTape. And Greg, appreciate being on today’s show. Thank you

 

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This transcript was generated by software and may not accurately reflect exactly what was said.

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Greg van den Dries on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Greg van den Dries

Greg van den Dries is the founder of RockTape, a company that produces kinesiology product to allow injured athletes to remain active. The company started in 2009 and has grown exponentially. Currently it has 13 international offices that service 60 different countries. RockTape is Greg’s 7th startup company. Prior to starting RockTape, Greg spent 20 years working as an entrepreneur in the tech industry. He resides in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife and two children.

Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Alan Olsen

Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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