For Ken Achenbach, founder of GoPro camera mount and accessory maker Pro Standard, his company probably wouldn’t have emerged from anywhere other than Whistler.
Or, to be more specific, from in front of the Whistler Waldorf School.
“Three quarters of the development of the company were done in the parking lot of the Whistler Waldorf every day dropping our kids off at school,” Achenbach laughed. “You just meet all these people who are really amazing at all these different things.”
ProStandard was launched in 2012 with the rise in popularity of the GoPro action camera, now the best-selling camera in the world. Through the elite summer snowboarding camp, Camp of Champions, Achenbach realized there was a need for camera mounts to accommodate the high-level of athlete living and playing in Whistler.
“We used GoPros for pretty much everything,” he explained. “We’d always been making mounts that do things we wanted to do that GoPro didn’t make mounts for, and so I decided to just do it myself.”
Eventually, Achenbach teamed up with Greg Parish, who had experience running bike part maker Straitline Components, and the two began developing their first product: the Grill Mount, which was released to market last week.
“It’s a heat-mouldable mouth mount that has … a free-flow breathing channel on it so you can actually breathe, talk and call your waves,” Achenbach said.
The mount would go through seven different iterations before hitting stores, all using state-of-the-art 3D printers at Camosun College's Technology Access Centre in Victoria for the prototypes that were then shipped back to Whistler via float plane, and tested by surfers in Hawaii, like former pro and big wave legend Keoni Watson, as well as Vissla pro Keoni Jones.
“We’d basically go to Hawaii with the 3D-printed prototype, test them, shoot photos, get their feedback, come back here, tweak the design and 3D print the next generation, then go back to Hawaii, shoot some more photos and work with them again,” said Achenbach.
The industry response so far has been overwhelming, Achenbach said, with the first batch of mounts shipped to California selling at a blinding pace. “The order landed on Tuesday morning and we were sold out by Tuesday night,” he added.
The unique mounts have also caught the eye of the elite surfing world, with deals in place to supply Billabong, Volcom and Catch Surf team riders.
Through it all, Achenbach used his Whistler connections to snowboarders and other locals eager to lend a hand, like fellow Waldorf parent and BCIT business instructor Laurie Grant, who helped devise a business plan and secure distribution deals in 10 countries.
He also credits the resort and its blossoming tech sector with adding a certain cache to his brand that would be tough to find elsewhere.
“Being in Whistler opened a lot of doors,” said Achenbach. “You’d show someone your product line and as soon as you said you’re based in Whistler, it gave it this legitimacy that it wasn’t going to be this cranked-out thing for the lowest common denominator with no story or spine to it.”
Achenbach hasn't forgot about the ski and snowboard world either, with Pro Standard’s product line expected to expand to around 15 items in the future. For more information, visit www.prostandard.com.