Growing up in Oslo, Norway, Truls started snowboarding. He got a scholarship to study Entrepreneurship in Utah and spent most of the time on the slopes. When he returned he wanted to continue studying and did a MSc in Mechanical Engineering back home. 3 years into the course Truls went travelling around the world, surfing, hiking and exploring.
In 2009 on a surfing trip in Norway Truls met freeski legend Jon Olsson. They bonded on action sports and the idea of trying to redefine travel gear and enhance better journeys. Truls worked on a ski bag prototype in his student dorm room using his life savings. He went to China to find the right factory and in 2012 they officially launched Db to the world. 10 years on and Db have produced backpacks, carry bags, luggage and accessories for outdoor lifestyles and travel. They are a 5-time Gaselle award winner and multiple ISPO design award winner with over 60 staff and ship worldwide.
Tune in to find out about the ups and downs of bootstrapping a business, what Truls learnt running the company for 10 years, international expansion and what Db have planned.
Truls Brataas: I have alway been inspired by surf culture. I wanted to learn this sport because I haven’t done that much here in Norway. So I went to Central America, the Caribbean, South America. Then I flew over to New Zealand, Australia, before coming back to Norway. Travelling with a surfboard for six months and having loads of trains, buses and flights, the amount of ding repairs I was doing during that time was just insane.
As an engineer and equipment geek, I was looking at all these different bags. They didn’t really provide the protection that you need for such a fragile object. I thought about that the entire time. Then I went back to Norway and stopped by Hoddevika, one of these surf spots where you have the fjords straight in and the Atlantic coming straight on you. So the next thing you’ll meet there is Greenland or the US.
I stopped there for one week of surf before going back to university. That’s when I met my co-founder, Jon Olsson. So we were lying in the surf there and we started to talk about the journey that I’ve been on and him living out of a bag being a professional skier. We spoke about why isn’t there a product or a brand that actually makes this type of lifestyle better, both in terms of functionality for actually travelling with equipment, but also for the way that it looks?
Being Scandinavian, both of us are fairly interested in design in general. Everything looks like it could be for the circus with so many colours. Why can’t it look clean with something you can carry with normal clothes.
Oli Russell-Cowan: It could be stylish.
Truls Brataas: It could be stylish. It could be a Scandinavian design. How can you bring Scandinavian design into this thing and we saw other things. Jon was one of the first Red Bull athletes in this region of Europe. We saw how social media marketing worked and how Ambassador marketing worked. This was in 2010. When we met there was only blogs and YouTube there wasn’t any Instagram or Tiktok.
We saw how the snowboarding industry had grown. Watching Red Bull and GoPro. We understood how this worked inherently. So we wanted to see how you build a brand with this way of thinking.
Lastly, I’m a dyslexic. So I actually got a laptop very early at school because I read very slowly and that’s not the way for me to learn. I had to find other ways. I think, when I got this laptop, I understood that with this tool I could find information so fast I could learn. This tool gives you superpowers. So I’ve always been a techie.
Then the idea was how can I build a company on technology platforms that can make it scalable. This was the time I knew Magento was the only platform out. How can we make an international brand quickly. Those insights were important.
I went back to University. Me and Jon had been travelling for so many years. So we knew what we were looking for. We also interviewed a shitload of people like 150 people, skiers, snowboarders, surfers, and also retailers about what they need to sell this product.
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Last updated on Dec 5, 2022
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