In this episode of the SLN Podcast, Matthias Metternich, CEO of Art of Sport, discusses how he co-founded America’s fastest-growing men’s skincare brand with the late Kobe Bryant. Matthias is no stranger to entrepreneurship having started four companies and now scaling Art of Sport to nearly 15,000 retail doors in 2021. Mathias unpacks several points in today’s interview, including what attracted Kobe and the founding team to this market, why Art of Sport decided to list on Amazon right away, Mark Cuban’s recent investment into the company, and how Art of Sport plans to power every gym bag and locker room in the country.

Podcast Highlights

5:30 – Living in over 12 countries: “Appreciating people from different walks of life, different cultures, different socioeconomic realities, obviously is massive… I think some of the lessons you learned there is adapting, reinventing yourself, experimenting with new things that people don’t sort of judging you over your lifetime against. And so I think it motivates curiosity. It motivates learning and it starts to become muscle memory.”

11:03 – Co-founding with Kobe Bryant: “Kobe was just coming off of one of the greatest athletic careers in history and was also finding time to build brands that he really believed in and cared about. He did that obviously with Nike globally for upwards of two decades. He wasn’t just wearing the clothing or the apparel. He was in meetings, talking to the senior leadership teams about launching new products, launching dedicated lines, launching products that were relevant globally, especially also in Asia, where he continues to be a huge source of inspiration for a lot of young folks.”

12:55 – Kobe’s first response to the idea of Art of Sport: “His first comment to me when we told him about Art of Sport was how does this not exist yet? Which I think is a good initial response and gut response from someone who then, you know, decided to be a partner with us and help us build the business from day zero.”

14:10 – Working with athletes early on: “You want to find a partner who is hard-wired to think about what it takes to build something and athletes and their journey are actually really good proxies for what it’s like to build a startup. You know, these are individuals who have willed themselves through their sheer tenacity and talent, but a lot of hard work, a lot of grinds, a lot of unglamorous moments working both individually and as a team to stand out and be the best that they can be under lots of pressure.”

18:54 – Kobe named all of the Art of Sport products: “Kobe named all of our products. One of the first things he wanted to do was building a real brand and an authentic brand.”

21:10 – Launching on Amazon from Day 1: “We also launched on Amazon, which is somewhat unconventional because the sort of traditional view is that you’re going to build your ‘Direct to Consumer’ presence for many years, and then you might look into diversification of your channels in our case. I think we were very open to the idea that the consumer is a lot more fluid. They are willing to shop in different areas, on different channels, and foregoing what Amazon is great at, which is a good destination for essentials… It seemed like our skincare products, our daily essentials would do pretty well in that ecosystem.”

26:40 – Raising $6MM in financing from Mark Cuban and NBA Vet Wilson Chandler: “Our goal here is to build a brilliant brand and to also build a smart business. And so the most recent round of capitalization was to continue to fuel that expansion and do it intelligently. And it’s enough capital for us to do that.”

28:45 – The future of retail: “We like to invest in channels where the consumers are and where they shop. We believe that we can by investing correctly with the right partners, create those moments of discovery and exploration with those retail partners in brilliant ways.”