Campus - 04.08.2022 - 00:00 

HSG start-up combines FCSG legend with blockchain technology

Every year, products amounting to approx. three billion US dollars are faked worldwide. A company set up by HSG graduates has developed a solution against product piracy. Several sports clubs all over the world already rely on the solution provided by CollectID.

4 August 2022. The FC St.Gallen legend Marc “Zelli” Zellweger still stands for a combative, if unspectacular playing style. What was spectacular, though, was the “legend strip” which the FCSG released with Zellweger’s number 20 in 2020. The limited strips are linked up with the blockchain through a near-field technology chip. Through this NFC chip – which is well-known for contactless payments with smartphones and cards – each of the “Zelli” strips is digitally registered as a unique item. Thus, on the one hand, it cannot be faked; on the other hand, football fans are able to access exclusive “Zelli” contents through the chip and an app.

The technology for this is provided by CollectID, a start-up based in the St.Gallen village of Goldach. The fact that the young company – the average age of the 15-strong team is under 30 – was able to attract the FCSG as one of its first customers, makes sense for the founder and CEO David Geisser: “We’re proud of our roots in the region,” says Geisser, a St.Galler who is an FCSG fan himself. The roots he mentions also include the fact that several employees studied at the HSG. Geisser himself holds a Master’s degree in Business Innovation; his business idea was supported by the incubator programme Startup@HSG and St.Gallen’s start-up network Startfeld.

The first step to the USA has been made
From its base in Goldach, the CollectID idea has been spreading across Switzerland and the world since the company was established in 2018: the Super League Clubs FCZ, YB and FCSG, as well as the German Federal League clubs VfB Stuttgart, FC Köln und Bayer Leverkusen have tagged some of the strips sold to their fans with CollectID. And in 2021, 120,000 anniversary strips of the Brazilian club Atlético Mineiro were equipped with NFC chips. According to Geisser, negotiations are underway with a major Champions League football club.

CollectID Atletico Mineiro

In February 2022, the start-up and the NHL club Nashville Predators also launched a farewell strip for the legendary goalie Pekka Rinne. This NHL deal is intended to help the company find access to further teams in the USA’s professional sports leagues that have a worldwide appeal. “We’re currently setting up a team in New York,” says Geisser. 

CollectID Nashville Predators

Working with international investors

The start-up’s expansion course is being supported by various investors. The latest funding round in February 2022 yielded approx. CHF 3.2m. CollectID is thus scoring important points, as its customers in the world of sports would say. The fact that the start-up is on a roll is also being appreciated outside investors’ networks. In June, it was awarded the young company prize, Startfeld Diamant, with prize money amounting to CHF 30,000. The business model was described as “brilliant” and as having a “great international potential,” said the Startfeld jury. The young start-up sports the HSG Spin-Off label, as well.

Geisser, too, can see possible applications of his product in a wide variety of industries. “But at the moment, we’re focusing on sports, fashion and wine.” Besides the field of sports, CollectID is already cooperating with the producers of sustainable sneakers, Sonra and Rubirosa, and offers its technology for the forgery protection of wine bottles.

The problem of fakes in enormous

Every year, products amounting to approx. three billion US dollars are faked worldwide. Geisser became aware of the problem when he himself was sent a pair of fake sneakers that he had ordered online. During his researches, he became acquainted with the sneaker collector Sergio Muster, who is the founder of Europe’s biggest sneaker fair, Sneakerness, and together with Geisser and the blockchain programmer Jeremy Smith is a co-founder of CollectID.

For Geisser, the fact that the battery-free NFC chip, which is merely a few micrometres thick, protects products from piracy copies, is only part of the business model. He considers it to be of equal importance that vendors receive high-quality data through the use of the chip: “It enables them to understand what customers already possess. This allows for controlled marketing of new goods and services. The digital extension of physical products with contents such as videos, background information and images would provide additional value. “It’s also possible to continually add to a strip with digital offers,” says Geisser. And the football fan adds that this would allow for “a new exchange between fans and their sports clubs, for example.” 

Images: CollectID / Main image: CollectID founder David Geisser at the presentation of the FCSG legend strip.

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