Shoe Game: Interview with Adam and Ryan Goldston, founders of APL

As a huge sneaker fan, I like to stay up to date on new and innovative brands emerging into the market. One brand I’ve really grown fond of is APL (Athletic Propulsion Labs). I was drawn to the brand in 2009 when their shoes were banned from the NBA because they provided an unfair competitive advantage on the court. Their history was written on these pages around one year ago (click HERE to read the article in italian) but last Saturday, September 13th, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the founders of APL, Adam and Ryan Goldston at Airness (a unique Italian re-seller of APL) in Milan and discussing how the brand was born, what they represent, and what the future holds.

How did the creation of such a revolutionary concept come to be?
Well, since we were young, our only goal was jumping higher and higher, we wanted to become excellent dunkers, but as you can see, we are not so tall (both around 6ft, editor’s note). Therefore, our freshman year of college at USC (University of Southern California), we started researching how to build something that would help us and every other basketball player jump higher. After four years of work, two months before graduation, we completed the creation of our patented “Load ‘N Launch™” technology that gave life to the “Concept 1,” our first model.

Once you had the idea for this revolutionary technology, how did you go about creating your vision?  Did you work independently or ask people you have relationships with in the industry for help?
We worked on the technology on our own.   We worked hardand studied how the shoes worked on a scientific level, the mechanics, market and every other part of this business. A fundamental step was the fact that we were athletes as well. As players, we wondered about what we would like to have and what was useful to have in a shoe, especially to improve jumping, so we tried to realize it. Our challenge was not creating a new technology during the college years, but was creating something unique and special.

Do you have new technology in the works or are you more focused on improving the Load ‘N Launch?
The Load ‘N Launch™ technology was born for basketball, but just as our basketball shoes “make you jump higher,” our new running shoes, have a derivative of the technology which “make you run faster”. We tested our new running products in our former university’s labs, using elite athletes, and found runners can improve their mile time,on average, by 9seconds. The most clear example was on a runner with a 4min 50s mile, who after using our product ran a 4min 30s mile, 20s better. Our goal is to continue to improve the technology and apply it to different situations, as we did for running. We want our product to be available to the widest range of people

Are you also the designers?
We work together with our Chief Designer, Cody Harris. There are other people contributing but basically it’s us and Cody.

Let’s talk about basketball. What was your reaction when you found out your shoes were banned from the NBA, in October 2010? I can imagine it gave you a lot of exposure.
The ban was the most unbelievable thing that could have happened for us. In split seconds everyone was talking about us.We immediatelybecame the second most searched word on Google. For the brand it was crazy. For us, on a personal level, it was very different.We immediately realized that the best 450 players in the world, all the players in the NBA, could not wear our shoes. Obviously we were somewhat upset by that, but this opened up so many other possibilities. The NBA ban had proved that our product really works.

Your product has not yet been banned in Europe.Are there any players who have started to wear APL shoes, like Adrian Banks (the only player officially endorsed by APL), former Varese player currently inAvellino.IIs this a goal of yours?
Honestly we never looked for players to endorse; we prefer that spontaneous and genuine relationshipsare built, such as that with Adrian Banks. He started to wear our products and became a real APL fan, so the endorsement was a natural consequence. Adrian is a fantastic guy; we loved to work with him and we hope thateveryone who wears our products do so because they love to, not because they are paid to do so, just as Adrian does.

Talking about the future. Are you thinking about new basketball models or are you focused primarily on the newly launched running line?
Obviously, just as most companies are, we are working on many different ideas, which includes new models, both for basketball and running. We are also exploring other fields as well. Our main focus is maintaining the quality of our brand and how we can continue to produce products that are even better than the last.

Can you elaborate on the basketball line?
Well, I can say that in the next five to six months we will release two new colours of “Concept 3” and that we are already working on the new “Concept 4”, a revolutionary shoe with a high angle. We cannot say when we will release them because we still don’t know, as it depends on many factors, but believe me, they are wonderful. We are also working on new models with mid-low angle, new designs and colours.

In regards to marketing, you mentioned you created the technology for Concept 1 when you were still in college, How many difficulties did you face as an independent brand in such a competitive market ?
It’s a very complex market, We never cared about competitors strategies; our goal was always  to create the best product possible. We don’t release as many models as other brands, we work differently. We care about the people that wear our product and we care about the quality of our product.

We are in Milan, so I am obliged to ask you what your expectations are in Europe, most specifically Italy?
The European market, especially the Italian one, is very important for us. We are very excited to see the great response we have been getting about our product. The European market, and Italian as a consequence, is wide open to new ideas, and new products such as ours, here people want the best product available, and items that allow them to have the best performance. Airness has been wonderful for us. The basketball market here is growing and the running market is already huge, and we are happy to have an impact on its growth.

Airness is one of the first stores to carry APL products in Europe. Do you have plans to expand internationally?
Our major plan is to open our own flagship stores and also work with stores like Airness and other top retailers. We want to make sure that whatever partner we choose to cooperate with is right for our target. It’s not about opening as many stores as possible, but more to work with stores that really make sense to us, just as Airness does, as well asstores that are strong in the basketball community. It also helps that Airness is in the middle of Milan; you can’t get any better a partner than these guys. We just want to make sure that whatever retail partners we choose to work with make sense so we so that we can help the store and the store can help our brand.

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A Sincere thank to Adam and Ryan Goldston for their kindness and availability to answer all of my questions, in addition I would also like to thank Emanuele Marconi, Federico Berta and all the Airness’ staff for their help facilitating this interview. I’d also like to thank Federico Magnani and Taren Dolbashian for the help with the translation.
Photo: Emanuele Marconi

Claudio Pavesi (@ClaudioPavesi)