Jeff Adams & Christian Bagg
Applying the sports technology they used regularly, Jeff Adams and Christian Bagg founded Icon Wheelchairs to build high performance wheelchairs that fit their lives, and improve the lives of others who need them.
“Their investment is in fact making a difference in the lives of people who use wheelchairs – that wasn’t just a bunch of words that we wrote to fill a space in our executive summary.”
An athlete with several Olympics and Paralympics medals under his belt, Jeff Adams found easy rapport with Christian Bagg, “a semi-professional snowboard and mountain bike athlete before his injury.” Jeff says, “As two guys who used wheelchairs and high tech sports equipment,” they were frustrated by the wheelchair industry’s lack of tech transfer from sports equipment to the everyday wheelchairs they used. Although, he says, “Now that we're two guys who own a wheelchair company, we're pretty happy that the industry has been asleep at the switch.” The frustration they felt seeded the founding of Icon Wheelchairs “by bringing technology to bear on equipment that people who use wheelchairs rely on to ‘compete’ in life.”
The tough part of the job? Jeff says, “It's convincing people that we're able to put our emotions in our pockets and make good business decisions.” He explains how entrepreneurs are notorious for making emotional decisions because they are too attached to their own products. “Because we make wheelchairs, and both use wheelchairs, people assume that we can't take a step back and make arms-length decisions about strategy and corporate direction that we need to take in order to be successful.” An employee once told Jeff, “You can't save them all,” when Jeff gifted his old chair to someone who couldn’t afford it. While emotion played a part, Jeff also knew that his decision fit the philosophy of his company — and that the chair’s design meant it could easily be reconfigured, thus opening up a market for secondhand chairs.
The message it sent payed itself forward again when the chair’s recipient had saved enough for a new Icon and gifted the old chair to a young girl who was quickly outgrowing her current one. That’s just the kind of the word-of-mouth “ground-swell PR” the industry thrives on and that investors love — “letting the people that supported us know that their investment was not only going to generate returns for them as investors, but was in fact making a difference in the lives of people who use wheelchairs.” Despite the success of his company, Jeff remains humble about what he does, “We're two guys who need wheelchairs who build wheelchairs for people who need wheelchairs.”