How Christoph Sonnen, an early employee of Red Bull, uses his background in extreme sports to help lead up-and-coming sports technology entrepreneurs.
As entrepreneurs we are hard-wired to go forward ever faster. We are all Type AAA Alphas. At that time this approach was not working, and I had to find another way.
— Christoph Sonnen
Originally from Germany, Sonnen is an accomplished entrepreneur who has lived many lives. At the young age of 14, he showed enough promise as a big wave windsurfer that he had ambitions of going pro. He chased the biggest and most dangerous waves from Africa, to Australia to Hawaii—where he participated in the Maui Ocean Academy, a specialized boarding school for top wave windsurf athletes.
In the early ’90s, through his surfing connections, Sonnen joined an interesting—but floundering—beverage startup called Red Bull. The small team at Red Bull was scratching and clawing to get its new energy drink into the right sports marketing channels, but was hitting wall after wall in gyms and other sporting facilities. In a bold stroke, they decided to market Red Bull to bars—that decision (and many others) resulted in a seismic shift in the energy drink landscape. Sonnen managed to get distribution to all of the top accounts in Berlin, then in the inverse to the Leonard Cohen song, the company set out to take Manhattan…