René Wiertz helps Italian racing bike innovator 3T escape from impasse
After twelve years in the top flight at Philips, René Wiertz decided it was time to go in search of a 'struggling' company. In need of a new challenge, he wanted to see if he could turn a modest company into a top player. 'That was the question'.
Embarking on a new direction
Wiertz had a top job at Royal Phillips Electronics. As vice-president Corporate Mergers & Acquisition, he was in charge of all the acquisitions of the light division, responsible for taking over promising players in the high-tech LED market. By the age of 35, he had reached the top of the financial and legal ladder. He began to get itchy feet. It was then that he stumbled upon the Italian company 3T Cycling, specialists in designing racing bike components. 'This was not entirely a coincidence. I'm a huge fan of racing bikes and cycling.'
A top player that became distinctly average
In the mid 1990s, 3T had a tremendous reputation. Italian sprinters such as Francesco Moser, Maurizio Fondriest and Mario Cipollini sprinted their way to the top on their 3T super bikes. However, the company has been going through a rough patch in recent years. 3T was toppled and slid down the rankings, becoming a distinctly average player. Wiertz believes this is a typically Italian phenomenon. ’It’s a conservative country. The cycling industry has seen some tremendous innovations in recent years. Many companies missed out on this golden opportunity. They believed a lick of paint was innovative enough.'
Wiertz became the president and CEO of 3T eighteen months ago. He immediately enlisted the help of Richard McAinsh, a top engineer in Ferrari's Formula 1 team. McAinsh specialises in carbon-composite engineering, the material of choice in the world of competitive cycling. The focus is clear: create new products and ensure that 3T is market leader within five years. McAinsh is charging full speed ahead.
3T is currently working hard to enhance its patent portfolio. One of its patent applications has already been granted. The invention in question comprises a mechanism that automatically adjusts saddle position, preventing the saddle from coming loose. Performances have been impressive. Bjarne Riis, owner and manager of the Italian Team CSC, has invited 3T to join forces. ‘This is a tremendous opportunity, and clear evidence that we are heading in the right direction’.
The innovator has enlisted the help of patent agency EP&C to acquire patents and assess patentable and non-patentable ideas. Wiertz is impressed with the intensive collaboration. 'They are good, right down to the smallest detail.'
July 2008 – Technology Newspaper