This week, we have the honor to interview Rico Rogers, founder of Box Altitude, a leading sports tech company that built a solution improving athletes’ performance by increasing natural EPO production.
Rico Rogers is an ex-professional cyclist. Racing professionally for 10 years, Rico used altitude training & altitude sleep systems throughout his career to enhance his performance, and as a result achieved great results as a sprinter. Post retirement, and following his great success, Rico wanted to design and deliver a range of products that would bring the benefits of altitude environments to the masses.
For athletes in any sport, from the elite to amateur (and everything in between), Box Altitude has comfortable, stylish and affordable 'altitude sleep solutions' that improve performance. Now, Box Altitude's evolution continues with the introduction of commercial 'simulated altitude' solutions for forward-thinking gym & leisure facilities, spin studios, hotels and performance centers.
Picture: Box Altitude’s mobile app, sensor and generator
Offering altitude training enhances the member experience, accelerates training outcomes for individuals, and creates new revenue streams for owners. In addition, stylish 'altitude bedrooms' and apartments have been constructed and seamlessly retrofitted in to private residences for individuals looking to get an extra 'edge' in all aspects of life. The health benefits of training and/or sleeping in 'hypoxic' (oxygen depleted) environments are now well-documented, but historically these environments have been cost prohibitive to create, and therefore not accessible to the mainstream (only elite athletes). The tech is now affordable, efficient and impactful.
Picture: Box Altitude’s altitude bedroom
Here is a video explaining how Box Altitude product works:
Box Altitude works with Olympic champions, world champions and world record holders across a vast array of professional sports. They keep almost all of its athletes and team partnerships private as it is in their best interest to use Box Altitude Systems in secrecy and have a significant competitive advantage over their competitors and rivals.
Box Altitude has had an ongoing public partnership since 2021 with Team Jumbo Visma’s professional cycling team. During this time the collaboration has helped crown Team Jumbo Visma rider Jonas Vingegaard as the winner of the Tour de France in 2022.
Picture: Team Jumbo Visma rider Jonas Vingegaard
📝Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on his background, his company and product. We also discussed the benefits for sports organizations and athletes to use its product. Lastly we talked about his competitive advantage, business model and plans for the next 12 months.
Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Rico:
On his background as a pro cyclist:
“ I started off as a cyclist and actually instead of going back to university I decided to be a cyclist, which seemed like a good idea and an easy idea at the time, but it was probably more challenging than what I thought, but nevertheless I was in Australia and I trained for about six months and then moved to Belgium which was the epicenter of pro cycling back in the day”.
“And so I just moved over and chased my dream. And through that the genesis of needing to be more efficient on the bike and faster and also racing people that were taking illegal drugs drove me in the direction that I've found myself in nowadays”.
On how he started training in high altitude and ended up winning 27 races:
“When I started in Belgium, and the team doctor did some blood tests and my hematocrit was 39 and I went and did a stint at an altitude camp and my bloods came back and it was 45 and when I was at 45 hematocrit it was a huge change”.
“And so when I was riding or racing, I'd see these people just breathing so heavily and I was just kind of thinking this is really easy and then eventually when I moved to Australia, I'd kind of just given up. I was tired”.
“But then I ended up through living in the Alps for so long after that, I ended up going back to Australia and I just started to win. I started to win everything, just comfortably. That year I went from giving up to winning 27 races”.
On how he got the idea of creating Box Altitude:
“I suppose the hangover from being and living in the Alps played a role there. After I moved to the Alps. And then when I got another contract, I actually got a contract with a Asian team, and we were off to a tour called the tour of Qinghai lake, which is an average of 3,200 meters in altitude”.
“So for that, I used an altitude tent and I altered my blood profile to suit that race. And when I went there, I went and won a stage, which is a really high level of competition and I got second place in a couple of races. And I was sold on the original altitude tents, which are actually still in the market today”.
On how Box Altitude works and how it is being used in the pro cycling tour by the majority of the best cyclists in the world today:
“It looks like a four post, a bed tent, or a bed system. And then you have a machine, which is our machine. And it floods the space with a high concentration in natural air of nitrogen. And that causes your body, when you go in there to dip in blood oxygen content. And then that triggers the response. So in part it is stress and response”.
“And then that's over a prolonged period. And so with ours it is cool because you set it from your phone. And through Apple wearables or Apple API, we have the blood oxygen content shown on our app as well”.
“So you can measure that. So for the cyclists, it's very entrenched. Today we've got the majority of the best cyclists in the world that use our system. And with that, because it's such a challenging thing for marketing purposes because none of the top tier cyclists are actually posting about using our particular system as opposed to anyone else's”.
“I think it's a little bit of hidden advantage for them. So they want to keep it quiet longer. It's a secret sauce. It is a secret advantage, which is fine. A couple of years ago, we sponsored the best team in the world: Jumbo. And through that we've had a little bit more recognition, but I don't believe that people know the true extent of what we're doing within the Pro Tour”.
On how Box Altitude can help teams and athletes in the NHL, NFL, and so on:
“NHL could be a good fit for us because that's cardiovascular whereas the NFL is probably a good example of a league that needs improved recovery rates. And so because with our product athletes increase their EPO production, they can recover that much faster. So it's a very different conversation”.
On how Box Altitude can be automated via a mobile app, and is seamless and comfortable and has helped athletes break world records:
“Box Altitude is a whole bedroom system. What you have to do is close the door. You can schedule it, and it turns on and off by itself. And it increases your performance through just going to bed. You don’t have to change your routine. You just have to go to bed”.
“Our system is seamless and comfortable to use because it's not just for a very segmented period of a season, the pre season, it's all season long. We see that as the final frontier in part for breaking world records and that sort of thing. We are more than aware of a couple of key world records that have been broken post prolonged with the use of our system”.
“And that's going to end up happening more and more and then with the player’s recovery, because obviously you increase your cardiovascular ability coming back from recovery, and it's going to aid in that transition as well, and then reduce strain and stress”.
On how teams (NBA, NHL, MLB..) with a heavy schedule can use Box Altitude to help improve their athletes’ performance:
“So what we recommend is to do it at home. So we say, listen, before the season, starts with 250 stretch of spending time in these spaces. So that's 4 to 6 weeks of staying in your bedroom at home and off season, which is obviously not too hard. And then during the season to spend a minimum amount of 8 hours a week in one of these environments or hypoxic environments”.
“And so what that does is that it builds that big block of stress. And so you increase your hemoglobin mass and then you keep there all season long and you're just constantly topping up and so the system actually looks like an air conditioner. It sits on the outside of a building. It's very seamless. You don't know it's an altitude room”.
“We have had athletes in the past that seem to think that they can sleep almost on the moon. So our system is actually restricted to about 4,000 feet, but we say most of our messaging is around 2,500 feet. And we encourage people to go up really slowly. So in the U. S., we'd say start at 5,000 feet and then go up from there. And the stress on your body is very minimal. So what we do is we have a protocol that we say, do this, do that, and then slowly and gradually go up to 2,500 feet. And then you can see where your blood is adapting to through your blood oxygen content and your heart rate response and then adjust accordingly”.
On how their system is different from the current system out there as it is more user friendly and easier to use:
“What we've essentially done is to make a system that is user friendly and we updated the current systems out there. So there are systems out there that are still in the market but they haven't changed in 30 years. And so what we want to do is to basically have no touch points and have users sleep comfortably at altitude.”
On how their product is backed by lots of studies and how teams use Box Altitude depending on their environments:
“Every team is different, but most of them are led by a handful of key studies that were done years and years ago. And now there are thousands of thousands of studies out there”.
On the benefits (less fatigued) for teams and athletes to use Box Altitude such as increasing athletes’ VO2 Max:
“Box Altitude enables a 4% to 5% increase in Athletes’ VO2 max, which we typically translate directly to key metrics such as recovery rates. If you have a high VO2 max, you will recover faster. For us, it's really about the blood oxygen content and pushing that up as high as high as you can during the day”.
“To that point, when you sleep at altitude, you increase your heart rate by, let's say, anywhere from 2 to 5 beats per minute and then when you're out of the altitude, you reduce your heart rate by I believe on average 2000 to 3000 beats a day. So the efficiency is phenomenal. It is a bit like micro dosing on coffee all day long. You just have those increased energy levels all day, which is pretty interesting”.
“With a VO2 max increase, athletes have now the ability to not just do one or two sets of plays, but now they are able to go further than that. And when your competitors are huffing and puffing, you're still agile and ready for the next play. So I think that with extended plays, it's almost invaluable”.
“But then also for a player recovery to have a key player that's making the lineup and for those tight semifinals or final spots, I think that can be a real deal, and a big advantage”.
On how Box Altitude can help NBA teams and players recover faster:
“And then of course the recovery, right? The recovery, being able to recover faster, right after a heavy training session or game. That could also be very beneficial. We haven't had a lot of NBA conversations, but NBA is one of those ones that would be massively beneficial because they're playing with the cell volume which has to increase a lot for that and Box Altitude aids it for that”.
“And then I know that the schedules of NBA teams is very tight and so they've really got to maximize recovery. So I believe that if they could obviously do that, acclimatization block at the very start and then supplement through throughout the season, their injury list would come down and then B, their work rate over the course of that would increase and their recovery rate as well. It's really going to be a big pivotal moment for players in the future. For us it's just about getting it out there at the moment and educating teams about what we do”.
On what teams and athletes like the most about Box Altitude:
“What they typically like is the seamlessness of it. It's the being able to set it up from your phone. They also like the comfort of it because these other systems on the market don't have this oxygen sensor that is there constantly checking and analyzing it”.
“So the comfort and the low stress of it all is obviously really great with our product. And then obviously being able to schedule it is really key when you start using this, as opposed to one of the other competing products, it's a bit like Chalk and cheese. It's like using a Motorola Phone Vs an iPhone. It's just completely different”.
“So I believe it's where all of the World records will be broken in the next few years without a doubt. If you do a really hard gym session, you'll recover better that night. So it means that the next session is going to be harder”.
“And so your ability to reproduce those sessions, those high intensity sessions will be with a better quality of training, and faster sprint speeds. I can't emphasize how important consuming oxygen is”.
On their competitive advantages such as the fact that it is controlled by a mobile app:
“Our main competitive advantage is that it's quiet and it's controlled from your phone. And we can retrofit any bedroom in the world. And in fact, we've done bedrooms almost sight unseen in Monaco, which is a and it's all come off good and you can't hear these systems working and so there's some really exciting things for that, to be able to change people's physiology and not change anything about their training. It's very unique”.
“And I don't think athletes can compete on a lot of these international fields these days without doing some form of altitude training (..) We're the only ones in the market with such product. For now teams that are jumping on at the moment, they are going to have benefits ahead of the curve and they'll find out protocols ahead of that as well”.
On their business model and how they help support teams:
“You can buy Box Altitude products online. And then you can also reach out to us as well and have a conversation. The majority of the teams at the moment basically drops an email and say, I'm interested in this. Can you tell me more? And then, so what we do is we have to jump on a call”.
“We obviously address all of their concerns first, because people always have a lot of questions, and then we tailor something that's going to really fit their profile. It's pretty much been our model, but we do like to over educate, so because we are one of the firsts to market, we'd rather have people get the best benefits and spend more time on them rather than saying thank you and good luck. We've got enough data and we can share and help people get increased performance for the whole team rather just for one or two athletes that are doing it correctly”.
On how long and often they recommend teams to use Box Altitude:
“I think teams have to use it consistently to keep seeing the benefits of it. If they stop, then they might not see the benefits anymore. Actually, it's about a 120 day blood cycle. So what happens is your blood goes up and then it slowly tapers down”.
“And so the eight hours a week maintenance stops that taper down. But what we find with our athletes is that they're quite happy to spend time there. In fact, they typically choose to do about three nights in a week because they sleep better. So they might come back from a competition and have a night out of altitude and then they'll do a micro buildup”.
“So say a 1500 meters and then a 2000 meters and then 2500 and then they go back on the Tour. And let's say an NBA player who's maybe only has one or two nights at home, and then I would just have one day of recovery and an altitude sleep as well”.
On their plans for the next 12 months:
“First in the U. S. we want to have good conversations with performance directors of pro teams (NBA, NFL, MLS, MLB, NHL..). We also are looking to raise funds at the moment because we identified that the States is the biggest market for us. We're entrenched in Europe, which is really great”.
“But yet I suppose the conversation around health and well being and the U.S. is probably the most mature market globally at the moment, so that's sort of what we're doing there. But it's really to establish ourselves here and to get some momentum and moving forward to be entrenched in U.S. sport market”.
“And also we have a side project in the US because the Olympics are coming to LA in 2028, so we need to gear up for that. And in part with some of the Australian teams are certainly going to be needing help here, and even for Paris next year with the 2024 Paris Olympics, so we have to sort that out as well. So it's really those key themes that are pivotal for us. That's the plan”.
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