High-tech sports helmet maker Vicis will grow Seattle R&D hub under new owner

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The Vicis ZERO2 is the flagship helmet from the high-tech gear maker. (Vicis Photo)

Vicis will maintain a Seattle presence, two years after the helmet maker went through a major and sudden downfall in 2019.

Vicis is now owned by Certor Sports, a company that operates multiple sporting goods brands formed last year by New York City-based Innovatus Capital Partners.

Innovatus last year purchased the assets of Vicis out of receivership for less than $3 million and formed a new company. It helped bring back a small group of early Vicis engineers and marketers who work out of Seattle.

Certor said Thursday that it will maintain its R&D office in Seattle, where it employs 10 people and plans to add 4-to-5 additional workers over the next year. The office will serve as R&D for Vicis and other Certor brands.

Certor will open a 230,000 square-foot facility in Plainfield, Ind., for its new headquarters. The 250-person company also operates leading football helmet maker Schutt.

After spinning out of the University of Washington in 2014, Vicis garnered attention for its unique helmet that featured specialized layers built to mitigate the impact of bone-crushing hits that cause concussions and put the health of professional football players in jeopardy.

It raised more than $85 million over five years from more than 400 investors such as current and former NFL players Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Alex Smith, Roger Staubach, and Jerry Rice.

But even as the helmet gained traction from NFL stars and NCAA teams, Vicis ran into several problems.

Earlier GeekWire reporting showed that the company put too much focus on grabbing market share from incumbents rather than turning a profit, among other issues. The troubles came as a surprise to some shareholders. Vicis was unable to raise more cash before shutting down the company and laying off more than 100 employees in December 2019.

Earlier this year Vicis released ZERO2, the company’s flagship helmet, which took the top three spots in the annual Helmet Laboratory Testing Performance Results in which helmets are assessed by independent experts, measuring the ability of the equipment to reduce the severity of impacts to the head.

Certor said more than 30% of NFL players wear a Vicis or Schutt helmet. Wilson and Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes are using the Vicis helmet this season, among others.

Vicis was originally founded by Per Reinhall, former chair of the UW’s mechanical engineering department; Samuel Browd, professor of neurological surgery at the UW; and former CEO Dave Marver, who stepped down in November 2019. Marver is now CEO at Onward, a medical device company based in the Netherlands. UW engineering professor Jonathan Posner is another co-founder; he left the company in 2015.