Case Study

Retaining entrepreneurial spirit during hypergrowth at sportswear brand On (A)

5 pages
November 2023
Reference: IMD-7-2470

On Wednesday 15 September 2021, about 100 On team members were going to jog to the NYSE to mark the running shoe brand’s first day as a publicly traded company. One of few unicorns in Switzerland, On had been founded in January 2010 by running enthusiasts David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti, together with former professional athlete Olivier Bernhard. It was one of the fastest-growing global sports brands. In a decade, On had grown from a small start-up, operating out of an old church, to a multinational company employing almost 900 people. It was known across the world, not least thanks to tennis star Roger Federer, who had joined On as an investor and partner. Culture, or “spirit” as it was called at On, was particularly important for the running shoe company. The origin story of On defined the company and was still deeply reflected in present and future aspirations. It had all started with a crazy idea to glue pieces of garden hose to an old sneaker. The highly entrepreneurial mindset – referred to as “explorer spirit” – permeated the company’s DNA and was one of the key reasons for its success. The five partners believed it was crucial to maintain that spirit as the organization grew. By going public, the company aimed to secure funding for further global expansion. The funds raised would give the company the resources it needed to fulfil its dreams and help it reach the size required to play in the big league and compete with global players like Nike or Asics. The IPO was a major milestone for On but being a public company would also come with new obligations and increased expectations, from both the public and shareholders. The five partners were aware of the potential risk this represented to the company’s culture.

Learning Objective
  • Corporate culture, with a focus on start-up culture
  • Strengths and weaknesses of entrepreneurial culture
  • Benefits and risks of going public
  • Impact of growth and an IPO on company culture
Human Resources, Corporate Culture, Empowerment, Start-up, Growth, Initial Public Offering, Founder, Role
World/global, Switzerland
On, Consumer Goods, Sportswear
Field Research
© 2023
Available Languages
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