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Wheels of Fortune

Mathias Ihlenfeld had no idea the gift his son Luca received for his second birthday would transform his career from IT consultant to CEO of woom, a global children’s bike company that made the Inc. 5000 list from 2019 through 2021.

woom started with Ihlenfeld’s brother, Marcus Ihlenfeld, and his business partner, Christian Bezdeka, thoughtfully designing a range of children’s bicycles in Vienna, Austria. Rather than making an adult bike smaller, they made it 40% lighter than traditional kids’ bikes and added special features, like an automatic shift. The goal? Make kids fall in love with cycling and support parents in aiding the effort.

When Luca started riding the bike around his neighborhood, Ihlenfeld’s neighbors took notice.

“They asked, ‘Where can I get one?’” Ihlenfeld says. “That got the wheels rolling.”

woom CEO Mathias Ihlenfeld

In 2014, Ihlenfeld launched woom bikes USA in a rented, unheated garage in Austin, Texas, and used his cell phone as the customer service line (not a move he’d recommend). That first year, he sold 14 bikes; the following year it was 1,500. But exponential growth soon followed through word-of-mouth advertising. The company sold nearly 50,000 bikes in 2022 leading woom to double its workforce.

Since then, woom has become the fastest-growing kids’ bike brand in North America and the largest direct-to-consumer brand in the space, reaching annual sales of over €100 million (more than $107 million USD) in 2022, a new company record.

“I didn’t have experience running a business, so there was a steep learning curve,” says Ihlenfeld, a 2022 Vistage Member Excellence award winner. “When I joined Vistage in 2019, I learned a lot about different tools available to me and that has helped me move to the next level.”

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