Dr. Oliver Kormann and Jutta Kormann are sitting in a meeting room bathed in natural light belonging to KORMARAN GmbH. The company’s head office is based at Salzburg airport. Once every few minutes an aeroplane soars into the blue sky against the magnificent backdrop of the surrounding mountains; a perfect setting for a conversation with the entrepreneurial couple on their beginnings, their values and their aims.
Mr. Kormann, can you imagine a world without water?
Oliver Kormann: I don’t even want to consider the thought! Water is my element and it has been part of my life since I was 11 years old. I swim, snorkel, dive in water and I sail on it. I was a member of the Austrian Olympic team in the Tornado boat class. In physics I spent a great deal of time studying hydrodynamics. My parents have an ocean catamaran; so a life without water and the oceans would be unthinkable!
What do you find so fascinating about water?
OK: The dynamics! The emotions! The clarity of each moment! The only thing that counts out on the ocean – is the ocean. It’s the same for almost every sailor, swimmer, diver or motorboat pilot. It’s similar to flying, I’d say. Once you’re infected by the inherent fascination of flight – the ancient dream of mankind, you’re hooked and it never lets you go. It’s like that with water, too. It becomes a part of you.
When did you first picture the Kormaran in your mind’s eye?
OK: It was in 2007. On a sailing trip on the Virgin Islands we had to cross a strait to a bay at the neighbouring island in the dark on rough seas – in a dinghy. I asked myself if it had to be this inconvenient. Whether there wasn’t a more comfortable way of doing it. Couldn’t a watercraft be developed that combines all the advantages of the various classes of boat and eliminates the negative aspects? One that flies over the waves? As a physicist and water sports enthusiast I had a conundrum I couldn’t put down.
Jutta Kormann: At the same time we also envisaged establishing a business in which my husband would be responsible for the technical part, and where I would be able to invest my experience as a businesswoman in the commercial aspects. From the very beginning we both had the same aims and beliefs. Furthermore, we both have absolute trust and faith in each other – which gives us the courage and the drive to move forward.
What aspect of the Kormaran project fills you with pride – and why?
OK: I have played a role in the development of every single part – right down to the technical minutiae. Everything fits like it’s meant to. The Kormaran is unique and feels exactly the way it should. I believe everyone who sees, touches and rides the Kormaran will feel and understand what I mean. The quality-consciousness and the power of innovation, with which both, we and our associates are developing this project, are immense. One such example is the use of one of the largest carbon monocoques ever to be built, while subjecting our work to standards applied within the automotive industry.
JK: Thinking about our teakwood decks; Teak is a precious natural raw material that needs to be treated with care. One of the suppliers we are cooperating with, is the world market leader in this sector and we have managed to promote the realisation of lightweight teakdeck construction. Our teakdecks are made from certified, resource-friendly plantations. Offcuts are reduced to an absolute minimum. We strive for perfection and sustainability.
Do you have any other examples to support this claim?
OK: Basically, it’s an approach we’ve applied to every aspect of the Kormaran. When foiling across the water we have been able to reduce water resistance up to 80%. This leds to a considerable reduction in the power required to achieve forward motion, in turn triggering a radical cut in fuel consumption. The Kormaran can be easily launched into the water without unnecessary strain on the environment, like for other hydrofoil boats, as there is no need for deep harbours and cranes. The costs and logistics of transportation are also reduced, since the craft does not require much space. It is jet powered compared to normal propellers, so there is far less danger of injury to people and fish, or of damage to coral reefs.
Let’s get back to the origins of the company. What happened after the rough dinghy ride?
OK: In May 2009 we’d developed the idea to the point where we were able to agree it was time to start for real. We began searching for a suitable base for the business, always bearing in mind the need to ensure we will work under the best possible conditions. I come from Salzburg and I liked the fact that innovative companies are encouraged in the region, so the city of Salzburg was always an option. In September 2009 we sought, and were pleased to find, perfect conditions for our project; so we started the realization immediately. From September 2009 until June 2010 we developed patents, business plans and market studies. Right after we established the company.
Didn’t you ever have any doubts?
OK: To be honest, no! Once we had convinced Karl Wagner, CarboTech’s founder, things really started to roll. He was enthusiastic about our project right from the start and once he’d checked the viability of the business plan he agreed to get on board and become involved with the production of a prototype. Other companies followed suit. Consequently, the involvement of these companies convinced the FFG (Austrian Society for the Subsidisation of Research) to give us their backing – and for whose support and flexibility we are very grateful.
In what way are they flexible?
OK: At the FFG they know that things often change in research projects. There can be thousands of difficulties and sometimes the plans go out of the window. Changes are unavoidable, particularly with projects as dynamic as ours. Provided there’s a good explanation for the changes the FFG will stand by you.
Can you give us a concrete example of this?
OK: Initially we tried to implement transformation mechanisms with moveable arms, when we had the idea of changing to a swing arm solution – a fundamental change that also involved countless modifications in terms of the distribution of forces, weight, power supply and control engineering. Project plans had to be adapted accordingly. The FFG has always been supportive in this regard.
JK: I think it’s important to express our gratitude to our partner here, Daniell Porsche, who has observed the progress of the project and provided support since we began. His confidence and his pioneering spirit have been – and continue to be – of immense importance.
If there was one word to describe the Kormaran business culture, what would it be?
JK: Freedom – on a lot of levels. The Kormaran allows me to go wherever I want out on the water. It can transform its shape to suit my needs and use it in a number of ways – and we run the business the same way. We’re not a conventional company with lots of restrictions. On the contrary, we consciously allow our employees to enjoy a large degree of freedom to make their own decisions, in order to encourage creativity, the flow of ideas and the development of innovations.
OK: We do our best to work with companies based in the region. We don’t outsource to countries and regions with low wage levels. Wherever possible we are trying to do everything within European countries and we’re convinced it’s the right way forward. The progressive technologies we integrate are also an investment in the future of these regions and the people living in them. For us, unscrupulous profit maximisation goes against the grain. We aim to achieve a sustained system of profit optimisation that considers the people and their natural and social environments. That’s our vision and our mission.
Sounds like you’ve set yourself a considerable challenge.
JK: We’re aware of this, but that’s what the Kormaran is all about – high standards – in everything we do. It also means we have a great degree of social responsibility. In the mid-term we also intend to become involved in regional social projects. That’s something we care about.
The Kormaran needs to be successful to achieve this objective. What aims have you set for the business?
OK: We are building an highly exclusive serial product, that customers will be able to order after the world premiere of KORMARAN on the 26th of June. The first units will be ready for delivery approximately 18 months later. Once the manufacturing operation has been set up we should become a solid, small-to-medium sized business employing around 120 people over the following three to five years. The plan is to quickly expand the product portfolio to include products such as a racing version of the Kormaran, a 9-metre version for 4–6 people, a 12-metre version for 8–12 people and a 4.5-metre version for one person.
JK: The craft we supply can be tailored very specifically to the wishes of the customer. We will provide whatever leather covering the customer desires and, not only are we able to deliver in every imaginable colour, we can also provide bespoke imprints, leather seams and all kinds of leather designs and textures. The leather can be embossed, lasered and even produced with a special emblem.
What headline do you expect us to be reading about the Kormaran in the near future?
OK: Maybe something like: ‘Spectacular flying object spotted in the harbour in Monaco.’
Which holiday destination will you be heading for with the Kormaran once the market launch has been completed successfully and you get a chance to breathe?
JK: That would have to be the Virgin Islands. That’s where it all began!