The Hidden Champions

"Hidden champions" as a term was first conceptualized and published in a German journal for business administration in 1990 by Hermann Simon, a German business professor and management consultant. The concept refers to highly sucessful companies, often market leaders in their respective fields and not known to a wider public. According to Simon, three criteria must be met in order to be considered a hidden champion; (1) the company either has to be positioned in the top three of the global market or take the top spot on its continent in terms of market share, (2) the company's revenue must not exceed $4 billion, and (3) the company must have a low level of public awareness.

Given the third condition, hidden champions often are small and medium- sized enterprises, they often are part of the so-called Mittelstand. What is more, Simon found that these companies provide a high vertical integration of manufacture, they focus on niche markets and show willingess and high ability to globalize in those markets. Together, Austria, Germany and Switzerland boast the world's highest concentration of small and medium-sized businesses that have a global market leader position in their respective industries. Their remarkable success is derived from a variety of factors, including a strong focus on manufacturing and production or strong in-house research and innovation capabilities, but also from a highly skilled labor force, a function of Austria's dual system of apprenticeship and vocational education.

Here, we briefly introduce just a few hidden champions from Austria - many of their products and services can already be found at work here in the United States.

Doppelmayr - Garaventa

Founded in 1892, Doppelmayr is the world quality and technology leader in ropeway engineering. Products include cable cars, ski lifts, gondolas, as well as urban people movers and material handling systems. Doppelmayr products can be found all over the world; recent examples include the Hogwarts Express (think Harry Potter) at Universal Orlando Resort, or the world's biggest urban ropeway network currently constructed in La Paz, Bolivia, while the company's Cable Liner upgrades the urban traffic network in Caracas. Doppelmayr trains reliably move people in places like Las Vegas, NV and at airports from Toronto to Mexico City and Doha.


Kapsch TrafficCom is a worldwide provider of intelligent transportation systems (ITS), its core business focuses on the construction and operation of electronic toll collection systems for multi-lane free-flow traffic. Kapsch systems are at work from Austria to Australia; in the United States you will find Kapsch at the New York MTA bridges and tunnels, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, as well as at the George Washington Bridge in New York City and the Boston Central Artery/Tunnel. In Sydney, Australia, the company provides operations management and control systems for the Eastern Distributor (EA), while Kapsch has been tasked by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to design, build and support a new and advanced Traffic Managment Software (TMS) to manage the entire New Zealand state highway network.


Frequentis is the world market leader in control center solutions and provides safety solutions ranging from air traffic management to public safety applications and military applications. Customers include NASA, the Canadian Coast Guard, London's Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard), the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as the Swiss Armed Forces or Changi airport in Singapore, to name just a few. BWT (Best Water Technology) With its more than 2,700 employees, BWT is Europe's leading water technology company and offers products and services for water in both personal and industrial applications, ranging from drinking water to pharmaceutical water applications, water for swimming pools, as well as water for air conditioning and heating applications to water in gastronomy.

AT&S Austria Technologie & Systemtechnik is a leading manufacturer of circuit boards and a major supplier to the mobile industry, to automotive and industrial electronics, as well as to medical technology.


Geislinger is a worldwide innovation leader and leading supplier of couplings and dampers. Geislinger products are used by shipbuilders around the world and increasingly find their way into other areas, wherever torsional vibrations must be kept to a minimum, like Diesel locomotives or power stations.

For more information on Austria's hidden champions and to learn more about 21st Austria, make sure to visit:

Published in Austrian Information: Summer/Fall 2014