Karl Müller is a visionary of the shoe industry who has had a significant influence on the likes of Nike and Skechers. He has experienced many highs and lows in his eventful career. Today, the MBT inventor is riding high again as CEO at kybun AG.
Karl Müller has reinvented himself several times in his life: Asia expert, multiple company founder, self-supporter and above all a visionary of the shoe industry.
I enjoy seeing people walk again without pain thanks to my shoes. You don't just walk in a kybun shoe, you float. The walk-on-air feeling is unique!
Karl Müller, Dipl. Ing. ETH, motion technologist
He draws the strength to start again and again from his faith in God. Yet happiness is not the desirable state for him. Happiness is something selfish and depends on the circumstances, whereas joy is about doing something good for someone else.
Karl Müller was born in Roggwil in the canton of Thurgau, Switzerland, in 1952. After finishing his studies in Mechanical Engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, he moved to South Korea in 1979. He studied at the Seoul National University on a scholarship . Seven months after Müller began his studies, Park Chung-hee, then president of South Korea, was assassinated and universities were closed due to mass demonstrations.
Discovering his entrepreneurial spirit
This incident forced Müller to search for a job in Korea in 1980. He found a gap in the market and founded his first company, a supplier of Swiss specialties to hotels. He established 12 companies in Korea in the following years. He opened up restaurants, sold textile machines and became the first retailer to import skiing equipment to Korea. Everything he put his hand to became a huge financial success.
Highs and lows
The price of all his success had a serious side effect and ultimately let to a burnout. He sold all of his companies in 1990 and returned to Lake Constance in Switzerland in order to recover his health. He bought a farm and became self-sufficient for 10 years. During this time, he founded a private rehabilitation centre for drug addicts as a non-profit organisation. However, he ran out of money after three years and began to work as a driver at weekly markets.
The founding of MBT
In the 80s Karl Müller lived in a mud house in the middle of the paddy fields of Korea where he discovered the positive effects of clay soil. The soil in paddy fields becomes elastic and springy once the water drains out, making it very comfortable to stand and walk on. Karl Müller spent many years researching how to implement this paddy field sensation in our modern everyday lives.
Müller then introduced the MBT shoe to the market in 1997, revolutionising the shoe industry with the ‘rollover sole’. The rollover shoe proved to have therapeutic effects, and is now copied by over 100 shoe manufacturers worldwide.
kybun – the new generation (from MBT to kybun)
Karl Müller continued to investigate how to recreate the comfort of standing in paddy fields even more accurately. He originally wanted to use the soft, springy sole he developed in the next generation of MBT shoes. However, his minority shareholding partners wanted to continue with the round sole model, so he parted ways with MBT on good terms in 2006. The model he had developed then became the new kyBoot brand. He founded kybun AG in 2007 and began to develop the kybun shoe and other supplementary products.
kybun movement concept
The kybun shoe is a part of the kybun movement concept, which also includes the elastic, springy kybun mat and the kybun treadmill.
Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung has named Karl Müller one of the most innovative entrepreneurs in Switzerland, and declared that he is making design history.