Vertical Challenge for Rope Access in Dubai

Vertical Challenge

This is the first issue of Global Citizen Magazine.

In the article “Vertical Challenge”, February 2011, on page 56,57, 58 and 59, you will find out how “High-rise safety expert Ivan Kristoff rescues Middle Eastern market” and tests the new extreme line of Swiss Made watch making company and Nike Dry-fit line during an aerial rope rescue procedures.

“I was deeply impressed by the two Princes that I met and was honored to be in their presence”, says Ivan Kristoff in the article.

In the meantime, you can see the article on

Vertical Challenge

High-rise safety expert rescues Middle Eastern market 

Ivan Kristoff is one of the world’s foremost aerial rescue experts, he is also the founder of the High-rise Emergency Aerial Rescue Team, or HEART, a non-profit organization whose aim is to “minimize the loss of life and to increase the safety of the public.”

As a Canadian citizen he initially created his company in Ontario, Canada because he felt that with over 12,000 high-rises in the city and substandard training procedures for rope workers such as window washers and maintenance workers, accidents were bound to happen for which traditional emergency response teams would not be equipped.

In addition to six years in his native Bulgarian army as part of the airborne forces, where he received survival and emergency training, he has a lifetime of climbing experience that began with makeshift equipment when he was a teen. He also works professionally on high rises, doing inspections and implementing safety guidelines for property managers, as well as endorsing products, which he says aid his work in extreme conditions and emergency incidents.

He has integrated his academic training as a mechanical engineer and the benefits of modern technology to ensure that safety comes first.

Kristoff hopes to share his expert knowledge of emergency rope access work and aerial rescue techniques with the MENA markets in the coming year, once he secures investment in the region.

How have you marketed your Eiger rope access business differently in the Middle East in comparison to when you first started out with your business in North America in 1993?

In 1993 I started my business in Canada from tabula rasa. I had just the idea and the background of exploration in the vertical world, but I managed to turn it to attractive and extremely specific business. That is a job that only a few people can practice because it requires a combination of perfect physical status and adequate engineering background. I realized that I am on the right way when the industry started to listen to me and the media write about me.

The Middle East and the UAE in particular, have always been attractive for me. Dubai is a unique phenomenon. Its economic boom during the last two decades was a great challenge for me as an expert working on high-rise buildings. Only confident people of great will for change could reach such tremendous achievements for that short time. I knew that if I want to be successful in Dubai I should follow its unique business dynamics. That’s what impressed me most when I came to Dubai for the first time and it is this business dynamics that helps Dubai to pass quickly through the economic crisis. Aiming to work in the Middle East Region and UAE in particular, I knew I should follow my father’s lesson “You never have a second chance for a first impression”. My father was a diplomat in Libya in the 80’s and a great fan of the Arabic history and culture. Therefore, for my first public presentation at the Dubai Helishow 2010, the word for my participation in the event was spread out in the Arabic media publications. The novelty of my ideas and teamwork with the Helishow made it happen to be promoted before, during and after the Helishow. But this happened also, because I found new friends and partners among the organizers of this event. So, it is a two-way relationship to the road of success.

How has your business developed since then in terms of the advancement of the equipment used and the techniques employed by you and your team when performing emergency rope access work whilst scaling the world’s tallest buildings?

  I have never waited for the advancement of equipment and techniques to develop; instead I took the initiative to predict the needs and weak points in my industry and develop some new techniques for rope access and aerial operations. In order to achieve my goals I had to work with the best technological experts from the leading world companies and, in some cases, I was receiving equipment before it goes on the market. I was my own test animal for the techniques I have invented. Time and safety are very important when performing emergency rope access work and they are both depending on the quality of equipment and techniques.

When in 2003 I was chosen to be the first person to work on the inaccessible places of the tallest tower in the world – The CN Tower, the investment costs I have spent on innovative equipmen and techinques were compansated for.

But now I go even further, I would “envelope” this innovation of techniques in an academic form by partnering with Fire Rescue and Air Force educational institutions. This is why over the years I have worked with them and shared the benefits of being ahead of the competition.

Do you still have offices in Ontario Canada and do you have any direct involvement?

Since I have reached the pinnacle of my rope access carrier and achieved my dream to work on the top of the urban world, I had nowhere to go higher, I decided to take a new turn in my professional ambition and enter into new fields in the vertical environment. That is what drives me – the diversity. I needed new challenges. And Dubai with its unique high-rise concept was such a challenge. Also, I look forward to explore Abu Dhabi and the whole Middle East region. In Canada I am doing only consultancy now.  

Currently, I am in Europe, where I work on creating a volunteer high-rise rescue team S.O.S. (Specialized Operation Services) as part of my philanthropic initiative.

Has the Middle Eastern market been receptive so far towards your business concept and have you closed any major deals in your recent trips to the UAE?

I have some interesting proposals to partner with very influential businessmen and companies in the region. As far as I am informed, however, some new legal regulations with regard to the business activity of foreign entities in Dubai are expected, so my final decision how to corporately and legally structure my business in Dubai will depend on them. My goals in UAE are to introduce new concepts to the highrise development industry and it takes more than a few visits to close a deal.

Tom Cruise recently scaled down the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world) for the filming of Mission Impossible 3, did Eiger assist them in any way during the stunt and if so how did this come about?

Before Tom Cruise arrived in Dubai, I had been approached by a liaison to the production company and asked if I was Paramount certified for stunt work. However, this was not the case with me. When I came to Canada, the safety aspects of my conservative industry and Health & Safety standards were in total contrast to the stunt profession. Now, that I am going to study Film and Television Directing, I would be pleased to get involved with stunt ropework.

You presented His Highness Shaikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum with a Traser H3 Swiss made watch at the Helishow 2010 in Dubai last year. How much revenue does your business generate each year from the endorsement of such products?

First of all, let me clarify that I just gave my gift, Traser H3 Code Blue Swiss made watches, to His Highness Shaikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and His Highness Shaikh Madjid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, because I was impressed by their presence, and I felt that they would be glad to wear professional military watches. They are young and sophisticated, and these watches would look good on them. And to be honest, I was deeply impressed by the two princes.

The revenue from presenting brands like Traser has different aspects and the financial one is just a part. Yes, being an expert in a specific area I could earn quite good revenues from presenting different brands. But that is not my point. I am happy to have Traser as my partner, because their watches fit me best during extreme training and high-rise operations. These are some of the best products for pilots, divers, climbers, etc.  –  the men who like the extreme, so I decided to showcase them during the Dubai HeliShow 2010. I hope that very soon the Swiss made watches Traser will enter the Dubai market.  

Is endorsing and selling products like your limited edition emergency rope access car and special NIKE outfit for air operations more profitable to your business than the high rise rescue work you do?

 I am proud that the world leader in sport NIKE is my official supplier of outfit equipment and clothing. When I am working at extreme heights my life depends on the quality of my equipment and clothing. There are other brands that provide me with the best possible equipment (Pelican, PMI, Epson, etc), so that I could rely on the best quality and latest technological achievements. Selling products has never been my business. I am just an exclusive promoter of some brands and I use their products in my work.

Do you have any Middle Eastern projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

Of course. That is the Million Dollar Question. But, I have to kill you if I tell you. That’s a joke, of course. I am working on several options and after finalizing some projects I will be able to give some more details.

What is the current net worth of your company?

2010 has just passed and I cannot be precise enough, moreover that I am entering into a new business development, which will definitely reflect on the final net worth.

Do you have the same love for the business development side of your business as the adrenaline rushing tasks that you did in the early days of your career?

Definitely not! That is why I decided to venture in new areas outside of the urban rope access, such as high-rise aerial response and helicopter operations. Love for the exploration of new dimensions and high adrenalin to power me up go together in my life, and if their level is not very high, it is a signal for a change. That is why the last time I stood on the highest point of the world’s tallest tower and I was watching the world under my knees, I said to myself – “This is definitely not high enough for me.” I looked up into the sky, my adrenalin went up again, and I realized that my goals now are much higher than my eyes can see.  That is why my love for aviation achieves new heights and I am working on new projects with fighter jet pilots.

Would you say that you have traded your Spiderman outfit and for a corporate suit?

The Spiderman outfit is an old story now. Too many copy cats. Now I want to reinvent my outfit – one that suites my personality, capability and spirit. But that is not the corporate suit for sure.

How do you intend to develop this industry in the UAE in terms of developing the safety and maintence standards?

First, in UAE to my knowledge, the rope rescue is differently managed than in North America and Europe. So, I will adapt to this difference by working with the best experts and rope rescue emergency responders in the region, who have the experience and knowledge of the local safety standards and safe work history. However, I strongly believe that I could contribute with new methodologies, new approaches and standards that come out of my personal experience worldwide.

Who are your main competitors in this industry?

My intention now is to create a niche market in Dubai, where my knowledge and experience in aerial/vertical operations surpasses that of my competitors. That exceeds the area of high-rise construction and repair, and includes procedures for helicopter ropework operations and specialized training for work at extreme conditions.

Do you believe that the MENA markets are still as competitive since the economic crisis?

Yes, I strongly believe in that. Even more, this is the right time for the MENA countries to change the trend. These countries were hardly hit by the crisis but are quickly recovering and I expect good growth levels in 2011 and the years to come.  

How has the weakened European market affected your industry?

Construction concepts in Europe are much different than those in North America, UAE, China, Japan, etc. where high-rise buildings dominate. That is why the crisis had small impact on high-rise vertical access work in Europe.

Did your company experience a decline in product sales and investment over the past two years when the global economic crisis was at its peak?

Of course, that is inevitable. But these two years were the right time for restructuring and looking for new business perspectives and opportunities. High-rise emergency aerial response was my priority during the last couple of years and I dare say we had good achievements.  

Safety within the medical helicopter industry is obviously paramount. Has your company been involved in offering staff training to the UAE emergency services?

There was a great interest in my presentation “Creating a Highrise Emergency Aerial Response Team” during the Dubai HeliShow 2010 and after that. I had some professional discussions with the responsible local officials and I hope to start useful partnership with them. Dubai is the highest city in the world and it needs well-trained and equipped teams for high-rise emergency aerial response. During the Dubai HeliShow 2010 I declared my good will to collaborate in the field and I am open to help.

You have already conquered the North American market and are on target to securing investment in the Middle East so where next for Eiger?

The Middle East and especially the UAE is the place where I wish to develop my business in the next few years. Tall building construction and repair, as well as the aerial helicopter search and rescue will continue to develop there and I could contribute with my unique experience gained when working on challenging super high-rise projects.  And why not attractive aerial shows on the highest buildings in the world?

Do you still offer your services on a non-profit basis in the emergency rescue missions in Canada and Bulgaria as part of Eiger HEART?

I have very strictly distinguished my business from the volunteer/philanthropic work. Any life saving operations is not for profit. Put it in another way, I would never benefit from the suffering of others. This is one of the things what distinguishes HEART from the rest. That is why I implemented my moral believes into the Eiger HEART Code of Ethics.