How did you come up with the idea for CoachUp.com?
I grew up here in Cambridge, MA, and loved playing sports especially basketball. But I wasnt very good. There came a time when I really got serious about the game, and through sheer luck, was able to stumble upon a private coach, Greg Kristof, who had a profound and immediate impact on my game and my life. I went from being an average high school player to being recruited by over 50 colleges. After playing at Bowdoin College, I turned pro, and played for two years in Israel and Europe at a very high level.
I later became a private coach in basketball, which is something that I continue to enjoy doing. Being a private coach gives me an opportunity to work with kids and pay it forward to the next generation.
After going to business school, I took a job in business development at a venture-backed online marketplace, Zintro.com, where I learned from a great entrepreneur (Stuart Lewtan) about how to build a marketplace business. As a private coaching marketplace, CoachUp.com is the culmination of my professional experience. I really believe in our service, and that belief motivates me every day to put in the crazy hours that it takes to make a startup successful
What was your process in getting started?
I just did it. Looking back on it, I really knew very little about what I was doing. I bet a year from now Ill say the same thing about where we are today. Starting a company is a humbling process. There really is no way to prepare for it. Someone once told me you dont learn to ride a bike by reading a book, or by going to a seminar, you just get on and fall off, and get on again, and fall off again, and eventually figure it out. Starting a company is the same way.
When you decide to start a company there will be a moment when you wake up, for the first time unemployed, and stare at the ceiling and ask what do I do now? I remember that moment for me with CoachUp very vividly. You just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep on going and eventually things will work out, people will help you, and if you get a few lucky breaks, you can survive.
What were your biggest hurdles and what helped the most getting past those?
Finding a technical team – I tapped my network, reaching out to friends and friends of friends. I spent two months with two different people before getting connected with Arian Radmand and Gabe Durazo, and the rest is history. I got lucky. Arian and Gabe are awesome and there would be no CoachUp without them.
Fundraising – A lot of people say to wait on fundraising. I disagree. I think its important to raise a little bit of money early on. It sends a signal that you are a real company. Thats important for finding talented people to join you.
Building something people want – The first challenge is figuring out what people want (and often they dont know). The second challenge is building it. Its hard enough to do one right.. Its REALLY HARD to do them both well. And then multiply that by however many different types of customers you have, and however many different products or services you offer, and it just gets harder and harder to do well.
And where you are hoping to go next?
CoachUp will be a brand that means something. It will be a movement. Were going to be a company that everyone involved in youth sports benefits from, in one way or another and we are going to be a really great place to work!
I didnt start CoachUp to make a lot of money, I started it because I knew it should exist and I felt compelled to create a company that makes an impact on everyone that it touches. For me, CoachUp is about the journey more so than the destination, and I think the same can be said of private coaching its not about turning someone into a great player, its about working hard every day, addressing your weaknesses, learning, and having fun. At CoachUp, all we can do is put one foot in front of the other, work hard, and make choices of which we can be proud.
Can you talk about surviving the whirlwind of pitching MC, Sharktank, and Demo Day so close together?
This is a crazy busy time for me. All of the pitching and competitions are fun, and Im really fortunate to be able to build this company in Boston, where there is such a supportive community. And though its fun to get positive attention, building a business is about grinding it out, and its the team at CoachUp that does that every day, and the work that our amazing coaches do, that deserves all the credit for our success.