I gave up being a pro athlete to build sports tech startups: Here’s what I learnt

Balancing life as a globally competitive triathlete with a media career and a new addition to the family was as exhilarating as it was challenging. This juggling act honed my skills in time management and prioritisation, laying the groundwork for my venture into the startup world.

The leap from the sports track to spearheading innovative startups highlighted a surprising truth: the disciplines and strategies that propelled me through athletic competitions are incredibly relevant in the business domain.

Early on, I grasped the importance of setting explicit objectives, crafting a strategic roadmap to achieve them, and maintaining a laser focus on priorities to excel as an athlete, entrepreneur, and family man. In the startup sphere, where resources, established processes, and brand recognition can be scarce, strategically aligning your vision with your team's efforts and choosing the right partnerships are crucial for breakthrough success.

Navigating the startup scene can feel like a high-stakes endurance race. As someone who's transitioned from a professional triathlete to leading a cutting-edge sports tech startup, I've found that the strategies for success in both arenas are strikingly similar. Here's how the lessons from my athletic career are now powering my business journey.

Embrace the Power of an Early Start: Setting the Tone for Success

The first actions in your day can set the tone for everything that follows. As a triathlete, my day would start before dawn, a routine that instilled discipline and focus, preparing me for the day's challenges. This early start wasn't just about training; it was a silent statement about commitment and priorities. In the startup world, this principle is equally vital. Beginning my day at 4am EST, I align with my global team and carve out uninterrupted time for strategic thinking. This practice isn't merely about managing time; it's about maximising it, ensuring that we're always one step ahead. It's a testament to the idea that success is built on the foundation of disciplined routines and the willingness to go the extra mile – literally and metaphorically.

The North Star Principle: Charting the Path to Achievement

Setting a goal is the easy part; the challenge lies in the journey towards it. My dream of becoming a professional triathlete required meticulous planning – identifying the ultimate goal, then deconstructing it into actionable steps, right down to daily routines. This process involved finding the right mentors, establishing a rigorous training regimen, and committing to it day in and day out. This strategy is mirrored in the startup ecosystem, where clarity of vision is paramount. Establishing a 'North Star' helps in breaking down the monumental task of building a company into manageable, daily actions, ensuring every step taken is a step towards your overarching goal. This methodical approach not only streamlines efforts but also keeps the team aligned and focused on the shared vision.

Building a Winning Team: The Backbone of Success

In both sports and business, the journey to the top is rarely a solo venture. My athletic achievements were supported by an ecosystem of coaches, platforms, and peers, each playing a pivotal role in my development. This support system is indispensable in the startup world as well. Creating a robust infrastructure of talent, mentorship, and collaboration forms the foundation of any successful venture. Recognising that having a great idea or product isn't enough – it's the team around it, their synergy, and their collective efforts that propel a startup from concept to reality. While a strong support system doesn't guarantee success, the absence of it nearly always guarantees failure. Therefore, investing in people, finding the right partners, mentors, and team members, is as crucial as the product itself.

Innovation Is Everywhere: Cultivating a Culture of Openness

One of the most exhilarating aspects of being a triathlete was the constant pursuit of improvement, often finding inspiration in the most unexpected places – from a new training technique suggested by a friend to a nutritional tip found in an online tutorial. This openness to ideas, irrespective of their source, is critical in the startup ecosystem. Innovation doesn't adhere to hierarchies; it can spark from anywhere or anyone – from the newest intern to a casual conversation by the water cooler. Embracing this mindset means fostering an environment where every team member feels empowered to share their insights, ensuring that the startup remains on the cutting edge of innovation. It's about creating a culture where curiosity is encouraged, and every idea is given the space to be explored and potentially become the next game-changer.

The Strategic Art of Saying No: Focusing on What Truly Matters

Transitioning to a professional athlete while juggling new parenthood and a full-time job taught me the invaluable skill of saying no. This wasn't about limiting opportunities but about prioritising them – understanding that stretching myself too thin would compromise my performance across the board. In the startup world, opportunities and ideas are abundant, making it tempting to chase every potential avenue for success. However, the art of focused refusal and knowing what not to pursue, is just as important as knowing what to chase. It's about discerning which opportunities align with your 'North Star' and having the courage to pass on those that don't. This focused approach ensures that resources including time, energy, and capital, are allocated to endeavours that offer the highest return towards achieving the company's and your personal goals.

In conclusion, the disciplines and strategies that propelled me through the ranks of professional athletics now underpin my approach to leading a sports tech startup. They remind us that success, whether on the track or in the boardroom, is not a product of chance, but a result of meticulous planning, disciplined execution, and a culture that champions innovation and teamwork. These principles have not only guided CORE to new heights, but have also redefined my understanding of leadership and achievement in the competitive world of startups.