As a relative newcomer to the tech startup scene, one thing that fascinates me is the daily life of founders. The early stages of a company are so intense, and the pressure only grows with the companies. How do founders do it?
So, I’m on a quest. I want to talk to as many founders as possible and figure out how they make this startup life work.
I hear a lot about how easy it is for founders’ health to deteriorate. Late nights, skipped meals, and the midnight beer to relax. They all add up–with a big dose of stress mixed in–and it’s not hard to see why.
That made my first interview especially interesting. Andy Smith co-founded DailyBurn (then called Gyminee) in 2007. The company was part of TechStars Boulder in 2008, and in 2010 IAC acquired the majority share. Because of the reputation startup life has for bad health, I was interested to see what a health and fitness founder did to stay healthy in the process.
Q. What does your typical day look like?
AS: I’m normally in the office by about 9AM. Most people here at DailyBurn work “New York Tech” company hours (10-7), but I like to get home by 6:30 so I can spend time with my 3 kids. These days I’m in more meetings than I used to be, as I’m trying to build out my core executive team. We are at the stage in our company growth now where we can’t keep it flat – so I’m spending more time with my direct reports and getting that setup.
One thing that is scheduled in to my day each day is TRAINING. It’s important to be in good shape if you are the leader of any company, but even more so if you lead a fitness company. I either join our company workouts at 5pm (eat your own dog food) or train at the nearby gym. A couple of us are getting ready for another Toughmudder race so I’m pretty strict with food and training right now.
Q. How is it different than in the early days of DailyBurn?
AS: Well, in the EARLY early days of DailyBurn there were two of us, and we both were coding full-time. That stopped on our second round of funding, when I became full-time business side of things. I do miss the coding sometimes, but running a business has other interesting problems to solve.
I’m also learning how to navigate running a small growing business in a larger parent company – and that is bringing a lot of new challenges. One of the biggest changes is not making all the decisions and learning to let others make decisions even when you don’t always agree with them. It’s a necessary step in our growth because if I don’t give away some control, I become a huge bottleneck in the growth of the business. Loosening that control is emotionally hard, because I have a pride/control idol that always shows its ugly head. However, I’m seeing the benefits already and I’m excited of how it will free me up to focus on the area of business that needs the most attention – all while other parts of the business are continuing to grow and move without my direct focus.
Q. Obviously, DailyBurn is all about health and fitness. What tips do you have for founders to keep themselves healthy during the hectic days of starting a company?
AS: When you are super busy with startup life – it is easy to eat poorly and skip exercises. It can move to the back burner. However, it is in those times when eating right and working out give you the most benefit. If you eat clean 90% of the time, and train 3-5 times a week you are going to perform better at your job.
My second tip would be to try to set a culture of fitness in your startup. Working out together can be a great bonding experience. We also try to do athletic events together (Toughmudder is a great example).
Q. I love the DailyBurn videos, but they are HARD! Do you ever use them yourself?
AS: Of course! And, I’m the one to blame if they are too hard! My favorite workouts on DailyBurn are in the Tactical Bodyweight Training (TBT) series and the INFERNO series. I’m particularly fond of INFERNO because I was in the test group to make sure the workouts are hard enough!
But – the great thing about DailyBurn is that there are workouts for everyone. If you like to dance, we have MOVE. If yoga is your thing we have world-class yoga videos. We have kettle bells, abs, MMA, short workouts, long workouts – you name it. That’s the beauty of our platform – there is something for everyone and you know it’s going to be great quality.
Q. Any other general advice for early-stage founders?
AS: I’m a big fan of startup accelerators like TechStars. They really do work to accelerate your business (advice, connections, fundraising, strategy), and I encourage most first-time entrepreneurs to try to get into a program like TechStars.
A lot of the advice I give to young companies is depending on what they are going through, but one of my biggest things is to share your idea with a lot of people. Many early entrepreneurs think that their idea is so valuable that they keep it close hold. In reality, execution is key and the advice you get will outweigh the value of being in stealth mode (most of the time! – I say this even as I have a small project in stealth!).
I couldn’t convince Andy to share that stealth project, but if it’s as great as DailyBurn, it will be great to watch.
Monica Selby is a writer and editor living in Memphis, TN. When she’s not chasing her three boys, she writes about women, work, and startups.