In writing this piece, I find it funny how things always tend to come full circle. Five years ago I met an incredibly intelligent man in the Cleveland Airport named Dr. Roger Saillant. Roger has had an illustrious career in the private sector, and more recently, has been the Executive Director of Cleveland’s own Case Western Reserve University Fowler Center for Sustainable Value. In talking with Roger, he said to me, “Brian, you know you’re ready once you can answer three simple questions; Why this? Why us? Why now? At the time I was still a kid and I didn’t really understand what he meant, but in business and in life I believe that there is a lot of power in the “Why”. Why are we doing what we do? As a member of a team, why was I asked to complete a certain task? And as it relates to Phenom of late, why did we move across the country from our hometown of Cleveland to San Francisco?
To be the best you have to play with the best. Being in Cleveland has always been a huge part of our narrative. Our dream has been to set precedent for consumer technology in our hometown, but we needed a new challenge. I wanted to become a better entrepreneur and CEO, and as a company, I wanted us to compete against the best in the world, so we packed up my Honda Civic and my dog Maggie and drove across the country to embark on what has been one of the most challenging, yet exciting periods of our lives.
The Continental Divide
As entrepreneurs, one of our biggest faults is overcomplicating things. There’s a fancy buzzword for just about everything, and even I find myself guilty at times talking about things like KPIs (key performance indicators), inflection points, and product iteration; frankly (and excuse my language), nobody gives a shit, myself included. At the end of the day the way we measure success should actually be rather simple. “Are you creating a product or an experience that people really care about?” If the answer is yes then everything else will ultimately take care of itself; your numbers will look good, investors will be happy, and in the true spirit of capitalism, you’ll make a lot of money.
At Phenom, that ever elusive “why” has never been more clear. Phenom is here to give all athletes a place to simply tell their unfiltered story. One of my colleagues always says to me, “Brian, you really love our users.” Of course I do, but I’m not sure he really understands why. Due to the power of social media, and with humans being more accessible than ever, I have the fortune to engage with hundreds of young athletes across the world on a daily basis. What I find most fascinating is that every athlete has his or her own unique story to tell. Before Phenom, for the better part of my life I was just a kid who happened to be an above average baseball player. I was fortunate enough to play in college, and for the first 22 years of my existence, being an athlete was the most important part of my persona. As we move from childhood to adulthood we often lose sight of what it’s like to be a kid, and the excitement we got from pursuing our dream, no matter how big or small, becomes a distant memory. When I interact with our users on a daily basis I realize how important sport is to young athletes all over the world; the power of sport has no boundaries.
As professionals we all yearn for a return to our childhood, even if it’s only for a moment. Hearing and reading our users stories is invigorating and inspiring, and most importantly, allows me to return to a time when I was just a kid playing catch with my father in the front yard (Thanks Mom and Dad — Love you both).
Technology often gets misconstrued, and for our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, sometimes it’s just too confusing. There’s nothing overly complicated about telling a story. This is what makes me tick and what keeps me up at night.
Without further ado, on behalf of our entire team, I could not be more proud to announce that Phenom is a member of 500 Startups (www.500.co) Batch 16, one of the top Accelerator Programs in the world.
By joining the #500Family, we are now part of a global community of over 1500 companies, 3000+ entrepreneurs, representing over 50 countries.
Most importantly, our leap of faith has been validated. Venturing into the unknown is often times scary, but we are here to win, and win big.
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
Lastly, on behalf of Mike and I, a couple of kids from Cleveland, Ohio, thank you to everyone for believing in us and our dream.
We are Phenom and we’re here to Make Some Noise.