Episode 3: How Shattered Dreams Led to Success
trail·blaz·er: a person who blazes a trail for others to follow through unsettled territory
GSVlabs is dedicated to accelerating global innovation. With over 150 startups in the EdTech, Sustainability, Mobile, Big Data, and Entertainment verticals, we work with a diverse range of amazing entrepreneurs.
Above all else, we believe the “one-size-fits-all” mold is not what shapes entrepreneurs. We believe each person has his or her own path to entrepreneurship. Their own trail to blaze.
Sports to Entrepreneurship
Take one look at Greg, and you wouldn’t guess that a wrestling-induced heart condition in high school shattered his dreams of becoming a professional wrestler after receiving 13 scholarships.
In order to become one of California’s best wrestlers, Greg put himself through his own intensive training program.
“I was up at 5 am every single morning. I would train from 5–7 and then go to school from 7 am to 3 pm. After school I would go to practice for a couple of hours, go back home, eat dinner, and then do my homework. After I finished my homework I would go back to the gym from about 8 to midnight. So in total I trained for about 8–9 hours a day.”
This work ethic separated Greg from the rest of his peers. Unfortunately, his heart condition meant he would never sport even a collegiate singlet.
But he has no regrets. The lessons that he learned as an athlete have shaped him into the entrepreneur that he is today.
For one, he learned that things very seldom go the way that you expect and that the only thing that you can do is control your input.
“You cannot control the outcome. Sh*t goes wrong. Sh*t goes bad real fast, real quick. If you continuously come in with the ‘I work my butt off and we’ll see what happens’ mentality then it at least allows you to keep on going and keep on driving.”
Second, he learned that it is okay to fail and make mistakes.
“When you get to higher level sports, you are going to mess up. You can either destroy yourself and be your worst critic or you can be like ‘I messed up, let’s get back out there and do it again.’ Approaching entrepreneurship with the second mentality allows you to learn from your mistakes, make adjustments, and change the way that you react when a similar challenge arises.”
After high school, Greg enrolled at the University of California, Santa Barbara — the only college that he applied to where he wasn’t offered a scholarship. Until that point in his life everything had been so structured. So when he got into UC Santa Barbara and Isla Vista, he let loose.
“This is probably not what people want to hear but I literally went crazy. It took me 7 years to graduate. I barely went to class. All I could care about was surfing, snowboarding, skiing, and playing club baseball. It was the first time in my life where I gave myself options and I really enjoyed it.”
What happened to the intelligent, motivated, and driven kid from the beginning of this series? Greg’s parents and UC Santa Barbara’s Dean of Engineering were all wondering the same thing. Before he entered his sixth year of undergraduate classes, they sat Greg down to tell him he needed a 4.0 GPA in the next four quarters to graduate. This proved to be the wake-up call he desperately needed.
“I thought to myself, “I wasn’t going to be here for that many years and not get my degree.”
Sure enough, he pumped out 4.0 after 4.0 after 4.0 after 4.0, and graduated. He was even accepted into his school’s PhD program because his professors were so impressed with how he did in their classes.
“College was this unbelievable valley for me. I had a tremendous amount of fun packed into an extended amount of time. Looking back on my time there, I needed it. I needed to get myself back on the path. I would have burnt out if I kept up at the rate that I was going at.”
After Graduation and Sportvision
A year after graduating and working as a research assistant at UC Santa Barbara, Greg stumbled across a Sportvision ad on Craigslist. After weeks of unsuccessful job searching, Greg decided to send the VP of Human Resources a note and scheduled an interview with her.
During his interview, Greg noticed something odd about the Sportvision office:
“A lot of the engineers had books on their desk like Baseball for Dummies and Football for Dummies. These were some of the Bay Area’s smartest statisticians, electrical engineers, and computer scientists but they had no practical experience with this kind of stuff. Although I didn’t perform well in the interview, I had something that was very unique to me — I had played baseball, I knew it, and had intimate knowledge of it.”
Despite his unconventional educational journey, the VP of Human Resources saw something in him. Long story short, he got the job, moved to the Bay Area, and started working for Sportvision on the team that created PITCHf/x, the pitch tracking technology that Fox, TBS, K-Zone, and other major broadcasting networks display on TV. Greg developed the pitch technology and successfully installed it into all of the Major League ballparks.
In just four years at Sportvision, Greg increased the baseball unit’s annual revenues by $7 million and was promoted to manage the entire baseball engineering branch. He wanted to scale and transform the business, but eventually ran into a barrier that he could not overcome.
Greg and the General Manager at Sportvision had shifted the pitch-tracking services to a data-collecting and data service entity that focused on analytics, coaching reports, and other services, but the MLB owned all the data. The only way they could grow would be to go down market to collegiate and amateur teams, and the executive staff did not want to go in that direction.
“I sort of saw this coming and didn’t want to be apart of the downswing, so I left the company and started looking for other opportunities”
Fit3D and Its Inception
Greg began his new job search at some of the more traditional Silicon Valley companies: Google, Nvidia, LinkedIn, etc. But his next venture did not start in Silicon Valley; instead it was inspired by his parents back home.
“I saw my mom go through a weight loss plan. I would go home every couple of months and see the progress that she was making. It was absolutely incredible. Despite the fact that she was building a healthier, leaner body, the scale failed to show her progress in a way that was easily understandable. Discouraged by the lack of “progress” that she was making, she stopped eating healthy and going to the gym.”
And that’s when he asked himself this question:
“How could somebody not be satisfied after losing that much weight, putting in that amount of effort, and changing their entire lifestyle?”
After some research, Greg realized that there was a problem with the assessment tools and technologies that we use to show ourselves success. Companies spit out numbers that most people do not understand — there is no connection or relationship in the weight loss process. Instead, users are motivated by visuals as a means to measure progress. Greg understood this and found a solution in 3D body scanning.
Although the 3D body-scanning marketplace is incredibly active, companies compete based on how long it takes their machine to scan, a useless proposition that creates very little value for its users. Additionally, these machines are incredibly expensive and generally not accessible outside of a very small target demographic.
Determined to disrupt the market, Greg crafted his idea and got to work.
“So I was like, alright, I think I got the skill set. I know I’m going to have to stay up till 6 in the morning working on this stuff. Let’s try and build a system that will allow us to democratize body scanning in a way that all people, like my mom, can go to the gym and scan.”
“Oh and by the way, there is also another problem out there in retail. When you go to a store and buy clothing, you have absolutely no idea if it is going to fit your body. You need measurements — what will this machine capture? Measurements. It was the perfect intersection of these two markets. So I got to work and built it”
He took a bearing out of a Ford F-150, built a turntable out of plywood, installed a crank, and began testing it on his wife. Having built the hardware component, he then developed the code that would enable him to capture the images and stitch them all together. Despite the fact that he had built a functional prototype, he realized that he was not going to be able to do it all by himself — prompting him to reach out to his co-founders Tyler Carter, who now serves as the CTO, and Tim Driedger, who now serves as the VP of Manufacturing.
The three got to work out of their respective garages and created the second prototype. With a functional prototype at hand, Greg set out to receive funding and scheduled over 50 meetings with Silicon Valley VC’s and Angel Investors. Unfortunately, they all thought his idea was stupid and that the service could be packaged into an app.
So Greg failed and learned two very important entrepreneurial lessons:
1. “Companies don’t become successful overnight. Most people think of Facebook and have this idea that all you have to do is go out and raise money. Most people do not realize that it took them a really long time. So it’s not easy. It really takes that drive and dedication to make your dreams become a reality.”
2. “There is a lot of crap in the entrepreneurship world — so you have to be super objective about what you are building. It’s funny because I look back and had we been able to raise money from the start, I think that we would’ve folded because we were doing things based on our assumptions instead of doing things on market demand. We were building the machine out for ourselves, not for our customers.”
With that in mind, Greg gathered data to back up his assumption and found voids in the marketplace. People wanted easier-to-understand assessments of themselves.
“More and more people are beginning to use the scanner for physical therapy and rehabilitation. In the past, you had to use a tape measurer to get accurate readings whereas now you can take a 30 second scan to get more accurate measures.”
Using this information, Greg went back to the VC’s and Angel Investors, and secured funding.
Fit3D allows its users to view their data and visually track their fitness progress in ways that are intuitive and easy to understand.
Since the company’s inception, Fit3D’s body scanners have been introduced to a variety of new fields. And while this presents opportunities for growth and expansion, it also poses some of the biggest challenges that Greg and his team face today.
“Think of all the different applications and things that affect the surface of your body. It is tempting to explore these other markets but we know that we need to remain laser focused. At the end of the day, we are making a measurement device. There are a lot of different uses for that, some of which we did not anticipate.”
Fit3D has experienced great success after creating its product, raising funding, and focusing on a core market demographic. The company has sold over 325 ProScanners, captured over 80,000 body scans, and established global partnerships with gyms, retailers, and health & wellness centers in over 20 countries.
Now, many universities are using Fit3D’s ProScanner to research health risk outcomes and causes of morbidity associated with 3D body shape, gender and age, how controlled activity and nutrition affect body shape changes, and how 3D scans affect the subconscious notion of personal attractiveness as opposed to weight and facial features.
All in all, 2015 was a breakout year for Fit3D, which truly helped establish 3D body scanning in the health and wellness industry. Fit3D will look to build on its success, improve its product and services, and release new technologies that will enrich the user experience for its customers.
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