Proday founder Sarah Kunst on getting Start-up Strong
Sarah Kunst founder and CEO of Proday joins us in this episode of Popping the Bubbl is quite the accomplished CEO having worked in marketing roles for major brands such as Apple, Red Bull and Chanel, a successful career in venture funding and has also landed a spot in Forbes 30 under 30 ones to watch. Her journey took her from coding to marketing to investing to now building her own company, Proday at the helm as CEO.
It was during her time working with Apple that Sarah’s eyes were opened to the possibility of combining a love of technology and innovation with a love for building business.
Sarah first landed her role as a venture capitalist quite accidentally, she had worked with several new media companies to help shape their monetization strategies and along the way connected with a VC that saw her talent and encouraged her to join the firm. After working with and funding start-ups for a few years, she had developed a passion for helping companies grow as well as helping founders through their common business challenges of building a product and gaining traction. Yet, she always had a desire to build something of her own and is now doing so with Proday, a sports and fitness media company that lets you train with the best athletes in the world. Sarah’s startup advantage is having seen and helped so many startups, she is able to apply those lessons and avoid common startup mistakes as she looks to build her own business, especially in the areas of capital efficiency and growth.
What’s the most common mistake she sees most startup founders get hung up on?
What she calls “cargo culting” which essentially means to have a single focus on one thing. That one thing could be a feature on TechCrunch , making it to the top of product hunt or getting accepted into Ycombinator. While all of these are great achievements, Sarah warns against a single focus that blinds founders in seeking these achievements for “bragging rights” without being able to prove they will move the needle for the business. The important thing to keep in mind is that there are always more options albeit perhaps less branded ones that can still provide great business benefits without being the holy grail.
Proday is Sarah’s vision for overcoming the reality that we don’t work out as much as we like to with 73% of Americans saying they want to work out at least 2x a week, but less than 20% actually doing that. The average American today is only working out 5 or 6 times per month at most. Her aim is change that by developing a fitness app that is both visually appealing and fun to use. The concept is you get to work out alongside your favorite athletes such as Delanie Walker and benefit from their professional training.
Sarah has many more athletes lined up to inspire workouts and get people fit in the process. The benefit for the athletes is that in addition to creating another channel with which to connect to fans, they also get a piece of the revenue by sharing in Proday’s monetization. Soon, Proday workouts will include a diverse group of athletes in a variety of disciplines such as UFC, WWE, dancers, and a range of other sports. Getting access to these big names is no small feat, but through her relationship to the Dodgers Accelerator program which was an early investor in Proday, those doors have been more easily opened.
Sarah was also recently involved in Venture for America which is an MBA like program modeled after Teach for America where recent top college grads are sent into rising cities such as Buffalo, Detroit, and Oakland to work with startups or local businesses to learn all facets of the business working closely with CEOs. Andrew Yang started the organization because the best way to create jobs is to create more entrepreneurs and wanted to make an impact in otherwise communities that may have a hard time attracting talent.
Another Sarah who believes in the mission and Kunst’s leadership abilities is Sarah Haider, an angel that has made her investment thesis to put money into female led companies, because if you are looking to make money, diverse female led teams outperform non diverse teams by strong margins.
For Sarah, diversity is the true goal — because it opens perspectives.. advice she gives to new founders is to think about diversity before even starting a company.
With Proday, her goal is to help people build a lifestyle vs crash dieting with a focus on making working out a part of life you enjoy and make that enjoyable part of life something we do multiple times per week.
In start-up life, there are always going to be setbacks and challenges to overcome, one thing Sarah advises is to find a way to work through the problem and find the upside in those challenges. Recently when an investor couldn’t deploy capital to enable Sarah to make a key hire, that set back made her realize it really wasn’t a full time role and she was able to leverage people in her network to fill the gap.
I always ask myself, is there some upside or something I can learn that will be a positive that I’m not seeing in this situation
Because a lot of times those setbacks are sometimes the best possible thing that can happen vs. things going the way you want them to.