The Correlation Between Successful Entrepreneurs and Endurance Athletes

Think of statistics class and the concept of the correlation coefficient: this month we are exploring the R2 between successful entrepreneurs and successful endurance athletes. While hard core statistics show that the odds are stacked against whether “success” is measured by generating millions in an IPO or being one of the best in Kona, I had the opportunity to interview 12 entrepreneurs who have a lot success in his entrepreneurial activities and when you add his endurance achievements, we would all agree that they are simply amazing.

While we cannot conclude that there is a scientific causal relationship between successful entrepreneurs and endurance athletes, there is no doubt that both types of individuals exhibit similar characteristics: discipline, extreme drive, and vision. “Successful entrepreneurs and athletes must have a vision, and the dedication and drive to make that vision a reality,” says Ryan Wuerch, President and CEO of Motricity, “As an entrepreneur and athlete, you face challenges and a level of intensity that Sometimes it seems too great to get over, but in both cases, you get over it.”

Bud Whitmeyer, general partner at Research Triangle Ventures, agrees: “Both kinds of people need to have a ‘stand your ground’ mentality.” Chef Sarig Agasi knows the recipe: he takes his time in the kitchen at Zely & Ritz, named by Organic Style as one of America’s Top 20 Organic Restaurants, but he’s not traveling. His best inventions, including special menus for athletes, come to mind as he trains to break 3:00 at the upcoming Boston Marathon.

Donna Jensen, former CEO of in the Bay Area and now running Vibrant Ventures in Chapel Hill, believes the correlation between entrepreneurship and endurance sports is “a good, healthy supply of ‘endorphins.’ .. the most successful entrepreneurs have high-energy levels and tremendous stamina probably due to the powerful effect of endorphins.” She adds that she doesn’t know any contractors on steroids! Jensen always loved running, and when she closed in 2002, she signed up for her first marathon and “discovered that euphoric feeling again around mile 10 and was hooked.” She discovered that she was not alone. “While training, I ran into a lot of other CEO casualties who were also training for a marathon or triathlon. We laughed that it was better than going to drink, but I think we all knew we missed the energy and the thrill of it all.” Therefore, endurance sports are also perfect for business entrepreneurs.

This also seemed true to me: In 2001, after completing my one-year cross-country tour of duty integrating OpenSite Technologies here in Durham with Siebel Systems in San Mateo, I began training for my first marathon with the Society of Fight against Leukemia and Lymphoma. Training, and now I’m a trustee and board member where our mission is to eradicate blood-related cancers.

Austin entrepreneur Kevin Przybocki, co-founder of Anue Systems, makes a profound statement that I have also observed in the behavior of my fellow entrepreneurs from the Bay Area, Boston, and RTP: “It’s not about the fame, the money, or the benefits to health. There are There are many other ways to earn money and get fit. For these activities, it has more to do with challenging yourself, achieving goals, and accomplishing things that are personally satisfying. In both cases, it is a way of life and a mindset, rather than an event. ‘It’s in your blood’ to be an entrepreneur or an endurance athlete.”

David Motsinger, StrikeIron’s CTO, describes his business goals as not focused on money first but “to succeed in creating value that helps others, helps myself and allows me to learn something new. If in the process I can make a financial gain, then that’s good too.

Pete Durand, CEO of Integrian, echoes Przybocki’s “blood” sentiment when he states his business goal: “build a great company, have a successful exit, do it again.” All the enterprising athletes I interviewed, like me, don’t stop, we are all energy bunnies.

Bryan Bergeron, president of Archetype Technologies, a member of the medical advisory board of the Cary startup Virtual Heroes, and a faculty member of the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences Technology program adds this important note: “Endurance sports require the ability to work alone as well as within a group”. Teamwork is certainly essential in successful ventures and where would Lance be without the strategy writing platoon of the Discovery Channel Team? Teammate cohesion can make or break a successful ending.

Individually, entrepreneurial startups and endurance sports require a large investment of time.

Together, does one get hurt by the other? When asked if endurance activities hinder or promote his entrepreneurial endeavors, Ryan Wuerch commented, “My fitness training has positively influenced my entrepreneurial endeavors by creating much stronger confidence, energy and discipline in me than before I started training.” “.

Several business owners mention what Whitmeyer believes: that he has “less downtime due to illness” and is more productive. Przybocki believes that his resistance activities motivate his personal: when he started cycling to work, he encouraged other people to do so too (whether to work or otherwise), creating a workplace healthier.

Wuerch is leading several athletes from his company to form “Team Motricity” for the Los Angeles Triathlon, just days before one of the biggest trade shows in his industry, taking place in Los Angeles. “I think the excitement and camaraderie generated by triathlon will be a great start to the show.”

While resistance activities certainly demand time away from business endeavors, Bergeron believes there is a symbiotic “pulse” effect between the two that more than makes up for the “lost” time and thus makes it more effective and efficient. usually.

Henry Kaestner, co-founder and CEO of, whose co-founder, chairman and president, David Morken, competed in Kona last year, says there’s just the right balance for him: “Even though I’m lucky enough to work and train with an athlete of phenomenal stamina, I’m not at the level where work could curb my ambitions of mega stardom… I just don’t have that opportunity and therefore I don’t have that tension. Travel can release built-up stress. That comes with being the end point of escalation for business challenges.

What are the resistance activities of these 12-star entrepreneurs? Whitmeyer enjoys the masters bike meet and will ride the Hilly Hellacious Hundred in Asheville. In addition to several triathlons, Wuerch plans to run the New York City Marathon and has set a goal of participating in an Ironman in 2008. Durand builds endurance through long 125-mile bike races. Keith Boswell, vice president of marketing for rPath, has included his family right up to his 7-year-old son, who is having his first junior triathlon at UNC. This makes it easier for him to manage his time because he can train for triathlons with his wife and children. Boswell is aiming for the Pinehurst Olympic Triathlon, the Inside Out Sports Half Marathon this fall and the White Lake Half Ironman in May 2007.

Kaestner states, “I have some unfinished business on Blood, Sweat, and Gears Century… illusions of grandeur had me near the front of the ride for the first part, only to hit significantly after only 20 miles…. I’d like to improve next time.” Morken has Assault on Mt. Mitchell (100 miles and several thousand feet of climbing), Duke Liver Half Ironman, and Blue Ridge Brutal (another 100 miles + suffering with about 14,000 feet of climbing) on ​​his plate. He states, “I actually enjoy the high intensity and duration of these sports, and one of the benefits is increased energy and work efficiency.”

An interesting workout for busy business travelers includes Bergeron’s Stair Race every other day for 90 minutes: “all you need is an iPod and a ladder on a tall building.” He comments that this is great training for the Double Dipsea adventure race in Sausalito.

How long do these entrepreneurs expect to spend in endurance sports, and which ones will last the longest? Bergeron praises a 90-year-old former Boston Marathon runner whom he sees running him step by step in Boston. “He doesn’t run steps anymore, but he carries a backpack full of weights… I hope to follow in his footsteps”… I think he literally means! While some think their bodies will give out before their brains and others hope to continue their endurance activities even more often when their entrepreneurial streaks end, others are like Wuerch, who says, “I plan to be active and entrepreneurial for the rest of my life.” life”. .”

Agasi, who started running marathons when she turned 41, says: “My mom had just been diagnosed with cancer and that made me decide that I needed to change my lifestyle not only to cook and eat healthy, but also to start acting and to be healthy…I was literally running for my life.”

Morken, who started his first company in high school and started triathlons when he was in the United States Marine Corps a decade ago, accurately states, “I hope both activities die with me simultaneously.” Not a surprising response from North Carolina’s first overall finisher at the 2005 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

There you have it: the energetic drive of entrepreneurs attacking endurance sports with a passion. From this snapshot of 12 successful entrepreneurs and strong endurance athletes, I’d say there’s a clear correlation between the two drivers. I congratulate you and wish you all the best both in your companies and in your careers!

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