Why We Started StriveFar

As is often the case, the idea for StriveFar was born from the frustration of the founders. I was looking for private coaches, to improve my kids speed and running form. Nick was looking to start a coaching business, after having recently moved from Singapore and London, where he played soccer for a professional club that is part of the British Premier League. Joshua, a co-founder in Addaero, understood the private coaching business and knew all too well the coaches challenge with excess inventory and filling open slots.

All 3 of us were shocked at how difficult – and inefficient – it was to find someone, a client or a private coach. The lightbulb went off when we were in a Starbucks and saw a “Piano Lessons” ad with tear-away phone numbers at the bottom, posted on the cork board next to the restroom. We thought, you have to be kidding me. It’s 2016 and this is still how people are finding each other?

So we decided to start StriveFar, a service that connects athletes with coaches for private training (individual and small groups). Given our experience with previous successful businesses, we knew the first step was to validate the opportunity:

  • Large Market: 40 Million kids between the ages of 5 – 18 play sports in the US each year.
  • Friction: There was great friction on 4 fronts: (i) finding a coach near you, with reviews from other users, (ii) organizational ping pong with e-mails, text and phone calls to coordinate a time and location, (iii) providing and getting meaningful feedback, and (iv) seamless payment (coach getting paid even if the parent forgets the cash or check).
  • Lack of Personal Instruction: Teachers can’t impact kids individually in a classroom of 30 students. Either can coaches with a team of 15 kids. In education, teachers assign homework that kids do independently, and this provides a mechanism for assessment and individual instruction. There is no homework, and certainly no one to “grade it” or provide individual instruction, in team sports or a music class. Kids are left on their own for developing individual skills.
  • Demand: $6 Billion/year is spent on private sports coaching in the US alone, despite the friction and inefficiency. An additional $9 Billion/year is spent on private music lessons and the global private tutoring marketing is expected to reach over $100 Billion by 2018.

We spoke and interviewed hundreds of parents and coaches, and discovered the problem – and the opportunity – goes well beyond connecting athletes with coaches in an easy and frictionless manner.

These data points solidified our vision: enable the next generation of athletes and students to be their best.

A true “teachable moment” – an opportunity where you can impact someone with timely and sage advice – is rare. When presented, especially with our kids, we grab it and use it to instill a core value – work hard, do good, enjoy life. In other words, strive to be your best.

Being your best doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a world class athlete. It simply means being the best that you can be at a sport or activity, whatever your level. But what does it take to be your best?

Think about what you enjoy doing in life. It’s usually activities that you do well. Take it a step further, and my guess is that at some point you are likely to abandon the activity at which you struggle or don’t do well. Enjoyment and skills are intertwined. If you enjoy something, you are willing to work at it. However, someone has to show you how to do it properly. And contrary to popular belief, it is not the team coaches or group instructors. For more on this, check out this eye opening post from Nick on why group sizes are important.

It is difficult to develop skills – or see real improvement – without proper technique. Conversely, practice combined with proper form, and seeing the improvement, leads to confidence – on and off the field. The result is greater enjoyment, more practice, better skills, more confidence. And the cycle continues.

This power of enjoyment and skill – ultimately leading to athletes being their best – is what we want to deliver through StriveFar.

We are starting with sports, but our vision is much broader. We want to change the game in everything that involves passing a skill from one person to another – from sports and music, to cooking and education. And we want to do it in a way where these skills aren’t reserved for the privileged. We believe that sports, arts and education are birth rights, and everyone is entitled to learn and enjoy them. This is how the world benefits, and if we are fortunate we will have an opportunity to build a large business along the way.

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Vipanj is co-founder of StriveFar, a service that connects coaches and athletes for individual and small group training. Prior to StriveFar, Vipanj was co-founder of iSherpa Capital, a venture capital firm where he served as Managing Partner for over 15 years. He has extensive experience in building and operating technology businesses, having served on over 10 boards to help guide the companies to a successful exit. Vipanj is a former member of the Colorado Venture Capital Association. He is a recipient of the Howard Hughes Fellowship and has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Southern California and a JD from Georgia State University.

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