Dedicate yourself to fostering understanding and enthusiasm within your team, then point the rocket launcher towards ONE goal and go after it full force. Nothing else matters.
David Embree is the founder and CEO of Athletepath. Athletepath is the first complete race platform for amateur athletes. A longtime sports and technology enthusiast, David has spent the last 10 years rooted in product marketing, event marketing and business development. As a semi-competitive runner and triathlete, he lived the amateur athlete’s frustration of missing out on events, struggling to find where his achievements were published and connecting with fellow racers in an easy and meaningful way.
David was most recently the director of sales and marketing for a Portland-based motion and visual studio serving the sports and outdoor industry. In 2 years, he acquired over $1.3 million in new business, contributing 30% to top line revenue and growing margins 100% in his second year.
Prior to this, David worked at both adidas America and Nike, where he managed retail promotional and marketing events specifically targeted at high-level sporting events. This role required engagement with event directors and national organizers, along with internal event marketing, retail and sports marketing brand teams. Understanding the needs of global sport brands and the interests of large-scale race directors was the initial spark for the business side of Athletepath.
What are you working on right now?
Athletepath.com, the first complete race platform for amateur athletes. We help them discover the events their friends are participating in, quickly sign-up and invite others to join in. Post-race, Athletepath delivers results with stats and beautiful graphs that can easily be shared and celebrated.
Where did the idea for Athletepath come from?
Having participated in many races (running, cycling and triathlons), I found it aggravating that I couldn’t find out which races my friends had completed, what they were planning next or easily share my results and stats. I wanted a centralized place that was built for racers and their friends/family/teammates. I got sick of waiting for a solution, so I set out to build Athletepath.
What does your typical day look like?
Our office is inside Widen+Kennedy, the world’s largest and most prolific independent advertising agency, located downtown Portland. It’s a huge benefit to have access to this office space and a true honor to exchange ideas and work alongside these talented individuals.
On a typical morning, I get in to the office between 7:30-8:30 AM, depending on my morning workout. I grab coffee and breakfast at Starbucks and start running down the checklist. If you’re wondering why Starbucks, especially when PDX is so well fortified with artisan grinds, just ask me sometime. I am immensely loyal to the ‘bucks.
Throughout the day I have to maintain a checklist. There’s so much to get done that if I don’t know the next 4 things I need to be doing, it’s way too easy to get off track. Any opportunity that slips through the cracks could be devastating. That’s the world of startups… every minute, dollar and interaction has the potential to amplify 10x or 1,000x. Use your resources wisely and with purpose and you can bloom, FAST.
Our product team has a meeting 3 time a week on progress, deliverables and barriers. We try to make a product push every 5-10 business days. About half my week is spent on business administration and product management and the other half is spent on clients and customer services. I’m partnering and selling much more now that we’re rolling out the product in the Northwest and I’m immensely thankful that we’ve been able to bring on some big-time regional and national partners. We are getting ready to roll out some awesome features for athletes in very big races in the next few weeks.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I believe a successful startup is the byproduct of passion and relentless devotion. Dedicate yourself to fostering understanding and enthusiasm within your team, then point the rocket launcher towards ONE goal and go after it full force. Nothing else matters.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m going to cheat and name 2:
1. Quantified Self. So many companies are digging in to personal metrics and analytics, especially in the health, spending and sport spaces. We’re coming on-line at the perfect time to a ready and hungry audience.
2. The Jobs Act. Now anyone can invest in a startup, startups can bring on more investors and the minimum threshold to go public is lower. Finally the U.S. has some sort of counterpoint to what the TSX Venture Exchange in Canada has done.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
When I was in high school and college I did a bit of independent web design (not development, I didn’t earn that moniker). I worked for a few companies, associations and the like around my hometown, delivering a decent end product on time and at a reasonable price. I call this my worst job because I knew I wasn’t the most skilled or experienced vendor these companies could have gone with. My product was stable but milquetoast in execution and frankly, just status quo. I quickly became disgusted with the level of execution and realized it was because I didn’t have a passion for creating generic “pamphlet” websites. After about 18 months, I stopped providing the services and pursued other endeavors. I learned more from working for myself and seeking meaning through it than I ever did at a Fortune 500 company.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I feel like I’ve ended up in a pretty amazing position as it is. If I started down a different path, I’d be afraid I’d fuck it up.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Exercise. You gotta sweat it out; get out of the office from time to time and gain perspective that you just can’t achieve when your heart rate doesn’t cross into triple digits. Go for a run, a hike or a bike ride. Zone out, listen to your body and just try to think about nothing. You’ll find that everything will start to take shape with beautiful clarity. And bonus, you’ll get fit.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A private group transportation service for school kids. Think of an airport shuttle service, but far more consistent and based on a recurring annual service contract. School buses are a huge district expense and ridership is down, so it would be valuable to districts and parents.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I imagine there are a lot of people out there having pretty bad sex. We all have had it at some point, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I’d hope that everybody finds somebody that really makes bedtime fun time because life is so much more vibrant when you do. Don’t know how to solve this one, but I’m pretty sure Dr. Ruth is on it.
Tell us a secret.
Portland is an oft-satirized crown jewel of a fantastic place to live, especially if you’re into things like sports, good food, technology, reasonable cost of living, fresh air, cute girls who aren’t hoity-toity, skiing/snowboarding, surfing and deliciously crafted coffee, beer, wine and spirits.
What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
- The no-brainer first: Google Apps, Docs and Analytics. I think those guys and gals in Mountain View are really on to something.
- Rackspace is incredible for elastic-cloud or dedicated hosting.
- Of course, Athletepath.com. I get instantly notified about my race results and stats, I can broadcast them out to my buddies and social networks and I get to keep up on my friends and teammates who are racing. It’s amazing.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Tweak by Nic Scheff is a memoir of the experiences and struggles of a meth addicted in his teens and early twenties. This book gives you real perspective and makes you evaluate every second of your life in a totally unique way. Also, it reminds you that things could be far worse.
What’s on your playlist?
Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Kitsune’, Phoenix and Cold War Kids.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @rgleeson: Renny Gleeson heads intergalactic digital strategy at Wieden+Kennedy
- @cheezburger: Everyone needs some lolz in his or her day
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
At dinner last night with my girlfriend, Su. We were talking about how hard it is to keep a straight face when toddlers swear or little kids make poop jokes. That shit is hilarious.
Who is your hero?
Wolverine: A guy with an unbreakable skeleton and retractable claws who heals super fast and barely ages. Sorry, you just can’t beat that. I know this isn’t the direction meant for this question, but it’s still my answer.
Are you recruiting/hiring?
Absolutely. If you’re into sports and tech and want to be a key player in growing this company with us, email me. Also, you can get to know our team a bit at: www.athletepath.com/about.
How do you handle the work/life challenge while building a tech company?
I quickly discovered that I found my calling and it became a huge part of my life and who I am. I think of work as creating something, as a work of art and what I am here to do. I haven’t “clocked-in” a single day since October, 2011. In regard to growing relationships with my girlfriend, friends and family: it simply has to be a priority. I schedule dates, dinners and activities and cement ‘em in. I’m a better worker, leader and employer when I am living a multifaceted life, even if 80% of it revolves around Athletepath.
Athletepath Website: www.athletepath.com
Athletepath on Facebook: facebook.com/athletepath
Athletepath on Twitter: @athletepath
David Embree Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
David Embree on Twitter: @davidembree
David Embree on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/davidembree