Sarah Kunst

Founder of Proday Fitness. Investor, diversity advocate and contributing editor at Marie Claire.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON April 11, 2016

Discussion

sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
Hi! I'm Sarah Kunst. I recently founded Proday.co, the fitness app that let's you workout alongside professional athletes anytime, anywhere. Prior to that, I was a venture capital investor. I'm also a writer about tech and business and I spend a lot of time talking about diversity for obvious reasons. Ask me anything!
Would love to know what hobbies, sports or activities you did as a kid?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@casielane I started dance classes when I was 2 and that was a huge part of my life until I graduated high school. I also grew up in a town of 300 people so summers were spent 4 wheeling and playing in the woods and going to the lake and taking long bike rides and winters were spent sledding and skiing and building snow forts. I played softball and was a fast runner too but reading and dancing were my main hobbies. One summer I read 3000 pages in a month :)
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Sarah, what have been some of the biggest challenges in getting Proday off the ground? How have you overcome these?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@ems_hodge The hardest part of a consumer mobile app like Proday is getting people to know about it and go to the app store to download it. Breaking through the noise and app store discovery are some of the hardest unsolved challenges for great apps right now. But we also know that our focus has to be on building a great brand and user experience so that's what we focus on first. When users find us, they will love us.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
You recently talked about 4% of female-led startups being led by black women. What is the root of this disparity and how can we change it?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@andrewett Well, the root of the disparity is discrimination. You don't get funding levels so far off of population parity - and even college graduate parity - without bias and discrimination. The key to change is holding investors accountable for who they invest in and pressuring them to invest in more diverse founders. It's that simple and that hard.
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
How did you approach your own funding for ProDay - what advice can you give to other female founders starting out their first fund raise?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@jacqvon I spent 10 years meeting people in tech and building a reputation before I started my company. That's certainly not required but it helps. Build a network and reputation for being a good, very smart, talented person and a lot of doors will be open when you're ready to talk through them. If you're at a big company now, go find a startup to advise on the side or get super active on twitter or medium or product hunt. Show that you're more than a biz dev or iOS dev at company x and people will start to notice. Be helpful, when someone you admire mentions visiting a city and wanting recs, send them. Tweet congrats over nerdy articles or speaking gigs others might have missed. I built my network before twitter became the force it is now, so I had to do it in person. Now you can do it from your computer anywhere in the world. There's no excuse for not having a warm intro.
Kerry Benjamin@kerry_benjamin1
Hi Sarah. In your opinion what's needed for more underrepresented groups and founders to become investors?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@kerry_benjamin1 More funds to hire them. There are so few investors overall that moving the needle on that particular issue is easy in numbers - if the funds who hire 2 new people a year decided to focus on hiring diversely until their ranks were at population parity they could get there in under 5 years. If the funds who knew they were going to bring on new more senior investors in the next decade started actively grooming CEOs and mid level VCs and focused solely on people who would bring in diversity, that problem would be solved quickly too. The problem isn't a lack of great people to be hired into investor roles, it's a lack of investors who want to bring in diverse hires vs their buddy or a kid 15 years their junior who went to the same school and wears the same down jacket and plaid shirt.
Phil Nguyen@p_ngu · The Daily Water Cooler + Vettery
Hi @sarahkunst - thanks for making the time to answer questions today! What's something (not matter how small) that a small startup with limited resources can do immediately to promote and enhance diversity/inclusion?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@p_ngu Hire diverse people. Look around the room and see who's sitting in it and look at what your next hires need to be. Make a choice to not hire someone for that role who looks like everyone already in the room. If your network isn't full of anyone who doesn't look like you and didn't go to your school, go expand your network. Twitter and Angellist are great places to find and follow diverse people that you may not already know. Task your team and managers with diversity in hiring - no one should get bonuses or raises if they aren't hiring diverse people because it's proven that less diverse teams do worse overall. If people in your company aren't optimizing for the most successful company they can build, you should fire them. That includes not ensuring that there's diversity in your company. Yes, even down to the interns you bring on or outside contractors you hire.
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
Hi @sarahkunst thanks so much for joining us today, big fan of @prodayco and would love to hear the major acquisition channels were for you with ProDay? What were the most effective and least effective? Would love to have you on @twentyminutevc would be a pleasure to hear the story in more detail!
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@harrystebbings @prodayco @twentyminutevc thanks! I'd love to join you :) We look at earned media, social reach and paid social as three key acquisition channels. We are building a brand, not just an app so we focus on getting users to know our name and associate it with a behind the scenes look at athletes as well as an amazing workout. It's early but so far it's working.
Joe Lamoureux@josephlamoureux · Founder, Go Pro Workouts
@harrystebbings @twentyminutevc Great podcast. just listened to Sarah Travel!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
As a diversity advocate, what can we all be doing in our own way to make the tech world a more diverse place?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@ems_hodge Hire diverse people! It's the most direct way to change things. Look around your office - if everyone looks the same(no matter if that's black guys, asian women, whatever, homogeny is the enemy) then hire people who are different. It will bring new viewpoints and diversity. Don't hire more guys name Jeff than women. It's easy to not suck at this.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What made you leave the world of VC and would you ever go back?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@bentossell Of course I'd go back. Being an VC is an amazing way to invest in and see the future unfold before your eyes. It's also a job that's best done by people who are in control of the capital they deploy and at most funds, that means being a senior exec with past operating experience or big early wins in investing. Nothing compares to the rush and stress of running your own company but investing is a great way to grow the ecosystem and make sure the future you see comes to life.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@bentossell Read a lot, try all new tech that you can get your hands on, help others as much as you can.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@jakecrump Running a massively successful, multi-unicorn company. Proday is going to change the world of fitness and how we interact with our favorite athletes. We are just getting started, you can check it out here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/... but where we're going will drive one of the biggest shifts in sports since games became televised. The worlds oldest games are going to be brought into the age of technology and it's an amazing time to be driving that change.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical day look like for you?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@jakecrump Wake up and answer emails from the east coast. Do a call. More emails. Stand up with my dev team. More emails. Workout - working out is usually also when I do a lot of creative thinking and problem solving. Answers never come when you're staring into a computer screen but they usually will as soon as you engage your body and let your mind wander. Meetings and calls. More emails. As CEO a massive part of the job is communicating your raison d'etre to investors, users, the press, and in my case, the athletes we work with. That's done in person and on the phone and via social media but the hands down winner for place I spend the most time talking to people is via email so it's important that I am concise, expressive and never hit reply all :)
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hi, Sarah! Here's a fairly open-ended question, but I'm always curious to hear people's answers: what inspires you?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@rrhoover I'm so inspired by the opportunity to build a company and life and world that I want to be a part of. The pressure and stress of being the boss is insane but the blessing of being able to see a problem in the world and bring change is enormous. Seeing that I can make a change and impact and have a voice and get really really filthy rich while doing it is the coolest thing in the world. It's like I won the lottery of life because I have a life I love and I can help others achieve the same thing.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
Can you tell us a bit about your charity work? How do you fit this in alongside founding ProDay, and what drives you to pursue this?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@jakecrump Everyone has time to give back. Well, everyone reading this at least ;) Small amounts of time and money matter so much more than we think. I work closely with some causes like Rainbow Push Tech and the Rev. Jesse Jackson on diversity in tech issues. I work less closely but support whenever I can lots of other orgs around diversity, inclusion and my personal passion project - access to long acting birth control for women who can't afford the $900 cost. I support politicians who are pushing my values forward like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Joe Kennedy. I look for ways to amplify the messages of causes I support like #blacklivesmatter. And most of this costs me a lot less then you'd think and takes less time than you'd imagine. If you haven't tried to support a cause you care about, make it a goal for this month. Even if it's just registering to vote or getting one other person to or sharing on social media support for a cause that isn't universally popular but that you believe in deeply. Donate $25 to a charity. Sign a White House petition. If we all do small things, big things will happen.
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What was your inspiration for ProDay?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@jacqvon I was inspired to launch Proday.co because I saw that access to fitness and inspiration to workout wasn't being evenly distributed. If you're in LA or NYC and can afford to spend $30 a class, you can get any workout you want and stay in great shape. If you're not, it's a lot harder. Proday allows anyone to workout with amazing professional athletes anytime, anywhere. We bring the experience of being in the gym with a world class performer to your iPhone. It's so inspiring and fun that you almost forget how hard you're working.
Joe Lamoureux@josephlamoureux · Founder, Go Pro Workouts
Hi Sarah, I run Go Pro Workouts dot com. Very similar to ProDay. We’ve been in the digital ’train like a pro’ space for a few years now. Happy to jump on a call at some point and share thoughts. @josephlamoureux
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Whats 3 things should every new founder, constantly be thinking?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@ems_hodge Users. Product. Runway. Nothing else matters. If it doesn't directly impact those things, don't do it. But make sure you understand how things can be connected. I've flown across the country for meetings that don't immediately make a difference but then lead to investment or getting athletes into the product. Don't demand an immediate ROI on everything, many times relationships that are most fruitful take some time so nurture them but don't get distracted by things that aren't helpful to your big three: users, product, runway. And remember that if you run out of runway, your users and product will suffer. Thinking money doesn't matter is a conceit of those who have it. The rest of us know you gotta pay rent and that means not running out of runway. Lack of funds kills a lot more startups than lack of user traction and revenue solves all known problems.
Rex Riley@rr6013
"How do you see the gap between fitness and health being filled?" Fitness & health are two sides of the same coin. Estimates on the health care side are for a million Dr. shortage. Doctor-patient ratios are supplemented now with NP (nurse practitioner) and wearable technology. Fitness individual managed health is one solution point. Integrative, alternative, coaching, energy guides, psychology and other fitness forms are emergent. Is that Gap space a VC opportunity
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@rr6013 Sadly, many health tech investors tell me that they don't focus on fitness, healthy living etc as an investment area. They're investing in the treatment, not the prevention. So many causes of death in America are preventable and directly related to obesity and the poor eating and lack of exercise the drive it. It sucks that there's a doctor shortage but it also sucks that we need that many doctors. If we can get more people to be more healthy with what they eat and be more physically active we can start to see levels of preventable health issues go down. It doesn't make insurance companies money to make sure we're healthy long term but we won't survive long as a species if we can't learn to take care of our bodies so that they're healthy and happy instead of trying to use pills to cure what we've destroyed.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
How important is creating a sense of culture early on in a new company?
sarah kunst@sarahkunst · .
@ems_hodge Culture isn't something you can choose to create or not, it's like gravity. It's there if you like it or not. But what we can do is choose to be mindful about the culture we set. One piece of advice that almost no one gives is to be practical about culture - we all know that getting to the office at 9am on a Monday is exhausting and also sucks because you're sitting in the weeks worst traffic. Same with leaving the office at 5pm on Friday. But how many CEOs stand up and say 'ok work from home monday mornings and friday afternoons because you'll have better work/life balance and get more done and the energy in the office when you are here will be a lot more positive'? Why not? I don't want 10 kinds of almond milk(I'm fine with 2, 3 max), I want a work culture that values that I love mid day workouts and going to Napa on Fridays to avoid the tour bus hell of weekends and that others may want to pick their kids up from school or train for a marathon. We focus so much on optimizing the in office experience that we forget that the real goal of a healthy work culture is to build a company that helps employees do their best work by also respecting that they are whole people with real lives.