Meet The VFA Accelerator Teams: Drew Jankowski of Peak Performance Ninja
The Venture for America Accelerator is a three-month program open to VFA alumni and Fellows at the conclusion of their two-year Fellowship. On August 1st, seven teams descended on Detroit to begin working full time on their companies. Thanks to generous support from the William Davidson Foundation and Quicken Loans and with help from the Venture for America team and a wide range of industry leaders, , Accelerator teams have the time, space, and funding to focus solely on building their fledgling companies.
Meet Drew, a 2013 VFA Fellow and Founder and CEO of Peak Performance Ninja. Peak Performance Ninja’s mission is to help elite athletes reach their peak when it counts – in competition. Eagleye Golf, their first product, helps competitive golfers use their data to make better decisions and ultimately score more consistently in competition. Here, Drew shares his experience in the VFA Accelerator, what it takes to build a company and the entrepreneur advice you should NOT take.
Have you always wanted to start a company? What were some of the critical inflection points that got you to actually launch?
I’ve always wanted to build things. I only realized in college that that probably meant building a company to do so. I had been noodling on some tools for golfers for the last few years, but never quite got them to the point of release because of my own lack of technical skills. This past winter I doubled down on learning to code in Swift and I was able to build a really convincing functional prototype that I could use to discuss the concept with other golfers. Another key milestone was being accepted into the VFA Accelerator (for which I am eternally grateful). Without that opportunity, I would not have had the time or space to pursue Peak Performance Ninja and Eagleye to the point they are today.
What’s it like building a company in Detroit?
It has been really inspiring being here for the Accelerator. There is an amazing amount of entrepreneurship going on here and I feel energized being here in such an exciting moment in Detroit’s trajectory. It has been really great to meet and connect with all the other founders and mentors here, and I have learned every step of the way, which is all I could ask for.
What has surprised you the most since beginning to work on your company?
I think the most surprising thing is how liberating it is to have mental space to think about the business. Without worrying about a 40 hour work week or how I’m going to eat and live, I’ve been able to accelerate product development and I’ve also been able to explore solutions that I never would have considered had I remained at MojoTech (my previous gig).
What popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with and what’s one piece of advice you wish you would have received before you started?
I disagree with the notion that you need to work 100 hours a week to start a company. In fact, I’d even argue that it’s detrimental in many if not all cases. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint, and if you burn out, you’ll lose ground. Yes, you want to push yourself, but you need to know how to put work down when you hit the point of diminishing returns. Often sleeping is the most valuable thing you can do for your brain and your company.
I wish someone had prepared me mentally for the grind that it would be as a solo founder. I think I might have prioritized finding a co-founder sooner.
What readers can do to help you get to your next step or milestone?
If you know any college, high school, or competitive amateur golfers, I’d love to talk to them about Eagleye. If they’re a coach, even better. We are trying to line up partnerships for the spring season. Know any athletic minded software engineers who might like to get involved? I’d love to meet them to see if we work well together.
Whether you’re toying with a fledgling idea, developing a side project, or preparing to launch a company, we have the resources, programming, and network to help you succeed once you’ve completed your two-year Fellowship. Our alumni have launched 33 companies that employ more than 145 people. Click here to find out how VFA can help you succeed.