When former NC State quarterback Mike Glennon founded his virtual coaching platform Emulate Sports, he quickly learned how difficult it is to get a startup off the ground. But he also learned how much potential there was to make money – if the startup was successful. Today, Glennon and Jon Carr, Professor of Entrepreneurship, talk about the hard truths of entrepreneurship, and how the clinical model at the NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic is helping students to “fail-safe” to better prepare them for their next chapter.
Jenny: So Jon, we’re going to start with you. the entrepreneurship community at Poole college has been thriving for the last several years. And your role as a professor and department chair, what are some of the trends that you’re seeing in the entrepreneurship space and how has COVID impacted that?
Jon: well, I, I realized that there there’s been a lot of change that’s happened as a result of COVID and some of these things have been, in some respects, very negative with respect to startups and what startups experience. But in some instances it’s opened up some opportunities to we’ve obviously seen a stronger and stronger emphasis on, on better products and services to meet the specific needs of people, particularly in a COVID environment.
So we’ve had, you know, startups companies that have really tried to emphasize how to reach people now that they’re no longer sort of in the work environment, the physical work environment that we’re often used to. so it’s created a lot of pressures in terms of trying to hire good people and create organizations that can really thrive.
But it’s also created a, you know, a lot of opportunities for remote work and to create options for people to engage what’s known as hybrid entrepreneurship, which is sort of doing the kinds of side jobs and side experiences that sometimes people don’t get a chance to do where they’re working full time for somebody. So that’s, I think some of the key things that we’ve seen.
My own hope is, is that we will learn from this experience. And I suspect the startup community is, is best positioned to find out how that’s going to unfold, because they’re oftentimes reacting to the opportunities that are created in these types of circumstances.
Jenny: That’s interesting, cause when I, so I’m going to pivot to Mike for a minute, because when we initially had our back and forth about coming onto the show, I asked you about Emulate Sport, and you said, well, we’re kind of taking, we’re taking a break with it for a little bit. And I was curious to know, well, one I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about it and kind of how it came to fruition, but I, after you gave me that response, I thought, well, I wonder if COVID impacted that, like, if that had something to do with kind of pumping the brakes. So do you mind sharing some insights on that?
Mike: I can start with the whole history of it. So in 2018, I played for the Arizona Cardinals. The quarterbacks in the room were Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, myself, and a private squad quarterback was a guy named Chad Kanoff. So Chad went to Princeton and I, you know, People may not realize we spend a lot of time together in the quarterback room.
You know, a lot of times we’re talking football, other times we’re just, you know, talking about whatever. And I remember one time Sam Bradford said, one day, I’m going to start a company, and Chad, I’m going to hire you to be the CEO. So fast forward about two years, or maybe it was a year whenever COVID hit, I was sitting at home and there was an app that was becoming very popular called Cameo.
And for those who aren’t familiar Cameo is basically celebrities doing a video message saying, happy birthday, congratulations, what have you. And I’ve had them approach me about joining Cameo, but Cameo never really, I didn’t have much interest in that. It feel the gratification of telling someone happy birthday and charging money.
But I thought, well, if I could watch a quarterback throw a ball and give him evaluation, I would enjoy that because I’m helping the guy, I enjoy talking about football. It would give me a sense of accomplishment knowing I could help somebody. So the first person I thought of was Chad, so I reached out to Chad and he said, I’m actually doing this exact, you know, I have a private quarterback coach that I sent him videos.
Cause it was kind of during quarantine when no one was interacting, and he’s sending me video commentating on what I’m doing. He’s like, and if I was a kid, I would have loved to be able to have a coach, an NFL quarterback coach me. The idea was to have a quarterback, send us throwing motion, and then we evaluated. We thought our best chance was the quarterback market because that’s where our expertise was, but we knew to scale it we’d have to get in other sports in other industries, so our first one was golf.
The more brief version would be, I quickly learned how difficult it is to get a startup off the ground. But it was a great learning experience. It kind of sparked an interest in me for venture capital, entrepreneurship itself, you know, just, it was fun to do. And, you realize how much money can also be made if you’re successful. Now, the success rate is extremely low. so we kind of went through this process of, we created a website.
We had different app developers’ kind of look to price it out. And we realized what the investment in that would be. Then we looked into kind of brings someone on with us. I would serve as a CTO to create this, you know, be the engineer behind it. So then actually we got to a point where we applied for Y Combinator and we got an interview with Y Combinator, they ultimately thought it was the industry, or the market size wasn’t big enough. They’re looking for billion-dollar industries and they didn’t feel this was a billion-dollar industry. Which to me, I was like, I mean, that’s fine. If this is a couple of hundred-million-dollar industry, we’ll take that.
Jon Carr is a Professor of Entrepreneurship and Chair of the Department of Management, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship at North Carolina State University.
The Poole Podcast is hosted by Jenny Hammond, the CMO at Poole College. This is a production of Earfluence.