I think Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is the best memoir I’ve ever read by a business person.
I consumed it in a day last week. It’s about the origin story of Nike, which started out as Blue Ribbon Sports.
Unlike so many memoirs, it’s not an equally balanced arc through Knight’s life. It’s not an ego gratifying display of his awesomeness, heavily weighted in the success of the company and all the amazing things that went on around that. Instead, it’s a deep focus on the beginning years of Nike especially around the first decade. It quickly gets to 1964 and the equal partnership between Bill Bowerman and Knight. But then it takes it’s time, year by year (each chapter is titled with the year number only) through the first decade of the company.
It’s an incredible story. I didn’t realize that for the first five years of the company, Knight had to work full-time – mostly at Price Waterhouse and then Coopers & Lybrand as an accountant – because the company didn’t have any resources to support him and his new family. He used nights, weekends, and in all the gaps in between to get Nike (the Blue Ribbon Sports) up and running. Year one revenue – in 1964 – was $8,000. Year two revenue – with one full time employee (not Knight) was $20,000. Year 41 revenue (2015) was $30.6 billion with a net income of $3.3 billion.
Knight covers all of it in detail. The ups and the downs. The many downs. The moments where he felt like he could lose it all, which seemed to happen at least once a year. His personal struggles as a leader and a manager. The people that drove him fucking crazy at the beginning, but were ultimately indispensable to the company. His momentary conflicts about whether or not the struggle was worth it. The breakthroughs – mostly understood in hindsight – when he realized they had gotten to another level.
The thread of financing the company, especially through the first decade, was just incredible. His only real source of financing was tradition banks (who sucked) and partners (playing the float). The company had literally no equity available to it, but was growing at a rate that would put most of today’s VC-backed startups to shame. He made it work and how he did it was awesome.
It’s incredible to get inside of a man now worth over $25 billion and the founder of one of the most iconic brands on the planet at the very beginning of his story. If you are a founder, this is a must read.
If you’re working on a quantified self product or are part of a startup that would benefit from integration with Nike+, you have less than a week left to apply to the Nike+ Accelerator, powered by TechStars (deadline is February 3rd). If accepted, you will receive $20,000 in seed funding and support from TechStars, and mentorship from leaders within TechStars and Nike.
The program begins in Portland on March 18th and will be led by Managing Director Dylan Boyd and TechStars is the investor in your company. Nike offers mentors, executives, technology, access to the developer portal, API, and more.
Don’t be bashful – apply now!
When we started TechStars in 2006, one of our premises was to help build a strong startup community in Boulder. Our experience with TechStars – starting in Boulder, but expanding to Boston, Seattle, and New York – helped us understand not just TechStars’ role and impact on a startup community, but what drives startup communities over the long term. We’ve seen this dramatically accelerator around the world through the Global Accelerator Network and when I wrote Startup Communities: Building a Startup Ecosystem in Your City, much of what I used as the basis for the Boulder Thesis came from my experiences here.
Several years ago David Cohen, Jason Mendelson, and I started talking about the idea that the same principles of an accelerator model could apply to specific vertical markets or companies. TechStars Cloud, which is about to start it’s second program, was our first experiment with this. The first year was a great success, we learned a lot from it, and applied much of our learning to our first “powered by TechStars” accelerator that we did with Microsoft.
Today, Nike announced their first Nike+ Accelerator program, powered by TechStars. Ten companies will participate in a three-month, mentorship-driven program. The technology focus will be about leveraging the success of the Nike+ FuelBand, Nike+ Running and NikeFuel to support digital innovation. Based in Portland, the program is just a short drive away from Nike World Headquarters. will begin in March of 2013 and conclude in June with two investor demo days; one in Portland and one in Silicon Valley.
I’m an avid marathoner and completely obsessed with the idea of instrumenting myself to track extensive data about my health and fitness. I also believe that the best way to accelerate core technologies like what Nike has worked on is to build significant startup communities around their core products and technologies. That’s what the goal of the Nike+ Accelerator program is.
I’m excited to join the likes of Nike’s Vice President of Digital Sport, Stefan Olander, Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of Foursquare, and Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Body and all around awesome entrepreneur, as a mentor in the program.
With over 15 successful programs under our belt and over 200 companies having gone through a TechStars program, TechStars is powering the accelerator for Nike and we’re already looking forward to the outcome of combining our own firsthand knowledge in the setting of an impressive organization. To apply, go to www.nikeaccelerator.com for details and applications. The application deadline is February 3rd, 2013. Accepted companies will be notified in late February.
If you are a startup around digital health, human instrumentation, and the quantified-self, apply now to be part of the program. I look forward to meeting you!
I’m running the Kroll’s Diner Bismarck Marathon on Saturday. This will be Marathon #18 in my quest to run one in every state. I’ll be there for a couple of days so I’m open to any restaurant recommendations y’all might have.
I’ve decided to try something different on this marathon. While I always wear a watch, I’ve never tried to instrument myself “real-time” for the race. Until recently, I’ve been using a Garmin 305, but it broke this summer when I was in Europe and I switched to RunKeeper on my iPhone.
I’ve really enjoyed RunKeeper and even started listening to music on some of my runs again since I had my iPhone with me. I signed up for RunKeeper Live and have been broadcasting my runs publicly to anyone who cared, which is primarily Amy.
The marathon starts at 7:30am Central Time on Saturday. I’ll be broadcasting my progress on this link – you should be able to pick it up after I start the race. Since I’ve always been running, I’m not 100% sure how the UI works on the “watching someone” end of things, but would love to hear feedback from anyone who takes a look. Oh – and cheer me on!
I’ll be wearing my Fitbit also (which I love – and am an investor in). It’s fascinating to me the step variance on the different marathons I’ve done – my stride length clearly varies with the shape I’m in and the shape (or hilliness) of the course. I’ll also check and see which is more accurate over 26.2 miles – the Fitbit or RunKeeper.
I might wear my new Nike+ SportWatch GPS, but so far the Nike+ website has been basically unusable due to performance issues so I don’t want to count on it.
Bismarck – see you tomorrow.