Making the leap from employee to entrepreneur is no easy task. Just ask Benjamin Young, the founder and CEO of Sworkit (previously Nexercise), a fitness app with dozens of 5-60+ minute strength, yoga, pilates, and stretching workouts that don’t require equipment. Benjamin and Sworkit are also Graduates of the Washington, D.C. Founder Institute.
Prior to launching his own company with the Founder Institute, Benjamin already had years of experience working in a corporate environment in various roles, including serving as Managing Director at C.Y. Strategy, Senior Director of Products & Strategy at Angel.com, and Director of Technology at Precipia Systems, Inc., among others.
When asked what made him want to launch a company, Benjamin gets right to the point:
I got laid off twice! It was a big catalyst. I realized that I was also quite a rule-breaker and hated the bureaucracy and slow moving side of corporate America where they want to box you into a narrow specialty.
When looking into other career paths, Benjamin decided to combine his problem-solving aptitude with his extensive business background, and make the leap from employee to entrepreneur.
But what problem could he solve, and how could he turn it into a thriving company?
The answer, it turns out, was quite obvious: health and fitness. With the majority of Americans suffering from obesity, and with so many of them working longer and longer hours, it was clear that there was a demand for a simple solution for both problems. That’s when Benjamin came up with the idea of an app that enables users to get in shape with quick workouts and without the need for special equipment.
However, even equipped with a solid idea and considerable experience, it was going to take more than that to get used to the dynamic environment of launching and running a company. As expected, transitioning from the formal world of corporations to the do-it-yourself realm of startups was not easy.
The biggest surprise is that even though you move faster than big companies, it feels quite slow. There's always so much to do, and never enough time, and you always feel behind - behind on product, behind the competition, behind on email, behind on life.
However, like many great entrepreneurs, Benjamin endured the hard times and triumphed; since its inception in 2010, his company has secured over 20 million users, received funding from Militello Capital, was accepted into the inaugural Chicago class of the prestigious TechStars accelerator program, and has been featured on numerous major media channels. And most recently, Sworkit was able to pitch their company on Shark Tank and received an offer from investor Mark Cuban.
While Benjamin has found considerable success by forging his own path, he has not forgotten the important lessons he learned from his corporate background.
The structure of a company is to shield you, the employee, from the risk and higher level fears, and as an owner with employees you need to build confidence through leadership. At all levels and all companies, there are always some major problems.
Now that he is completely immersed in the world of tech startups, Benjamin has some useful advice for those interested in leaving behind their current job to start their own company:
Entrepreneurship isn't for the faint of heart, but when you have an idea or passion that just consumes you, stop fighting and start doing.
As for the most important lesson learned at the Founder Institute, Benjamin gets right to the point:
"Your network matters. At the Founder Institute, you’re surrounded by people who are smarter and more talented than you, which is the best environment for any entrepreneur.
Couldn't agree more, Ben.