Interview From Rowing Ventures, LLC
One of the many great things about our sport is the community’s willingness to help others, whether it is lending a competitor a boat, or sharing our knowledge and hard fought lessons with up-and-coming rowers and coxswains.
InstaViser got its start when my friend Tommy O’Hare, a short-track speed skater on the 1998 Nagano Olympic Team, and I noted how often our athlete and coach friends were asked to share their experiences with young kids in sports. Our professional backgrounds are deep in sports, media and technology: I have two software patents in the field of search relevance ranking, and Tommy spent the past several years leading YouTube’s Olympic Sports Media Partnerships at Google. If you watched any of the London 2012 rowing on your iPad, that was his handiwork.
In late 2013, we saw an opportunity to take advantage of emerging tools like live mobile video to connect young athletes, parents, and masters athletes worldwide with the most experienced mentors and coaches. We chose sports as our first market because we have an absolute advantage in building the market, and we wish we had InstaViser when we were young athletes.
InstaViser’s “test flight” came before the 2013 Head of the Charles, when I did the Coxswains’ Challenge to raise money for the National Rowing Foundation. In exchange for contributions to support our National Team, four winners would receive a 20-minute Skype session with me on how to navigate the Charles race course. In three days, the Challenge raised nearly $1,200 to support the Team. We were onto something.
We launched the first iteration of InstaViser.com and immediately learned we are making something people really want. Our original site was a virtual coaching site that created unprecedented one-on-one access for young and aspiring athletes to connect with the legends of their sports via live video, where they can talk privately about anything from building confidence to training for their next competition. We’ve since evolved the concept, applying this same idea of the value of mentorship and unlimited access to expert advisors to help people of all ages and walks of life. InstaViser builds private-label mentorship platforms for a variety of organizations and professional institutions, creating effective teacher-learner interactions through live one-on-one video or phone chats. We have a diversity of clients from the United States Olympic Committee and the Food Business School, to CSweetener, a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing emerging female healthcare leaders. We are in the business of changing lives, one connection at a time.
I originally got to know John Chatzky when he was planning Ted Nash’s surprise 80th birthday party the night of the 2012 Head of the Schuylkill Regatta. Ted was John’s coach at Penn, and was pivotal as our assistant coach of the 2004 Athens gold medal eight. When I heard he was considering investing in businesses started by rowers, I shared the names of some respected entrepreneurs like Michelle Darby of roomzilla.net. Not long after Chatz had invested in Michelle, he and I were talking about an earlier idea Tommy and I had been working on, and John decided to invest.
In John’s own words, “Pete and Tommy are, to me, the perfect example of my investment philosophy. They are as smart and hard-working as anyone else out there, but they are more energetic, more driven, more determined to succeed and more focused on the challenges before them than most others. I suspect that makes sense as they are both Olympians. In terms of investing in people as opposed to concepts, they are a great example. They pitched me on one specific business plan, and I invested. Then they made the major pivot to InstaViser a few months down the road. They contacted me, explained the change and offered to return my investment. I chose to stick with them and am confident that they will succeed.”
With excellent investors like John (and a few other rowers, too), our team at InstaViser is now up to six, including 2016 Olympian Meghan O’Leary, and former lightweight National Team member, Josh Getz.
We are excited for the future. With billions of people about to own their first smartphone, the demand for instant advice and knowledge sharing is poised for massive growth. Visit us today at InstaViser.com to learn more!
– Peter Cipollone, Co-founder