Why Jason Jacobs started Runkeeper

As a follow up to my post a few weeks back about why founders create their companies, I’m delighted to share Jason Jacobs story with you all today. 

Jason is the founder and CEO at Runkeeper and we are proud investors in his company. Jason is a tireless entrepreneur. His passion is authentic and infectious. 

Here’s Jason’s own words about his story.

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When Bijan asked me to write a blog post about what the motivation was to start RunKeeper, I thought it was timely since we are approaching the 5-year anniversary. In June of the day we were incorporated – great time to look back and reflect on the journey so far.

I had known for a long time that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was the little kid in my neighborhood growing up who rounded up the other kids after a snowstorm to go around shoveling people’s driveways and undercutting the price of the snow plows. I was also the kid who went to almost every small business in my hometown selling ad space in our hockey tournament program. While the extra spending money was nice, my real motivation was much more the sport of it and the feeling of accomplishment when I experienced success.

A year out of college, I joined a software company that had around 100 employees. When I left two years later, they were more than 700 employees and publicly traded. While the bubble burst and the company came crashing back down to Earth, this experience was a phenomenal learning opportunity for me and I knew then that I wanted to build enduring technology companies from small to very big for a long time to come.

From then on, I viewed all of my professional experience as ‘practice before the big game’. I had yet to come up with an idea for a business I was really passionate about, and I figured while I waited for the right idea to come along, I would continue to build up my skill set so I would be better equipped to bring the right idea to life when I found it.

It took me several years to lock in on the ‘right idea’. I hoped that whatever company I started would be one I built from small to very big over a number of years, which to me, meant it had to be an important problem that I was deeply passionate about solving in a big market. Other than building technology companies, I didn’t know what I was passionate about at the time, which made for a grueling process.

I would come up with idea after idea that seemingly met all of the criteria, but in hindsight, they were all missing the most important element – passion. I was so frustrated with the vetting process that I signed up for my first marathon as a way to stay sane as I figured out which company to go and build. It was during this marathon training that the idea for RunKeeper came to be.

With all of the innovations coming in mobile, health/fitness sensors, social networking, etc., it seemed there was a big opportunity to build a simple, social, fun digital fitness platform that tied together all of this disparate health/fitness data into a single, cohesive experience.

This was a huge breakthrough for me on multiple levels. The biggest breakthrough was that I discovered a deep passion of mine that had been with me my whole life – healthy living! I realized then that I wanted to build a big company at the intersection of fitness and technology. The funny thing is that I came to realize this as I went out on 20-mile training runs, wracking my brain along the way about what I was really passionate about. Plus, this hypothesis of a simple, social, fun fitness platform for the masses felt like a solid, well-timed starting point.

I got to work right away, and quit my job a few months later to focus full-time on building RunKeeper. Five years later, we have an awesome team of almost 40 employees, $11.5m in capital raised, over 16m users, and we are just getting warmed up!

While it was a grueling process for sure, I am very glad that I had the patience to wait until it felt right.