Let’s ask Donte' Nall, because he’s almost there.
Donte' is a professional high jumper from Raleigh, NC, former national champion, #28 in the world and #8 in the USA. He jumps over a bar that’s 7’5’’ tall – put a six-stack of syrupy pancakes on top of Shaquille O’Neal’s head and Donte' could still make it over. Now that’s serious.
The storyline is the same for a lot of these top athletes. They have this unquenchable need to be the best. I’ve got to say that that’s not the case for Donte'. He’s nearly there, but that’s not what he’s doing this for. “This has never been about me,” he said. So after the sixth time he told me he wants to “prove himself,” I broke in and almost shouted “to whom?”
When we sat down I was eager to hear all about what inspires and motivates Donte' on the track. I had hoped to get some insight to what literally drives him higher. Little did I know that he had more to talk about than just his sport. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he’s also working on a tech startup. Working towards the Olympics just isn’t enough for this go-getter; he’s building a mobile application that will be the “Urban Spoon of boutique fashion.” Imagine being able to search by brand, find boutiques by location, and creating a shopping itinerary. Soon you’ll be able to do that all from your smartphone with Purveyour, which Donte' and his partner David Jackson hope to launch in mid-April to beta users.
Gauging success in a tech startup is largely different than on the track. As an athlete, Donte' talks about how he focuses on competing against himself. “I have the physical ability to jump higher. It comes down to putting everything together on one jump, and I’m learning that the most effective way to do that is by being mentally focused. The more I think about the jump, the less likely I am to clear.” With Purveyour, though, his focus shifts outward to user acquisition. The team has raised seed investment to sustain the development and initial roll-out of the app, and Donte' says they’ve seen users signing up on the landing page at an accelerating rate. Like most mobile apps, Purveyour will rely on user adoption outpacing their burn rate, at least long enough to justify a second round investment before a revenue model is put in place.
For tech entrepreneurs and elite athletes (let’s get it straight – these usually aren’t the same person), success is a game of inches. Startups can thrive or fail on one tiny decision. One change, one iteration, one assumption could be fatal or could be life-changing. The same goes for life on the track. He could put it together for one jump – that’s all he needs – and he’ll be making plans for Rio 2016. What will it take to put him over, to push him that extra inch?
“I’ve got heart, I’ve got ambition. But most of all I’ve got Darius.”
A huge congratulations to him on his fight and his victory.