Featured Founder: Juan Pablo Gonzalez of Track It Up
Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Juan Pablo Gonzalez of Track It Up, which provides a digital environment to compete based on real-life sporting activities.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
Before founding Track It Up, I spent much of my professional career implementing various technological solutions for global financial institutions. I led the Data Lake operations and Data Science programs of the Cyber Security Fusion Center at Citi. Throughout my career, I developed a passion for all things related to machine learning, artificial intelligence, and technology integrations.
In my personal time, I’m an avid cyclist. I’m Colombian and we have always had top cyclists across multiple disciplines, which inspired me to take up the sport. As a teenager, I was doing duathlons and triathlons before knowing what multi-sport competition was. I recall skipping the bus ride to school with friends in favor of doing the 10-mile ride to campus and our first class on the schedule was swimming, and regularly trained after classes. When two of my friends (Daniel and Camilo) heard about my routine, they joined the training regime; and a genuine life-long bond was formed! The three of us shared such passion for what we were doing and advocated for multi-sport training at school to such an extent they introduced multi-sport racing at future athletic events.
Later in life, I participated in single sport events as well as sprint, Olympic, and 70.3 Ironman races. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with a medical condition that prevented me from competing. Even so, I held onto my passion and wanted to continue to be part of athletic events, so I started volunteering at events like the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim Race. I love sports and appreciate the enormous impact training can have in transforming people’s lives.
Just before the pandemic hit in 2020, I reunited with Daniel and Camilo, my high-school friends, for a ski trip; both friends continued to compete athletically. Daniel is into cycling and triathlon racing; he’s an entrepreneur and worked as the operations manager for a company he co-founded. Camilo has worked within the cycling industry for years and even participated in a cross-country reality show traveling on his bike. He has experience organizing criteriums and remains highly devoted to sports racing and competing at events.
During this trip, we discussed our shared passion for sports competition and shared ideas about what seemed (to us) to be apparent gaps in the market. I saw the opportunity to use technology to cover those gaps, and together, we harnessed our experience to create an innovative product designed for weekend warriors and competitive athletes. This is how Track It Up was born.
What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
Although there are multiple fitness tracking apps in the market, there isn’t anything out there that’s specifically geared for a structured competition, that compares individual performance, inwards and against rival clubs.****
Any competitions that exist aren’t based on a person's individual skill level, and they don’t offer any real prizes. So, for training clubs and individuals alike, there is no single tool that allows them to track and get rewarded based on individual successes or relative successes against other clubs and athletes.
Training clubs need a tool to assess and reward their athletes based on specific criteria. Outside of clubs, individuals have no structured way to compete and aren’t always incentivized to push hard and remain engaged with their training; indeed, this lack of competition can often lead to disengagement, a lack of effort, or failure to step outside their comfort zone. However, in a structured competitive environment, with the right incentives, tracking, and visibility of gains/losses, motivation is high – as is engagement.
Track It Up directly addresses these needs.
We mesh physical and virtual events, offering virtual leagues based on asynchronous real-life sports activities. By gamifying the user experience, we keep weekend warriors engaged and help them build upon their athletic and competitive skills through the provision of challenging competition.
We cater to the needs of athletes at all levels, that enjoy athletic events, enthusiasts of asynchronous competition, either as individuals or through a club.
Tracking via wearable devices makes it easy for people across the globe to partake in the leagues.
What makes me excited to go to work every day is the notion that I am building something that will help improve people’s lives. Whether achieving greater fitness levels, a sense of accomplishment, progression, better morale, or even winning a cash prize, I know Track It Up will positively impact people’s physical and mental well-being.
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?
Our team shares a collective passion for developing and delivering the best product, and nobody is happy to settle for anything less. We want to create the ultimate app and present it at its very best to the market. Presently, we are restricted to a tight budget, which won’t allow us to do everything we want from the onset. The notion that we would have to forgo delivering features from day 1 was a significant challenge, not just because of the costs; development time was a huge factor too. We needed to consider the market, the opportunity, our customers, and much more. After realizing we couldn’t have ‘the dream app,’ we wanted at the start, we worked together to reprioritize requirements to create a good prototype; a marketable MVP. We now have a fully-working version of the product that allows us to test and socialize the core business functions with potential clients. Prototyping enabled us to move quicker through the design iterations to integrate customer feedback, so it turned out to be a positive factor after all.
Where do you see your company headed next?
Integration with the top sport tech brands in our market is now complete. Next, we will scale up our beta testing, then implement our go-to-market strategy with a much broader audience. We will continue developing commercial partnerships by growing the number of brands we work with. Then, we can start to roll out our virtual leagues to more markets and have enough users to take this global.
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.
Find people that understand the industry you are in, people that understand and can challenge your business model. Attend industry-related and start-up events; this will help you forge connections with people who offer different perspectives while also helping you grow your network.
Why Tampa Bay?
Tampa has been my home for the past 16 years. After graduating from the University of South Florida, I’ve seen first-hand how Tampa has advanced and developed, particularly over the past decade. And with entities like Embarc Collective, it’s a great city for startups and business development. It’s a place with so much potential for the future, mainly owing to our vast pool of talented people in the Bay Area. The sports community is growing exponentially, and I just love how it has emerged as a sports town, AKA Champa Bay!