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Anthony Katz didn’t mean to become an entrepreneur. But a chance meeting with Kobe Bryant in 2011 turned his “art project” into a game-changer for his career and the world of sports tech.
On this episode of PCH Driven, Katz talks about his journey from high school history teacher and basketball coach to founding Hyperice.
Katz says he loves being on the court himself, but as he aged, he found recovering from aches and pains took longer than what he was used to.
Not wanting to let go of his love for playing basketball, Katz researched what professionals used to recover and soon began to ice his joints in the same way as pro-players— with bags of ice saran-wrapped to his legs.
But Katz found the method pro-players’ used was too messy. Instead, he cut neoprene and put medical bags of ice inside. His interesting approach caught the eye of Kobe Bryant’s trainer — and a friend of Katz’s — who told him that Bryant wanted to see his “ice project.”
“The first time I met him, it was just like, ‘Whoa’. I didn’t really feel I had anything worthy really showing him. It was just this thing I was trying to do,” Katz says. But Bryant saw promise in Katz’s ice project.
“Let me use it for a while and I’ll give you some feedback,” Bryant suggested.
And so, Katz became, in his words, an “accidental adventurer entrepreneur.” With a laundry list of feedback on how to improve the product from Bryant, Katz moved the ball forward.
“I have to make this product perfect for [Bryant], because I knew if I made it for him, that’d be good enough for everybody else. Because his standards were super high, and his focus on what he would use was really high,” Katz says. “He’s like, ‘Well it took you a while, but, you know, you actually got here'.”
Bryant was all in. Meanwhile, Katz “literally hustled” to get the product to big-time athletes like LeBron James.
Eventually, Katz began to research medical devices used for recovery, and says they were “big, expensive devices you would never want in your home.” With this in mind, he turned his attention to designing another Hyperice product that was portable, modern-looking, and provided quick relief during recovery. He took elements from these “super outdated” machines like their use of vibrational frequencies and implemented them into foam rollers.
“I think I'm an opportunist in that I got a window into an industry that was outdated, that wasn't speaking to the athlete. It was medical device companies making rehabilitation products when athletes really wanted recovery products,” says Katz. “And so I just listened and was able to put a team around me that figured out how to make some really great products that [are] now just table stakes in every training room in the world.”
Today, Hyperice can be found on top-tier athletes including Naomi Osaka, Patrick Mahomes and Amanda Nunes.
dot.LA Engagement & Production Intern Jojo Macaluso contributed to this post.
Chase Fisher founded his San Diego-based eyewear company a couple blocks off the Pacific Coast Highway in 2012. Eight years later, the company was acquired by the second largest eyewear company in the world for $90 million.
The journey was a long one for Fisher, who says he doubted whether he'd be a successful entrepreneur.
“I was not the smart kid in school,” he said. “I always looked up to the kids that were getting a 4.0. [grade average]. I was bred to think that those were the guys that were going to go out and change the world.”
Fisher was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age and struggled in reading and math. It wasn't until starting his own company that he realized there was more than just one pathway to success.
“If I had not started Blenders and still been using school as a scorecard, I would be an ultimate failure,” he said.
Fisher launched the company when he was just 22 years old and fresh out of college, attending an entrepreneur fair at San Diego State to sell his first 300 pairs of sunglasses. By the end of the day, he’d only sold 10.
Fisher described it as a “gut punch,” but the experience taught him the importance of bootstrapping, focusing him on building his skillset as a salesman and mental toughness as an entrepreneur.
“If I would have started with a lot of money, I would have failed,” he said, “because I wouldn't know how to spend the money.”
“You need that scrappy grit to really work through those hard times. And if you don't have that in your toolbox, you're gonna lose, and it's a perishable skill,” he added.
In 2020, Italian eyewear brand Safilo Group acquired them.
Having grown the brand by hand, Fisher reminds himself and his employees to be humble and appreciative when they see people wearing a pair.
“Don't ever take it for granted. Anytime you see somebody wearing Blenders in the world, right? Like, smile at them, give them a high five, get curious, ask them questions, how they heard about us, compliment them on their sunglasses. To me it never gets old,” said Fisher.
dot.LA Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.