Throwback Thursday: Thank God I Did Sports Now That I Run a Startup

Going through our archives, we came across this great post by Dr. AnnMaria De Mars from April 5, 2016 “Thank God I Did Sports Now That I Run a Startup” that we wanted to share in case you missed it the first time around.

I spent 14 years of my life competing in judo. For years, I trained two or three times a day, running in the morning, lifting weights during my lunch hour and judo in the evening. I used up all of my spare cash, vacation time, sick leave and a lot of money donated by Bruce Toups and Frank Fullerton (THANK YOU!!!)

Was it worth it? I mean, seriously, what good does it do me to have a dozen ways to do an arm bar and a couple of effective throws? I’m not as young as I was and I can’t do the techniques as strong or fast as I once did.


Honestly, what difference does it make if I won some gold medals?

The answer is that it was absolutely worth it and it does have something to do with the medals.

I run a start-up, 7 Generation Games. We do good work, making games that teach math, social studies, English and Spanish.

Running a start-up is so much like training for international judo competition that it makes me smile just to think about it. Let me give you a few parallels.

  1. You have to work for a really long time before you see a pay off. I started in judo at age 12 and won my first senior national championships at 19, seven years of hard work later.
  2. You are surrounded by people who tell you that it is a silly waste of time and you should do more of a sure thing. If you must do sports, swim or run track. At least you can get a college scholarship. Better yet, be an accountant. They always seem to have jobs.
  3. It gets easier and then harder. It’s not a straight shot to the top. Once winning at the national level gets easy, you are moving into international competition and everyone you fight is the best in their country. It’s the same way with our company. We get better and better at making games. It gets easier to make new levels. At the same time, now we have more than ourselves to support, artists and developers, so we have to bring in a lot more money each week.
  4. You’ll see people get funding who have far less accomplishments than you. Every team I made was based purely on who had won the most tournaments or winning a trials. Any time there was a selection by a committee, it was someone other than me who was selected. It’s been kind of the same with investor funding. We’ve received a number of federal grants, had two successful Kickstarter campaigns, completed an accelerator program and we are still here after three years while many of the companies who received ten times the investor funds we raised have closed their doors.
  5. You find yourself in an unfair situation where your competition has more funding than you, maybe more skilled people helping them than you do and all you can do is just work harder.

I feel a lot of those same feelings from my competition days lately. We have one game that we have been working on for a year but we haven’t been able to all work on it full time because we had commitments to meet on our existing games, data we had promised schools, etc. It’s a constant race to get products out on the market and sales in before we run out of money. Once we get a new game out, it’s the same race at a higher level (see #3).

Lately, when we are so close to getting our next game out, but we have work we need to do and bills we need to pay … it’s easy to get discouraged, want to give up and go back to a safe 9-5 job. That’s when I smile and remember that 40 years ago, I decided to do judo instead of being an accountant and it’s a little late to turn back now.


Check out our games Spirit Lake and Fish Lake here

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