Every Month PelotonLabs founder Liz Trice interviews a Peloton member for the West End News. This month Liz caught up with Justin Hafner, Peloton’s new manager and the founder and CEO of Kinotek, a startup that has created a virtual reality software for sports science applications.
You started your company while still a student at UMO, right?
Yes. I saw a flaw in traditional anatomy education and was working in a virtual reality lab at the same time. Typically, students are given a piece of paper with over a thousand terms and told to memorize everything. We wanted to create a software program that makes anatomy concepts really simple to understand by using visual representations. We created software to work with licensed hardware, that provides real time feedback to our 3D model showing what muscles are firing based on the movement the user is making. Currently we are using this in sports medicine to prevent injuries and to improve an athlete’s performance.
What’s the current stage of your business? What sports do you envision serving?
We’re pre-revenue. We hope to start beta testing the first iteration of our product in the winter. We’re talking with fifteen professional sports organizations about becoming our first beta testers, and we’ve had a lot of interest from professional hockey teams. This is due to the fact we are one of the first sports science companies that provides software with limited restrictions on the environment an athlete can be in (skating on a hockey rink).
You’ve won a ton of awards.
We were a finalist for Best Emerging Idea as part of Gorham Saving’s LaunchPad competition, Top 20 finalist worldwide in Techstars Sports Accelerator, and won $60,000 from Greenlight Maine, a statewide televised pitch competition. We also won the Big Gig pitch competition in Bangor and grants from the Libra Future Fund and the Maine Technology Institute.
How does it feel to have moved to Portland?
I was talking to a member at Peloton at a recent happy hour about how in the first few months in Portland there’s so much to do – you’re constantly checking out new places. I’ve lived in rural areas my entire life, so it’s the coolest thing to be able to walk everywhere. I just got out of college, so it’s cool to be able to go explore the city, and it’s a super community where you can rely on people to get information. The great thing about working at Peloton is being able to be integrated into the community so fast – where to meet people, where to go.
What do you hope to accomplish as manager at Peloton?
The biggest value proposition that Peloton offers is its community and members. Once people get connected, they’re unlikely to leave because it’s such a great environment. Maybe it’s just a Maine thing, but in Bangor I learned that everyone wants to help entrepreneurs, and I’ve learned it’s the same thing in Portland.
I want to help create a collaborative environment to help support entrepreneurs, especially those starting out on their own. If they need sleep, if they need food, how can I support them? The less stressed out you are, the more likely you are to succeed. I’d love to be part of an accelerator where we help businesses succeed.
Is stress always bad? What role do you think stress plays in success?
It takes me a lot to get stressed out, but when I do, I go into survival mode until I get my work done. I prefer to be organized enough to get things done without external stressors motivating me. When you’re in a team, if you’re stressed out, you’re not going to be pulling your weight. All my best performances as a swimmer and as a grant writer was when I was stressed out, but that’s a short-term push.
I used to not speak up when I was stressed out, but now I’m an open book. I structured my team to bring in skills that I’m not good at and built a collaborative environment so that people can ask each other for help. When you build a collaborative team, you can accomplish anything.
PelotonLabs is a coworking space in Bramhall Square in the West End of Portland, Maine with a mission to connect and encourage people to improve their lives and contribute to the world around them.