How sport made me a tech founder

We’re celebrating sport technology this month. Sam Brearey is co-founder of Accessercise, the first ever complete fitness app created specifically for people with impairments. Sam was a Double World, Triple European and National Sailing Champion, competing for Great Britain. You can find Sam on LinkedIn, along with his co-founder Ali Jawad PLY.

Sport was my life. As a young boy I dreamed of waving the Union Flag on top of a podium at the Olympic Games. I never thought that as an adult I would end up in a boardroom running a start-up promoting equality.

Sport has always been a key part of my life, with my parents encouraging me to push myself and pursue success while maintaining the key aspect of fun! Growing up I did EVERYTHING: hockey, athletics, rugby, sailing, you name it. I didn’t have a normal teenage life: my younger years were spent playing for school and at a county level. Sport made me who I am today: a highly disciplined executive with grit, strategic thinking, perseverance, and optimism.

While I wished I could follow in my grandad’s elite rugby footsteps, at a certain point, as in any start-up, after trying multiple hats, iterating, enjoying some success and some failure, I laser focused on one discipline and became a professional sailor. No other sport has as many variables and as much complexity as sailing. You must train your brain to make decisions based on enormous amounts of ever-changing data, being driven by logic and not emotion. You must have crystal clear communication with your teammate and wider team. You must be confident, alert, and focused. And this is how you win, in sailing, and in the start-up world. While sailing taught me much of my transferable skills, rugby also helped build essential expertise such as discipline, control, respect and a crucial start up hack: know your team-mates’ roles, skillsets, strengths, weaknesses and needs.

My second career starts

After sailing for Britain for more than a decade, after winning, losing, getting severely injured, recovering, sailing again, winning world, European and national titles, it was my time to retire. My first business after retiring from the sports career was an athlete management agency specialising in underrepresented athletes. It was so much fun: the harder you worked, the more money you made. But more importantly, my first company was where I fine-tuned my time management, prioritization skills and learned a lot of lessons on start-up life.

I was fortunate to manage some amazing athletes. One of them was Ali Jawad PLY, who went to three Paralympic Games, won Paralympic silver, set 2 world records and much more. He and I became the co-founders of Accessercise back in 2020! Now, Ali is the COO of our company, my right-hand man. I consider myself lucky to work with a person with whom I align on values and work ethic. We know how to disagree and how to come to the right decision for the business, both having learned key fundamental skills from sport, particularly about performing under pressure, when so many break.

What is Accessercise?

Accessercise is a true game changer in the world, the first fitness solution for the disabled community. How crazy is that 1.2 billion disabled people in the world didn’t have a fitness app that worked for them? Through health and wellness, through building community, we support disabled community to live longer healthier lives. We help reduce medical expenses, provide peer to peer support, educate and empower.

My sporting values

Sport made me who I am, and that cocktail of skills is perfect for an entrepreneur. Winning a world title, being best in the world is no different to building a successful amazing business. I am comfortable with failure. I use it to learn and to guide future directions. I am resilient. I can bounce back, from the small and the big. I never say never until it’s the end. I am strong when others are weak. I am focused when others are distracted. In sailing it was the ability to not dwell on a bad race and move onto the next one without a negative hangover. In running the start-up, it’s the ability to forget the closed doors and push forward one day at a time. I am driven by logic. I can separate personal from business. I can focus on strategic and long-term planning over short term gains. I am confident in myself and my team. However, I understand that to develop and grow we must stay humble, and balance between being confident and listening to advice.

Why sport technology?

More than that I am able to make plans for short, medium and long term, I am able to pivot and adapt to changing situations, I am cool under pressure, I am focused and dedicated, I understand the importance of my team and those around me, I can speak in public, I can hold the attention of the room, I am able to allow my team to be empowered to make decisions and drive actions, I trust those better than me in their jobs, I can think on my feet, I can network, I can celebrate the small success without losing myself and the goal, I can make goals for myself, others and the company, I can track progress and holes in delivery, I can find innovative solutions to complex issues, and I never, ever give up! All thanks to sport and being an athlete.

When all is said and done, when the sun sets and the board room is empty, I can’t help but thank my parents and all those who supported me on my journey to rule the waves and now the board room of one of the most exciting impactful companies created in the last decade.

An athlete no longer.

Sam Brearey