SGPT: Tell us about yourself?
AT: Well, I grew up in small town in western Kansas. My parents both grew up on farms, so my brother and I learned at a very young age that there was no such thing as nine to five. I was raised to be an entrepreneur and always loved sports, so it’s a dream to be able to combine the two now. My whole life I played just about every sport and was always extremely active, and that competitive aspect obviously translated into the business world. There’s not much outside of business for me. In my spare time if I’m not hanging out with my wife I’m generally doing CrossFit or playing basketball.
SGPT: What type of background did you have before coming to Progenex?
AT: My degree is in Finance, so after college I started a financial planning practice and a real estate development company. I just always knew I wanted to own businesses, so my goal was to establish credibility with as many investors as possible so that I could easily raise the necessary funds for any business endeavor that I chose to pursue. I met my current partners in 2007 at a seminar they were speaking at, and we hit it off pretty quickly. They had an interesting concept of investing in various businesses using an online portal that would automate the deal-sourcing process using a complex algorithm to gauge a business’s potential from a capital infrastructure perspective. Basically, it would quickly provide a snapshot of a business, as well as a roadmap for how to take it to the next level, enabling us to focus on deals that made sense without wasting time on the rest. I raised the cash to fund that business, and one thing led to another as we looked for intriguing companies to invest in. We got into nutraceuticals and sports nutrition, and came across Progenex in 2009. In November we funded the company, immediately partnered with CrossFit as lead sponsor of the CrossFit Games, and the rest is history.
SGPT: Tell us about the Progenex product and how that all got started.
AT: The main reason we chose to become involved with Progenex was not because of its application in sports, but rather in medicine. There are a number of very profound health outcomes that have been effected with these types of products, and we’re in the midst of various studies to establish efficacy in areas such as wound and bone healing. Along the same vein, our sports nutrition products enable a level of recovery unsurpassed by anything on the market. Athletes can recover from strenuous workouts in hours rather than days, allowing for an increase in training frequency and intensity.
SGPT: How is Progenex different from other products like say a whey protein at Walmart?
AT: Like anything in life, you typically get what you pay for. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve used proteins from the store, they make me bloated and really bother my stomach after a hard workout. I have some lactose intolerance (as many do, even if they don’t realize it), and with our product even people with high levels of intolerance typically have no issues. This is because of the quality of the ingredients, and we isolate nearly 100% of the lactose out of the protein. Most companies in this industry care about two things: price & taste. They want to be able to produce the cheapest product possible that tastes good enough for people to buy, regardless of results. Many times they source their protein from third world countries because it’s cheapest there, but unfortunately they don’t have the same kind of manufacturing standards, which is why many of the largest sports nutrition companies have caught flack for heavy metals found within their products. Just Google “consumer reports protein” and click on the first Consumer Reports link that comes up. You’ll be shocked to find that many of the protein drinks you’ve had actually contain toxic levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury if consumed three times per day.
Unlike the proteins you find at the store, Progenex focuses first and incessantly on performance. We can afford to pay for the best ingredients because our business model is direct to consumer via our website, keeping overhead, marketing and distribution costs to a minimum. So while other companies have to spend their money on infrastructure and advertising, we can spend ours on ingredients and R&D.
SGPT: For an athlete who is just starting out – what would be a good Progenex product for them to take?
AT: It depends what they’re looking for. If they’re looking to add some muscle, I would recommend More Muscle. If they’re comfortable with where they are in terms of muscle, but simply want to stay lean and recover better, I’d suggest PROGENEXRecovery. Both products will really help you lean out and recover, so it just depends on whether you’d also like to put on a few pounds of muscle as well.
SGPT: Progenex sponsors some really great athletes. Can you tell us about some of them?
AT: Yes, we have a lot of great athletes, but what’s even more impressive is the character of our athletes. They’re all such awesome people, and that makes it so easy to work with them. Obviously many of the top CrossFit athletes use Progenex, such as Chris Spealler and Graham Holmberg. Olympic weightlifters Kendrick Farris and Chad Vaughn are also big advocates, as are many of the top athletes within the NBA, MLB, and MMA. From a professional sports perspective, football was where we started, and we have players on every NFL team and many strength coaches around the league who swear by our products as well.
SGPT: How do you get the word out that Progenex is so great?
AT: That’s what makes this business so fun – we simply let the products speak for themselves. From the beginning we’ve done almost zero traditional advertising, and have focused exclusively on handing out free Recovery drinks at athletic events. We want people to experience the products for themselves, and with a single dose they can generally tell two things that will lead them to giving us a shot. First, they see that it actually tastes good, unlike most protein drinks. Second, most people will actually tell a noticeable difference in their recovery from the very first dose. Our grassroots, word-of-mouth campaign has proven to be the perfect approach within a community of results-driven athletes who care more about PR’s than BS. My sales pitch is simple: If you don’t see a significant change in your body composition, strength, and recovery within the very first bag, we’ll give you your money back. Simple enough, right?
SGPT: Whats next for you and Progenex?
AT: We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve. I don’t want to give them away just yet, but there are a few major developments in the works for 2011 and into 2012. We’ll continue to add cutting edge products to our line, and we’ll continue to innovate the business model to better serve our customers. Obviously we plan to maintain our focus within CrossFit, as well as professional and collegiate athletics. A surprising area of growth is within the strongman community, where we’ve established quite a presence despite the lack of any focused initiative in that arena (which may have to change soon). We’ve also grown into dozens of countries worldwide, and are seeing a staggering growth rate internationally – especially in Europe, Australia and Canada. But without question, our most exciting and fastest-growing segment is within Military, Police and Fire. Nobody is subjected to as much ongoing and brutal physical stress as you guys, and obviously the recovery benefits from our products can be the difference between life and death.
SGPT: Thanks for the interview, Aaron, we look forward to seeing you this summer in L.A. at the CrossFit Games.
AT: Thanks Brad, looking forward to it. Last year it was an amazing event, and I know with Reebok’s involvement, this year’s event will certainly eclipse the previous. And when you start with 25,000 competitors and whittle it down to just a handful, you know you’re going to see some special athletes and amazing performances. See you then!