Helena Powell: Conquer your inner couch potato with VentureOut

VentureOut's founder, Helena Powell, wants you to get up and get moving—in a community of other active people. Her new discovery and communication platform is an awesome way to motivate yourself by finding like-minded activity buddies near you. Find out...

Helena Powell VentureOut logoWhat inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?

VentureOut is a search and communication platform for activity enthusiasts and businesses. I thought of the idea when I was a newcomer to the Bay Area from Israel and wanted to practice activities like indoor rock climbing and salsa dancing. As I went about searching for other enthusiasts and places, I kept running into the same problem: trying to find people and communicate was a pain. I came across outdated online forums and business websites with no community aspect. There was also no good way to keep up with what was going on at the venue. That was when I realized that there is a need for a platform to connect activity enthusiasts and help activity-based businesses cultivate their community. I couldn’t really find a good solution, so I decided to build one.

I was able to find a co-founder CTO, release a beta version to iOS and validate the market with initial user feedback and traction. Currently my co-founder Adonis and I are working on the enhanced version scheduled to be released in the next month. It’s going to be a delight. I’m super excited about it.

What do you see for your future?

I’m determined to make VentureOut the leading platform connecting activity enthusiasts and businesses. The activities and fitness market deserves it.

1 in 10 people die prematurely from inactivity (heart disease, diabetes, etc.). Technology that isolates us has become a barrier to physical activity.

But the bright side is that 30 minutes of activity a day can change all that! Our goal is to decrease isolation and promote an active and healthy lifestyle. By providing a steady stream of like-minded social support and regular communication from favorite venues users can maintain an improved active lifestyle, consequently increasing the quality of life and extend lifespan.

Helena Powell VentureOut scrennshotWhat do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?

Although I’m a scrappy entrepreneur, resources are a challenge. I was able to assemble a team and validate the market with very limited recourses, but now I’m at a point where reaching future milestones requires hiring and marketing for which we need seed capital. That’s also where the opportunity is—we’re a startup with initial traction, a strong team, in a big market. We have the potential to build an amazing company and help a lot of people.

How can we help your business?

I’d love to connect to folks who get excited about what we’re doing and invest in startups. I would also love to talk to people at activity brands like REI and Patagonia, and fitness brands like 24-hour Fitness and Equinox.

Where did you grow up? How is where you came from material to your identity as an entrepreneur?

I come from a small city in southern Israel. My parents immigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union when I was five. Growing up in the southern part of Israel was—how should I say—educating. It’s a place with not much to do, not many activities for a kid. I am an only child and to escape loneliness, I would climb a tree next to my house and sit there for hours. I still remember that feeling of reaching all the way to the top, looking into the distance, having a bird’s-eye view, and dreaming of what the future holds. That’s probably where my love for climbing comes from.

Then when I was 12 my father died. It was devastating, I had a pretty hard time understanding that “Dad, who I just talked to yesterday, is gone and will never be back.” I believe that moment in my life affects a lot of my decisions as an adult. I wrote about it in a blog post, “You Are Already Naked. There Is No Reason Not to Follow Your Heart.”

At VentureOut, when I face important decisions or when I go through tough times, I come back to that thought and ask myself: If it was the last day of my life, what would I do? Steve Jobs said it best: being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful…that’s what matters.

Lastly, as an adult living in Israel I had to serve in the IDF. My service was in the tech unit of the Israeli Air Force and a lot of my work ethic and discipline originates there. I also wrote about it in a blog post, “What the IDF Taught me About Becoming an Entrepreneur.” Becoming an entrepreneur means creating something pretty much out of nothing. You have to create the map, the directions, and the destination. It’s easy for doubt to creep in. So in order to run an efficient business, you have to develop discipline and put systems in place.

Tell us a story about a success in your business? A mistake you overcame?

I see success as staying motivated through the toughest times. When I was looking for a co-founder CTO, it wasn’t easy to find the right person, and after a lot of frustration, I almost made the mistake of ending my search.  I’m glad I didn’t because I found Adonis, and he’s the ultimate co-founder.

Helena Powell VentureOut HomescreenWhat picture is on your phone’s home screen?

It’s a picture of the San Francisco Bay with Golden Gate Bridge in the background, taken at China Beach in SF. I love that spot. Whenever I have overseas visitors, I always take them there.

What do you love about being an entrepreneur?

Feeling alive. Getting out of my comfort zone. Creating something that brings joy and productivity to people’s lives. Helping people and myself live in a more pleasant world.

What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?

Solving loneliness, connecting people who understand each other. Helping activity businesses cultivate their community and stay top of mind. Making active lifestyle easier and fun to maintain. I care because I experienced the pain points. Creating a great solution will help the entire activities and fitness eco-system thrive.

What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”

Grit and Execution—going through tough times without losing hope and getting a lot done with very little.

Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now?

Richard Branson—living everyday like it was the last.

Why Richard?

He’s not afraid to say phrases like “Screw it let’s do it!” or “Fuck yeah” to express excitement and passion. He also communicates strong values of being authentic and helping people who want to make a difference. Whether it’s investing in a young female entrepreneur because she reminded him of himself when he was young, or helping a Ukrainian activist expose the truth about what’s going on in Ukraine.

Helena Powell VentureOut Rock climbingWhat’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?

As a female entrepreneur in a man’s world, you’re usually one of the unicorns in the room, which can be in your favor because it attracts attention and makes you unique. But there is also a down-side when it comes to fundraising: since there are not a lot of women entrepreneurs, there is a certain bias toward what’s common and a barrier in obtaining resources fast.

Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs?

I think when it comes to entrepreneurs—the passion of working on our businesses unites us, so the drive is similar male or female. When it comes to going after resources—male entrepreneurs might be able to close financing rounds faster because of a bias in their favor, since the business world has been dominated by men for years. To break out of that bias, we need more women entrepreneurs. And we are definitely on the right track to increasing those numbers.

Helena Powell VentureOut iconWhat is the best advice you ever got, and from whom?

I recently took a Stanford class, Unleashing Creative Innovation and Building Great Products by Ellen Petry Leanse. A few weeks before class, Ellen and I met for coffee and she shared a piece of advice that will forever resonate with me: Mindfulness—being aware and recognizing insights during the busy day-to-day routine isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it!

How can our readers keep in touch and keep up with news of VentureOut?

On Twitter, @VentureOut, Website: http://ventureout.co 
Keep in touch with me: @curiouspowell. Blog: http://helenapowell.com


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