The Latest at The Lab: April 26, 2018

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Boulder Startup Week is Coming!

Boulder Startup Week is almost here (May 14-18). As part of our continuing TPM series, Black Lab Sports is honored to host the Adventure Track series. Sessions include:

  • The Adventure Within: Pushing the Limits of Human Potential with Neuroscience, featuring:
    • Mark Williams, Former F-15C Pilot, entrepreneur, and now heading up Black Lab Sports' Cognitive Performance Institute
    • Alex Racey, Former US Army Special Operations Command and now Global Director of Executive Protection and Travel Security
    • Stay Tuned - To be Announced! 
  • How to Launch, Scale, and Survive in the Adventure Market, featuring:
    • Sue Heilbronner, CEO, MergeLane
    • Jeremy Balboni, CEO, Brooklyn Boulders
    • Ian MacGregor, CEO, Skratch Labs
  • Technology & Adventure: How Does Blockchain, AI, 3D Printing, and IOT Change the Game in the Adventure Space?, featuring:
    • Kyle Lefkoff, Founder & General Partner, Boulder Ventures
    • Meridith Unger, Founder & CEO, Nix
    • Justin Bannan, Founder & Director of Pro Advisors, Black Lab Sports
  • Charting the Course: What Innovations Will be Driving Growth by 2020?, featuring:
    • Trent Bush, Vice President of Apparel, Black Diamond
    • Shelley Dunbar, Founder & Owner, Sea to Summit
    • JP O'Brien, Founder & CEO, Black Lab Sports
  • FitTech Meetup
  • Prepare for Your Next Adventure

We want to pack The Lab with as many people as possible, so we encourage you to register here for the sessions that interest you ASAP. Please pass the link on to friends and family who might want to join as well. When it comes to sharing knowledge and building the Boulder startup community, the more, the merrier!



Inaugural TPM Forum

Our first TPM forum on AI, Big Data, and Machine Learning was a success! Thanks to everyone who came and to panelists Aaron Schram, Nate Sammons, and Greg Greenstreet for sharing their insights and framing our discussion. Stay tuned for news on the next forum!


Thank you, Trimble!

Trimble, one of Boulder's largest software companies that's doing amazing work around complex systems, sponsored last week's TPM forum. Many thanks to them and to Black Lab Sports mentor Chris Keating of SketchUp for making it happen!


Cognitive Performer Summit

As the Black Lab Sports Cognitive Performance and Training Institute becomes a reality, we're trying to be exhaustive in our research and networking in this field. Last week, Mark Williams and I attended the Cognitive Performer Summit in San Francisco, hosted by Dr. Andy Walshe and Logitech. From the vantage point of esport pros, cognitive innovators, and data breakthroughs, we explored ways to support and train those whose mastery is dominated by the cognitive realm. We can't wait to start sharing and applying our takeaways!


Dick's Sporting Goods Visit

We recently visited the Dick's Sporting Goods HQ in Pittsburgh to meet with the executive team and introduce them to several brands, including Ball Aerospace, Skratch Labs, and playPORTAL. It was a productive trip all around and we'll continue working closely with Dick's to explore potential options for later 2018 and 2019.



VaynerMedia Partnership is a Go

We're happy to announce that we officially kicked off our relationship with VaynerMedia, a high-level, full-service digital agency. isplack is partnering with a bunch of VaynerSports (an athlete representation agency) clients this summer and is already off and running in preparation.

The Latest at The Lab: April 5, 2018

To help you keep up with everything going on at Black Lab Sports, we'll be posting regular updates from our ecosystem and community right here on the blog. If you want to receive these updates by email, you can subscribe in the upper righthand corner of this page. Thanks for your involvement and interest!



Welcome, Glenn and Sara!

We're thrilled to add two members to the Black Lab Sports team: Glenn Maddocks and Sara Duncan. These two have started our Growth Division and are off to a great start with their first clients: WearBands, Climbing Addicts, and ONX Sports. Say hello when you see them around!



Dynepic Investment

We also want to welcome Krissa Watry, Jacqueline Arn, Jett Black, and Dynepic to Black Lab Sports! Dynepic, our newest investment, is a women owned and veteran owned business, funded by the National Science Foundation, that aims to inspire and safely connect the next generation to the digital world.


Flywheel: A Call for Projects


We're happy to announce that we have 11 interns joining us for the summer session of Flywheel Project starting June 5. They attend 8 colleges and have many different interests, but are all excited to spend the summer here at Black Lab Sports. 

We will be assigning the interns specific hands-on projects so they can both learn and deliver results to our companies as well as organizations outside of The Lab. If you have a project that would provide a great learning experience to our interns while also filling a need at your company, please send details to Michael O'Brien.

Thanks to all of you who helped us spread the word and attract quality applicants. We have high hopes for this next cohort!


When UFC, ONX, & BLS Collide

The UFC recently visited the ONX Sports studio inside Black Lab Sports. Take a look at the video that resulted and tune into this weekend's heated rematch between Rose Namajunas (defending strawweight champion) and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (former strawweight champion).



VaynerMedia Partnership

We're currently talking with Gary and AJ of VaynerMedia about becoming a media marketing partner. If you have experience working with them, I'd love to get your feedback and recommendations. If so, please drop me a line!



Boulder Startup Week

We're closing in on Boulder Startup Week (May 14-18), and are excited to host some sessions at Black Lab Sports! Thanks to everyone who has stepped up to participate so far. We're up to four panels and counting, so if you're interested in getting involved too, please email Chris Edmonds.



Wade Competes Internationally

BLS team member Becky Wade is chasing big goals on the global stage this spring. She recently placed 41st (2nd for Team USA) at the World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia, Spain, and is 3 weeks away from racing the London Marathon.


BLS Named Innovative Company of the Year


The Boulder Chamber of Commerce recently bestowed a great honor upon Black Lab Sports when it named us Innovative Company of the Year. Two companies and four individuals received leadership awards, which were presented during the annual Boulder Chamber Leadership Celebration, held this year at the Dairy Arts Center.

This award is humbling and exciting- validation of everything we're building here- and it's something for you to celebrate too, since each of you plays a role in our ecosystem. Thank you so much for your continued involvement. Here are two short write-ups on the award ceremony: Daily CameraBizWest

The Latest at The Lab: February 27, 2018

To help you keep up with everything going on at Black Lab Sports, we'll be posting regular updates from our ecosystem and community right here on the blog. If you want to receive these updates by email, you can subscribe in the upper righthand corner of this page. Thanks for your involvement!


The Black Lab Sports Neuroscience Lab Initiative


Our next big initiative is an exciting one: The Black Lab Sports Neuroscience Lab. Combining leading thinkers, cutting-edge technology, and the emerging field of brain technology, our vision is to lead the current paradigm shift towards brain engineering and pave the way for the next evolution in peak performance.

We'll begin by offering a suite of services and products for improving mental performance, tailoring programs to elite individuals across the spectrum of human activity: sports, business, and the military, to name a few. Then we'll take our learnings from these high-level performers and create an offering for the wider marketplace.  

Mark Williams, an F-15 combat vet and mind training expert, will be taking point on this effort. If you have ideas, technology, resources, or an interest in the topic, we'd love to talk more about our concept and explore how you can participate in this new BLS initiative. Please reach out to Mark:


UFC Visits ONX Sports


Last week, ONX Sports had some very special guests visit the studio! Representatives of the UFC stopped by to film the UFC Countdown show in advance of Trevor Wittman-coached Rose Namajunas' big fight on April 7. They spent some time learning about ONX and the purpose behind the company. 

We are on a mission to help people turn their thoughts into reality, and Trevor Wittman epitomizes what that looks like. We couldn't be happier for him and his team, and we're honored to be part of the journey. Big things to come!



2018 TPM Kickoff


We recently kicked off the 2018 TPM series, which is a passion project of mine that stands for Truth/Trust, Purpose/Plan, Mindset/Mining. It's all about developing and growing as individuals and leaders. It's part self awareness, part CEO forum, part education, part mastermind group, part practice, part support, part give, part take.

My vision is to grow this community of ThinkerDoers from 100 this year to 10,000 in 2020 and 1,000,000 in 2022. If this sounds like something that might interest you, let me know as we look ahead in preparation for our third iteration later this year.


Flywheel Graduate Looking for Next Thing


Chris Edmonds is wrapping up his stint with Flywheel Project and searching for his next opportunity in the Denver-Boulder area. Upon graduating from Williams College in 2011, Chris worked in finance and technology consulting in D.C. before joining Black Lab Sports as an intern last fall. His main interest is consumer tech and he would love to continue supporting entrepreneurs and working with early-stage companies.

Having worked with Chris for the past few months, I highly recommend him. His positivity and eagerness to learn and contribute will make him a standout team member wherever he ends up. If you're interested in talking with him, or know someone who might be, please connect with Chris here.

The Latest at The Lab: February 12, 2018

If it seems like Black Lab Sports is a little different from one visit to the next, you're right! We're growing quickly and we know it can be tough to keep track of it all. To help you out, we'll be posting regular updates from around The Lab right here on the blog. If you want to receive these updates by email, you can subscribe in the upper righthand corner of this page. Thanks for keeping up with us!


Help Us Support Flywheel Project

We all use Amazon. But did you know that Amazon donates a portion of its sales to nonprofits through AmazonSmile? Flywheel Project, our internship program with 501(c)(3) status, is an eligible and worthwhile beneficiary.

If you'd like to show your support at no extra cost, go to AmazonSmile and select Flywheel Project. Amazon will then donate 0.5% of every dollar spent on eligible AmazonSmile purchases to our in-house nonprofit. Thank you in advance for your support! 

Flywheel Project Applications

On a related note, Flywheel Project is now accepting applications for summer interns at Black Lab Sports. We're looking for college students and graduates who are interested in film and video production, software development, legal, entrepreneurship, and learning what it takes to bring a brand to market.

Black Lab Sports houses a dozen independent and portfolio companies. This diverse ecosystem is the ideal place to develop an understanding of business, art, fitness, sports, and technology. Our leadership program is designed to provide students with the experience and network needed to thrive in a future career. For more information and to apply, please go to Flywheel Project. If you know someone who might be a good fit, please share the link!



Boulder Chamber Leadership Awards

The Boulder Chamber of Commerce recently announced its 2018 leadership awards, and Black Lab Sports is honored to be on the list! We were selected as Innovative Company of the Year, which "recognizes a business that demonstrates the innovative spirit, creative problem solving, and pioneering approaches to organizational success and industry growth that exemplifies the character of Boulder's business community."

Congratulations to our good friend Sharon Matusik, the Dean of Leeds School of Business at CU, who won the Rising Star Award.

On Wednesday, March 7, from 5:30-8:30pm at the Dairy Arts Center, Boulder Chamber is hosting a Celebration of Leadership 2018 to honor all award recipients. If you want to join in the celebration, learn more about the companies and individuals who were selected, and mingle with members of Boulder's thriving business community, we encourage you to register here today.


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Find Us on The 'Gram

We know, we know... it took us a while. But Black Lab Sports is officially on Instagram! We'll be sharing daily snapshots from around The Lab as well as some thoughts on business, sports, art, and more.

Let's connect! @blacklabsports



Rick Harig.png

Harig Joins Black Lab Sports

We're delighted to welcome Rick Harig, who works for the St. Louis Cardinals in baseball operations and as a minor league pitching coach, to Black Lab Sports! With over 30 years of experience as a baseball coach for amateurs to pros, he'll be helping young pitchers reach big goals. Say hello and introduce yourself when you see him around!




Folwell Receives RAGBRAI Commission

Congratulations to Gail Folwell on her recent RAGBRAI commission! She was hired to commemorate the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, a non-competitive bicycle ride organized by The Des Moines Register and going from west to east across the state of Iowa. Dating back to 1973, RAGBRAI is the largest bike-touring event in the world. We can't wait to see what she creates!




Day in Cherry Creek Lifestyle

Fine arts painter Will Day got a nice write-up in a recent Cherry Creek Lifestyle issue: Painting a World of Emotion with Will Day by Kelsey Huffer. Click the link to learn where Will sees his career going and why. Be sure to scroll through the photos of him at work in his Black Lab Sports studio!

The 2017 Black Lab Sports Holiday Gift Guide

Overwhelmed by holiday shopping? Looking for that special gift and out of ideas?

Black Lab Sports has got you covered! We rounded up some of our favorite sports products on the market that we think make perfect presents. Even better, these products are brought to you by companies that we think are worth getting to know. So make a dent in your holiday to-do list, and knock out some shopping with our suggestions below:

BLS Holiday Gift Guide 2017.png

1. isplack: ($8.99) Whether on the field or in the stands, help someone get their colors on with one of 13 colors of high-quality eyeblack. From Back in Black to Power Pink, isplack is the perfect stocking stuffer.

2. IRON GRIP Iron Olympic Plates: (call for pricing) With fully integrated handgrips and a 12-sided design, these Olympic plates are ideal for the lifting enthusiast with home gym aspirations.

3. Soccer Sidekick Training Ball: ($54.99) Shopping for soccer players? Give them the Soccer Sidekick training ball, which allows for game-like passing and receiving with every part of their body—without a partner.

4. Pure Cycles Original Bike: ($329) This best-selling bike combines speed, style, and affordability to create an exemplary riding experience. Choose from several models and colors, and give someone special a gift to remember.  

5. Epoch Lacrosse Hawk Sequel Head: ($99.99) The Hawk Sequel men’s lacrosse head was inspired by Italian supercars and engineered for two-handed dodgers seeking maximum speed, power, and control. Check out the Prequel for the one-handed dodger, and the Purpose for the female player.

6. RAD Roller Rounds: ($16.00) Give the sore, tight, or tense person on your list these three balls (small, medium, large) that offer targeted release for tight spaces. Who doesn’t need a little tension release this time of year, after all?

7. Epoch Lacrosse Dragonfly 8 Lacrosse Shaft: ($139.99) Help a friend or family member take his lacrosse game to the next level with an Epoch Carbon Fiber/Composite shaft (see the Purpose for females). Better yet, combine it with the Hawk Sequel or Purpose head, and gift a winning stick.

8. IRON GRIP Dumbbells: (call for pricing) Help the weight lifter in your life complete his or her home gym with a set of these superior dumbbells. Choose from the Urethane and Solid Steel models, and customize the handles for maximum comfort.

9. RAD Roller All-In Kit: ($140) Unsure which recovery tool to gift? Go for the works! The All-In Kit includes the RAD Roller, Rounds, Rod, Helix, and Block, and is meant for head-to-toe treatment and recovery.

10. CAN-ICE Synthetic Ice System: (call for pricing) Endorsed by Hockey Canada, CAN-ICE looks, feels, and performs just like real ice, indoors and out. Customize the rink size to any space, and make a hockey player or figure skater very happy for seasons to come.

11. Play Impossible Gameball: ($99) Named one of CNN’s 14 hottest toys this holiday season, the inflatable Gameball has a small “brain” inside that connects via Bluetooth to the Play Impossible app. Use the app for progress tracking, score keeping, game playing, and more.

12. Pure Cycles Nightlight: ($9) Another great stocking stuffer, these nightlights add extra visibility and a splash of color to any ride. A set comes with both front (white) and rear (red) lights, and is the perfect addition to a Pure Cycles bike.

13. ONX X-Factor Training Gloves: ($269.00) Engineered by an 18-time world champion coach and worn by two world champion fighters (and counting), these gloves combine performance, protection, fit, and feel to improve performance and keep hand injuries at bay.


Gift talk aside, whatever you’re celebrating right now—whether a religious holiday or the start of a new year—I hope it’s a special one, full of family, friends, joy, and reflection.

Thanks, as always, for being part of our community. We’ll see you in 2018!

The Inaugural Black Lab Sports Investor Showcase


Not too long ago, Black Lab Sports was an empty warehouse and a big idea. We knew we wanted to build something great inside these walls, but we didn’t know exactly how it would roll out, who would contribute, or what shape it would take.

Fast forward a few years to Tuesday, November 13, 2017, at our inaugural Black Lab Sports Investor Showcase. A group of investors gathered in that same space (which is now part of a vibrant ecosystem) to learn about the future of Black Lab Sports and how they might get involved.

Justin Bannan and I set the scene for our guests. We described our successes to date and presented our plan for Black Lab Sports Fund II. We demonstrated why now is a great time for startups and entrepreneurs to enter the sports market, and why our unconventional investment process is working. Instead of taking a product focus, we start by identifying the right founders. Then we surround them with a great team, we invest our time, energy, and money in them, and we coach and develop them to achieve greatness. We understand investing, and with Fund II we will invest in 15 to 30 companies whose founders are what I call Thinker-Doers. Our goal is to set them on a trajectory to do what they love and to provide superior returns to investors.

Next, four founders that operate within the Black Lab Sports ecosystem (and three of which are part of the Fund I portfolio) spoke about their journeys so far. If you want more than the snapshots offered below, I highly encourage you to connect with the founders:


1.     Aaron Beach (president, co-founder, and COO of isplack): After launching at the 2014 World Lacrosse Games in Denver, the isplack team learned that getting into major retailers was really hard. But they had a product they believed in (high-quality, colored eyeblack) and a mission they felt strongly about: uniting athletes, teams, and fans through color. Three years later, isplack is the #1 eyeblack sold in the US, an Amazon bestseller, and on the shelves of big retailers including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Academy Sports. isplack has a new product line in the works and exciting plans to go global in 2018.


2.     Trevor Wittman (founder of ONX Sports and an 18-time world champion coach): A former pro snowboarder, Trevor was constantly seeing new innovations on the slopes, but none to speak of in combat sports. He decided to fill that void with improved design and technology. First prototyping more protective gloves in his gym and basement, Trevor recently moved his workspace to Black Lab Sports, where he can be found developing and marketing the next generation of combat equipment. He’s just beginning, but his gloves are already in 11 countries and protecting the hands of two world champion fighters.


3.     Ryan Woltz (founder of ēdn, Techstars alumni, and SharkTank guest): After a start in a traditional engineering job, Ryan took inventory of his life and reemerged as an entrepreneur. With ēdn, he’s now on a mission to “bring life to where you live” by making growing easy, beautiful, and automated. His world-class and beautifully designed SmallGarden is already making waves in the home gardening industry, and it will soon be joined by the WallGarden and other high-tech, low-stress growing vessels for herbs, vegetables, and flowers.


4.     Meredith Unger (founder of Nix and a college basketball-player-turned runner): By and large, people are guessing their fluid needs—unfortunately, with little accuracy. Not only is even mild depletion performance-compromising, it can be dangerous. Thankfully, those negative effects are 100% preventable, and Nix is committed to spreading that message and the tools to achieve it. The solution is an affordable and disposable patch-based hydration sensor. From endurance athletes and team players to military members and laborers, Nix has tremendous potential to change the hydration game.


Finally, we were privileged to hear from John Peters, one of our executive mentors and a senior director of SFIA (Sports & Fitness Industry Association). All the way from Washington, D.C., John stopped by The Lab to talk about SFIA and why it matters to founders and investors in the sports space. SFIA is the trade association of leading industry sports and fitness brands, suppliers, retailers, and partners. From bat specifications to safety gear rules, SFIA helps sports companies and all of us involved in athletics navigate these important implications. SFIA is also the ultimate source for research data on sports participation, market, and more. Even if you didn’t know it, you’ve probably benefitted from SFIA at one time or another!

That’s a wrap on our first Black Lab Sports Investor Showcase. If you were present for the event, thank you for being with us and expressing interest. For those of you who could not make it or are not already part of our community, we’d love to have you join us. If you’re interested in learning more about our Fund II or any of the founders mentioned above, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Fear vs Purpose - Your Move.

Twitter, social media, and the media in general have become a dumping ground for fear driven messaging. Have you noticed?

The only thing we can ever truly control is our thoughts and how we choose to respond to any input. Inputs come in two forms: externally through our 5 basic senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste), and internally through our 6th sense, our creative imagination, or our emotions, which are often triggered by an external input. 

We cannot control these inputs. They happen every second. From the weather, to your family interactions, to politics, to violence, to work interactions, to the stock market, and the list goes on. 

But we each have a choice.  We can choose how we react to each input and how we act based on our situational awareness. We act based on fear or purpose, there is no alternative. 

Every action you perform, starts with a thought. Without first having thought, your brain cannot instruct your body to perform an action. Writing this blog, for example, came from a thought, and now I am typing these words. Each finger press into the keyboard is a mini thought processed and executed. This is why thoughts are so powerful; and control over your thoughts will change your life.

Thoughts are created through the catalyst of the inputs we experience, some we generate, but most come from our environment. Our thoughts are either purpose driven or fear driven.

Let's examine fear based thoughts first. There are six basic fears that we experience:

  • Fear of Death
  • Fear of Ill Health
  • Fear of Old Age
  • Fear of Loss of Love
  • Fear of Criticism
  • Fear of Poverty

When we stand on the edge of a cliff or have a gun pointed at us, our brain tells us there is danger. This is a natural result of the Fear of Death. If we receive a call from the hospital telling us that our parent is there and we should come right away, we experience the Fear of Loss of Love. If we lose our job or the stock market crashes, we have the Fear of Poverty. 

We cannot control those external inputs, and we should not try to ignore the fear that they generate. The fear is a signal that you care deeply about something.

Most people react to fear and create thoughts that are fear-based and fear-motivated.

Very few people actually view fear in the correct manner. We should view fear as a signal to tell us that what we really care about is in danger, and we must create new thoughts in response. 

If you have identified your core purpose, you can learn, through lots of practice, to transform every input into an action that is driven by your purpose. 

I believe that with your core purpose in mind, you choose to create thoughts that lead to actions that direct you closer to your core purpose, not reactions to fears based on inputs out of your control.

Tis the Season to be Grateful

We saw snow over a month ago, and have been hearing Mariah Carey’s Christmas album pour from department stores for weeks—but we still feel pretty on top of it. Last Tuesday, a full nine days before Thanksgiving, Black Lab Sports officially kicked off the holiday season the best way we know how: a party!

Thanks to our friends at J.P. Morgan Chase, who hosted their annual holiday party at Black Lab Sports, we celebrated the start of this special time of year with good food, plentiful drinks, live music, fine art, and first-rate company. It was a joyful evening and a timely reminder that we have so much to be thankful for.

As the holiday madness approaches, we want to take a moment to let you, our community, know that we value and appreciate you. Whether you’re a founder, investor, executive mentor, pro athlete advisor, family member, intern, colleague, or simply a friend of Black Lab Sports: Thank you. Without all of you, we might still be dreaming rather than doing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy these shots from the holiday kickoff party:

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Real Talk after a First Round KO

 The Staredown: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas. (from

The Staredown: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas. (from

At Black Lab Sports, we spend a lot of energy identifying and investing in the right people. Beyond sales growth and business accomplishments, what matters, and what attracts us to certain founders and their teams in the first place, is the values and work ethic on which they operate. Trevor Wittman of ONX Sports is a perfect example.

There’s no question that Trevor is a phenomenal coach. Currently an 18-time world champion coach, he’s creating quite a legacy in the world of combat sports. What’s cool about Trevor though, is that his legacy is equal parts record and character—and the same goes for the athletes he trains. Last weekend’s UFC World Championship match, featuring his own Rose Namajunas in the strawweight class, was a great representation of the type of camp Trevor runs and the kinds of athletes he invests in.

Rose was a 6-1 underdog the day before the event. She was up against Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland, the #1 pound-for-pound female MMA fighter in the world. Joanna had been verbally vicious all week and postured herself as the heavy favorite going in. Take a look at her pre-fight staredown with Rose, and note the stark difference in their words and actions (3 minutes):


Now watch what happens in the ring (4 minutes). Imagine the kind of poise and self-belief that Rose needed to face an opponent who’d been thumping her chest all week long:


But most importantly, see how Rose handles the outcome and the message she sends afterwards (2 minutes). Rather than soaking in individual glory, she exudes humility and grace and uses her platform to do good.  *If you watch just one video, make it this one!


Thanks, Rose and Trevor, for using sport as a conduit for self-improvement and connection. We’re proud of all that you do, but especially the way that you do it.

We All Need a Team

By Becky Wade


Eight days ago, I toed the line at the Chicago Marathon. After several months of focused training, many weeks over 100 miles, a few positive races, and hardly any setbacks, I felt ready to go. I was rested, my workouts indicated I was in personal record shape, and I was prepared to dig extraordinarily deep.

The race did not go as planned. A stitch that lingered for most of the race, making it hard to breathe and take fluids, derailed my breakthrough and tested my pride. Instead of blasting the last 10K—the way I’ve run my best marathons—I was the one staggering toward the finish line, trying to stay upright and praying no one else blew by me. Ultimately, I finished in 10th place (in 2:35). Though I matched my ranking going into the race, my performance and result were tough to swallow.

The texts and e-mails started rolling in soon after I finished. And right up in there, along with my extended family and former teammates (my immediate family was with me in Chicago) were notes of support from my Black Lab Sports colleagues. Having followed along my build-up for the last few months, they were intentional about tracking the race or looking up results, and they let me know that they cared how I did. None of them are distance runners (though there are collegiate swimmers, lacrosse players, and football players among them), and they didn’t yet know how the race unfolded or how I felt about it. But receiving their messages and returning to work a few days later to a whole lot of support, tons of questions about my experience, and a much-needed sense of normalcy, meant a lot to me.

It’s moments like these that I’m especially thankful for my life outside of running—where I do work that challenges and excites me but isn’t really about me; where I have more structure and balance in my life than I would were I just running; and where I’m part of two teams (Black Lab Sports and isplack) that value me equally for my work in the office and on the pavement. So thank you, JP, Justin, Peter, Aaron, Olja, Zach, Cooper, Steve, Lindsay, Michael, Jen, and the many others who work at or visit The Lab and have shown me support in some way. I appreciate it all, and am already dreaming about my next crack at 26.2.

 some of the team

some of the team

Denver Startup Week Show Notes


By Becky Wade

Thanks to those of you who joined Black Lab Sports at Denver Startup Week last Tuesday! We enjoyed interacting with you all and hope you gained some insight into what it takes to make it as a sports startup. If nothing else, hopefully you were inspired to take massive action towards turning an idea into reality, no matter how formidable and daunting it may seem.


In addition to sharing the Black Lab Sports story, JP and Justin were joined on stage for a Q&A session by two special guests, professional sportsmen, entrepreneurs, and friends: Jake Plummer, former NFL Quarterback and co-founder of Readylist Pro; and Trevor Wittman, 17-time world champion coach and founder of ONX Sports. JP served as moderator while Justin, with a 12-year NFL career, represented isplack. If you missed the presentation, here are a few quotes that stood out:


JP O'Brien and Justin Bannan, Black Lab Sports:

"We go through this six-step process: Decide - Envision - Believe - Act - Gratefulness - Awe." - JP

"Instantly with Black Lab Sports, I found I had value I could bring to the table. And I was on a search... I knew I had something to bring to the table while I could learn." -Justin (before becoming a co-founder of isplack)

"You've got to love the hard work. Just because we're here and we've done these things doesn't mean it was super easy. It was really hard, right? ... It's all about understanding the struggle is a necessary ingredient. You have to have the struggle." -JP

"We have two major rules at our company: Give First, and No Assholes." -JP

"We are really interested in building and investing in leaders who understand and practice this concept of turning thoughts into reality." -JP

"Not to be cheesy, but 'you build it and they will come.' We created this ecosystem and we have a true, live vision of what we want to create and how we want to impact." -Justin


Jake Plummer, Readylist Pro

"More than anything, it's surrounding yourself... coming back to a team. Because I never would have done anything that I accomplished as a football player without my trust in my guys on my team... So having guys around you in the business world, finding the right ones, that's been a big challenge... you've got to find ways to vet them and have people you can trust."

"Some of the challenges are just getting over your own ego and getting over your own doubts, and making those calls. And hey, if they hang up on you, then call the next guy."


Trevor Wittman, ONX Sports:

"I fell in love with chasing what scared me."

"I never cried after winning a boxing match. But almost any time that one of my athletes won a fight, or even the people that I'm working with that are in the gym but aren't fighting... it would make me emotional."

"(JP) asked me about my purpose... and he helped me find that externalizing the internal champion is really what my purpose is. Once I really found that, everything fit together... everything in my whole life has been about it."


Justin Bannan, isplack:

"It wasn't about the eyeblack; it was about the mindset, the concept, how (JP) approached it."

"The ups and downs of football... it's a lot like entrepreneurism or starting a company."

"It's very important to me that people believe in me in this new route in life. It's powerful."


Again, we really appreciate everyone who joined us at Denver Startup Week. It was great to gather in a room full of people eager to learn, innovate, and do great things. As always, if you're interested in continuing the conversation, please contact us here

See you next time!

Black Lab Sports at Denver Startup Week

Curious about what it takes to make it as a sports startup? Interested in hearing from pros from both the sports and business worlds?


You’re in luck! Justin Bannan and I will be representing Black Lab Sports at Denver Startup Week on Tuesday, September 26, and we'd love to see you there. Our session is called "Building an Ecosystem for Success in Sports Startups" and this is the premise:

Building a sustainable business in the sports industry is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs, athletes, and investors alike. The diversity of the customer base and multiple verticals for growth make the sports industry engaging, exciting, and profitable. But the opportunities are balanced by their challenges. Black Lab Sports is a sports-focused venture capital firm building an ecosystem where sports startups can avoid the pitfalls of the industry. Hear from those who are building, thinking, and doing in the space: from professional athletes turned entrepreneurs to sports industry veterans to professional team executives. Speakers include:

 Jake Plummer

Jake Plummer

 Trevor Wittman

Trevor Wittman

Here are the details:


We hope you’ll join us on Tuesday!

Be great.

Black Lab Sports Sends Relief Supplies to Houston

By Becky Wade


Last week, as Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston, the Black Lab Sports team went into action mode. With a dock, warehouse, distribution center, and committed trucking partners, we had a unique ability to respond and no excuse not to.

So we put out a request to our Denver/Boulder friends for food, water, and monetary donations. And over the course of the week, family members, companies, friends, and strangers came forward to answer the call. Our collection expanded from water and non-perishables to also include food for individuals with allergies, as well as cleaning supplies, diapers, and even pet food.


The generosity didn’t stop there. Monetary donations trickled into our Venmo account, about two dozen volunteers stopped by to sort and pack, and two trucking companies donated their vehicles and drivers to deliver goods to our warehouse and then to the Houston Food Bank. By loading time, we had accumulated nearly three dozen pallets of food and supplies—enough to fill an 18-wheeler.


To everyone who contributed: You stepped up, and for that we’re so grateful. We can’t mention you all by name, but Aaron Beach (president of isplack and mastermind of the drive) and I want to extend a special “thank you” to the companies that went above and beyond: Navajo, YRC, Quinn Foods, Jackson’s Honest, Purely Elizabeth, Boulder Clean, Sweetlife Co., Foundry Group, BC Interiors, isplack, EDN, and REVO. We couldn’t have done this without you.


Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring 4 favorite discoveries or inspirations. This week's picks come from Aaron Beach, COO of Black Lab Sports, President and COO of isplack, father of 3, and official grillmaster at The Lab.

 (sources: Dicks, Amazon)

(sources: Dicks, Amazon)

  • PERSON: Sam Beach. This is my now 11-year-old son who has been told since he was 1 year old that touching and eating dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish and many other foods would cause severe anaphylaxis. He has overcome all of these fears and is slowly conquering his food allergies while never wanting to live his life in a bubble. His strength as a young person has inspired me that I can do anything.
  • PRODUCT: Of course it is isplack. This product is amazing and has only bridged the surface exposure. It is always exciting to see players, fans, and anyone else that wants to wear, unite and express themselves in color. isplack also is a product that pushed me out of my comfort zone and has taught me personally so much about business.
  • CONCEPT: Work hard and don't be an asshole. When these two things are combined, good things happen. 
  • BOOK: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. The stories and concepts represented in this book challenge me every day. One quote from this book summarizes the concepts of Desire, Faith and Auto-suggestion for me: "Victory is possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting."



Thank you for participating and inspiring, Aaron! 



What are your #tpt?

Flywheel Wrap-up, Part I

After a summer full of learning, working, and collaborating, Flywheel Project has successfully completed its first turn. For the last three months, our 11 interns have immersed themselves in projects at The Lab and throughout Boulder, gaining experience in everything from street activation and fan engagement to fine arts marketing and event sponsorships. They represented Black Lab Sports well through it all, and each of them was integral to the launch of this ongoing program.

Here’s a glimpse into what Flywheel has been up to since our earlier recap (found at



Broncos Training Camp Kids Day (before): Five isplack representatives got the crowd fired up during Kids Day at Broncos Training Camp, which also doubled as Miles the Mascot’s birthday. In addition to a lot of eager kids, party guests included mascots from around the state, such as Dinger from the Rockies, Edson the Eagle from the Rapids, and Rocky from the Nuggets.



Broncos Training Camp Kids Day (after): In about five hours of isplack-applying, the team was able to help an estimated 60% of the training camp crowd get its colors on. All of that True Blue and Electric Orange swiping left them exhausted, proud, and very popular in the eyes of the many young Broncos fans.



Mile High Stadium Tour: The Flywheel team took a trip down to Mile High Stadium before the start of a very exciting football season. Hearing from some of the top brass and learning about the challenges of operating a stadium on gameday shed new light on what goes on behind the scenes of one of the country's most popular sports.



iSplack College Gameday Photo Shoot: No one can relate to college students like college students. To kick off isplack’s fall football marketing campaign, Flywheel members orchestrated a photo shoot to show off the colors of the Top 25 NCAA Division I teams.



Broncos Block Party: Flywheel Project attended the first Broncos Black Party featuring Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness and hosted by iHeartRadio. The goal of the evening was scouting potential projects and activation opportunities for the group.



TedxMileHigh: Exposure and connection to the greater Colorado community is one of the program’s main objectives. Along those lines, a Flywheel Project intern spent two days at TedxMileHigh in Denver, during which he listened to experts speak about diversity and equality. You can find Kirby’s blog on his experience here.



The Gold Cup Soccer Tournament: Four Flywheel members brought energy and color to yet another pro sports event, this time at the Gold Cup soccer tournament in Denver. First engaging with fans at the pre-game tailgate and then posting up at stadium entrances with their isplack sticks, the team was able to help fans of four different teams (Mexico vs. Jamaica, Curaçao vs. El Salvador) celebrate and support the sport they love.


With one Flywheel Project turn completed and many more to come, we’re still refining the system and finding out how best to teach and utilize our young leaders. All in all, it was a great summer with lots of learning on both sides of the program. On behalf of everyone at Black Lab Sports and isplack, we want to thank Henry, Suzanna, Jake, Mike, Kirby, Connor, Michael, Hunter, Sophia, Nick, and Roy, for opening their minds and sharing their skills with us this summer. It’s been a pleasuring having all of you in The Lab, and we look forward to watching each of you thrive in your various pursuits.

Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring 4 favorite discoveries or inspirations from the last week. This week's picks come from Lindsay McIntosh, senior at the University of Colorado, passionate traveler, and fabulous isplack intern.

 (sources: amazon, lululemon)

(sources: amazon, lululemon)

  • PERSON: I have too many wonderful people in my life to pick one, so I am going to say everyone that I work with every day at isplack! From the second that I walked in the door for my first interview, this office has felt like home. The culture in this office is unlike any other, and to constantly be surrounded by genuine, uplifting people is truly amazing. 
  • PRODUCT: Lululemon leggings. They are hands down the comfiest pants that I have ever worn, and anytime I try to wear something else, I immediately regret it. They’re great for yoga/working out (two of my favorite past times), sitting at a desk all day, and pretty much any other occasion you can think of. If I ever wear jeans to work, the first thing I do when I get home is change back into my lulus. 
  • CONCEPT: TRAVELING! You can learn almost everything that you need to know through traveling. It is the only time you can totally immerse yourself into another culture and experience the way that other people live. You learn about the types of food you like to eat, the type of people you enjoy being around, and the kind activities that make you the happiest. Traveling is what I love to do most, and at this point in my life every paycheck that I earn is spent planning my next adventure. 
  • BOOK: Hard to pick one in particular, but the book that I just finished this past weekend titled When Breath Becomes Air was particularly compelling to me. After working so hard his whole life and being very close to finishing his residency, a young neurosurgeon gets diagnosed with lung cancer. The book was very inspiring because even when faced with mortality, this young man continued to live his life as if he would live forever doing what he loved to do most. 


Thanks so much for sharing your top picks, Lindsay! 



What are your #tpt?

Leadership is a Choice. Choose to Lead.

By Zach Murphy



Those of us who work at Black Lab Sports visualize success and work tirelessly to get there. To us, success entails giving first and unleashing greatness in others. Our vision expands beyond Boulder, Colorado, and the United States, and we’re constantly seeking new spaces to lead.

One recent exploration took place at The Sport Performance Summit hosted by Leaders, at which I represented Black Lab Sports. Held over two days at Chicago's Soldier Field, the event featured a variety of speakers that highlighted practices and experiences with the potential to enhance human performance. The motto of the summit was "Worth Knowing," which supports the idea that the responsibility of a leader goes beyond his or her job description. The best leaders are also great people, setting a positive example and living out their visions.

At Black Lab Sports, we recognize the importance of investing our energy into others. In line with that commitment, I went to the conference with a goal of gaining concrete takeaways and encouraging fellow attendees to take an active role in talent development and mentorship of future leaders. We believe it’s not the size of an organization that matters. It’s the impact.




Three Notable Speakers

The Sport Performance Summit included an impressive and diverse speaker lineup, featuring Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanuel, US women’s soccer coach Jill Scott, former Chicago Cubs catcher John Baker, and one of the highest ranking officers in our armed forces General Lori Robinson. And that was just day one. Among over a dozen sessions I attended, three stood out from the rest:

1. Ryan Towey (eSports coach) and Jill Ellis (US women’s soccer coach)

It’s a testament to the emerging eSports market that a professional video game coach and the coach of the US women’s national soccer team would share a stage at a major conference. A key difference between coaching these two sports is the players' access to feedback. While soccer players usually have to wait until halftime to make major changes, eSports players receive real-time input. On the other hand, the two sports are similar in their use of video, which offers post-play feedback from game situations. Comparing these very different types of sports is valuable because it gives us a view into the future of sports markets, and shows how more traditional sports can learn and benefit from newer, tech-based ones. With this knowledge, our assumptions about video games and gamers are challenged. If eSports continues down the path it's on, we will have to continue evaluating its impact on health and society.

2. Sydney Finkelstein (author of Superbosses)

“Your job is to do things that I haven't even thought of.” According to Sydney Finkelstein, Superbosses are leaders who generate and re-generate talent over the course of their careers. He referenced leaders such as Ralph Lauren, Alice Waters, George Lucas, and Bill Walsh, all of whom sought out talent in untapped pools and then developed it in mass. Black Lab Sports’ small step in this direction is Flywheel Project, our leadership development program for high school and college students.

 Source: @leaders_insight on Instagram

Source: @leaders_insight on Instagram

3. Mike Brey (Notre Dame basketball coach) and Matt Painter (Purdue basketball coach)

As collegiate coaches, Mike Brey and Matt Painter consider building positive, high-performing cultures integral to their quests for organizational and team success. Part of that entails establishing trust between coaches, players, and parents. They encourage their players to take ownership and they allow individuals opportunities to step up and lead. Each coach has a mantra that captures a piece of his mindset. Brey’s message to his Notre Dame team is: “Who is selling my shit when I am not around?” In other words, how will his players model the culture away from the court? And Painter’s mantra for Purdue is: “We are all about you if you are all about us,” emphasizing the value of engagement and personal ownership on and off the court.


Following Up

The week before I left for Chicago, I prepared by executing an hour of visualization and goal-setting. I believe doing so helped pave the way for the lessons and connections I gained during my time at the Sport Performance Summit in Chicago. I’ve already followed up with a handful of the people I met there, who are modeling leadership in their own ways and inspiring me to do the same.

It’s valuable to gain knowledge, but above all, relationships come first. I look forward to seeing how these connections manifest in the months to come.

Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring four favorite discoveries or inspirations from the last week. This week's picks come from the inaugural turn of Flywheel Project, our three-month experiential learning program for future leaders.

 (sources: gofitu, amazon, uw-greenbay, dicks)

(sources: gofitu, amazon, uw-greenbay, dicks)

  • PERSON: Sarah Gaines, founder of Fit University. Fit University is a community of college students on a mission to get fit and stay fit. It is both an online and offline community where students and alumni can share their knowledge and experiences about living their own healthy lives across the country. Fit University is currently present at over 40 universities thanks to their successful ambassador program.
  • PRODUCT: Spikeball. Speaks for itself. The 4-person crossover sport mixing volleyball and four square has changed our lives and taken over our lunch breaks at Black Lab Sports. Easy to set up and small enough to bring anywhere, Spikeball is the perfect game whether you are going to the beach, the park, or simply staying in your backyard.
  • CONCEPT: Color Perception Theory. Does the color I perceive as “red” look the same to another person? Those who are color blind perceive colors differently than those with normal vision because one or more of the three photoreceptors in their eyes is faulty, causing them to not see certain colors or a range of colors. This brings up the question of whether color is perceived differently in each individual's brain, or if humans as a whole have a default way to perceive color.
  • BOOK: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t. Jim Collins explores what causes small companies to make the transition from merely Good to truly Great. He uses specific financial metrics along with deductive reasoning to support his claim. He argues that the leaders in a company must have both humility and resolve in order for their company to make the leap from Good to Great. 


A special thanks to Hunter Paulson, who compiled these picks on behalf of Flywheel Project. And many thanks to the whole team for your hard work all summer!



What are your #tpt?

Meet Gail Folwell, Sculptor, Athlete, and Entrepreneur

Gail Folwell needs to sculpt.

One class was all it took to send the successful designer careening down a career path she’d never envisioned. Having signed up for a one-day Intro to Oil-Based Clay class at the zoo, Folwell sculpted the easiest animal she could find—a hippo—and then “freaked out.”

Unlike painting, illustration, printmaking, or design, Folwell said she instantly had “a thousand things in my head that I need(ed) to manifest. Up until then my art was responsive, client needs or I had to search for subject matter that intrigued me. This medium was so natural, it was too exciting to deny.”

While exhilarating, the leap into a new career came with some surprises. In her first night class, Folwell sculpted a nude female from life. “It looked just right, proportion, scale, gesture”—exactly like her subject. Enter, the teacher. “So, you can sculpt, but she’s DEAD,” he said. This was a startling lesson that would have lasting implications. “You’re not sculpting what she is,” he told her. “You’re sculpting what you see. You have to feel the essence that is of interest to you.” So Folwell started making what was in her head.

And then she needed galleries. “Finding design clients was easy,” Folwell remembers. “There was a fast pace, camaraderie, business, deadlines, money to be made… it was fun.” Making art for only herself and putting her artistic and financial fate in the hands of her galleries didn't have the same allure. So she set her sights on commissions and public art, where she could once again identify projects, choreograph concepts from beginning to end, navigate the pressures of money and deadlines, and build relationships with clients.

The emotional component Folwell had lacked at the start turned out to be career-defining. Anyone can learn a craft, she believes. But “to move from being really good at your craft to creating art is the point at which you transcend what it looks like and start to manifest what it feels like. Emotive experiences drive the design and handling of the material.” When she started sculpting what she loves, her career took off.

Folwell's masterpieces can now be found enhancing spaces and stirring up feelings all over the country and increasingly across the globe. Some of her most beloved include ‘The Edge,’ a dynamic downhill skier that pays tribute to Vail, Colorado’s Olympic and World Cup Athletes; ‘Tête à Tête,’ two figures housed in the Denver Art Museum that evoke unique interpretations depending on the viewer’s perspective; and ‘The NFL Draft,’ a larger-than-life offensive line postured on the Pro Football Hall of Fame parade route in Canton, Ohio.

Obviously, Folwell is passionate about sports. In addition to dabbling in everything from tennis and gymnastics to ski racing and professional mountain biking, she’s been marveling at athletes for as long as she can remember. When she was young, she made and sold sports-inspired wire sculptures to her parents’ friends (revealing her earliest glimpses of entrepreneurship). Standing next to any of her sculptures of athletes today, it’s clear that Folwell has a deep-seated “appreciation for body mechanics and kinesiology, and what the human machine can do." The fun for her is figuring out how to sculpt the human body “so it looks like it’s not stopped but loaded, emotionally and physically.”

Fortunately, Folwell doesn’t have to venture far to find inspiration. Ever since moving Folwell Studios to Black Lab Sports a year and a half ago, she’s had an abundance of athletically-minded people to turn to: the men of Revo PT and their sporty clients; entrepreneurs from startups like isplack, ONX, and CAN-ICE; and individuals from interns all the way up to founders with backgrounds in competitive (even professional) sports. CEO JP O’Brien’s commitment to bringing together left- and right-brained people in one space, to Folwell, creates “a totally symbiotic relationship.” She and fine arts painter Will Day balance out the logical, scientific, and business-oriented individuals on the other side, and together they comprise a powerful team. “Everybody here is a creative with an end goal to manifest something they have imagined,” Folwell said. “We all make products that enhance the sport experience. I do it with art and these guys do it with innovative equipment.”

While maybe the most recognizable, sport is just one of several themes that emerge throughout Folwell’s work. When prompted, I couldn’t come up with one she hasn’t yet explored: birth, death, love, anger, passion, animal—they’re all in her repertoire. Her latest project, Handle the Art (a collection of pulls, knobs, and door handles meant to “change the way you think about cabinet hardware”), demonstrates her incredible range. Abstract faces, muscular bodies, headless torsos, and communicative hands are all part of the collection and are no doubt prompting many conversations in the rooms they adorn.

While disparately themed, Folwell’s pieces are all connected on a deep level. With a visible platform, she feels a sense of responsibility to affect people positively and connect with others through her work. Put simply, Folwell’s core purpose is to Inspire, teach and heal with art. In one season of life, that might mean a memorial sculpture following a tragedy like the Oklahoma City bombing, the 9/11 attacks, or the death of a parent. In another, that might mean a celebratory piece featuring a freestyle swimmer or a giant pitcher greeting ballpark guests. No matter what Folwell feels moved to create, she believes, “If it comes from my soul and it goes into the art… that light can affect the person who’s seeing it.”

For me, the impact is more than emotional; it’s visceral. While admiring her sports sculptures especially, I find myself generating pre-race butterflies, or replaying a special race memory, or urgently wanting to test my body’s limits. The essence of her subjects is present and intense. But don’t don’t take my word for it. Visit Folwell Studios inside Black Lab Sports or any of the public spaces that house her work and let the masterpieces speak for themselves. I can’t predict your personal response, but I guarantee you’ll feel something—be it connected or joyful or motivated or sentimental. That my experience may be different from yours, based on where we come from and how we interpret the world, is precisely Folwell’s point.



Find Folwell’s amazing portfolio at

Keep up with her latest creations on Instagram (@FolwellStudios) and Twitter (@FolwellStudios).

Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring four favorite discoveries or inspirations from the last week. This week's picks come from Steve Eovine, a Boston native, outdoor enthusiast, and finance expert who's helping Black Lab Sports entrepreneurs reach their goals.



  • PERSON: I have a deep admiration for Kevin Garnett.  He played most of his NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics.  When he was traded to Boston in 2008, he singlehandedly changed the culture of the Celtics franchise, from a group of individuals to a close-knit team of players and executives.  His leadership didn’t come solely from his basketball ability; he led through example, outworking opponents and teammates every day.  He was also a great role model in the community.
  • PRODUCT: I am not very tech savvy, but my iPhone has become an irreplaceable item.  I rely on this device for everything: managing my calendar, all forms of communication, music, managing my finances, and performing research on the internet. In the morning, I reach for my iPhone before anything else, including coffee!!
  • CONCEPT: It’s amazing how sometimes you can effectively apply a concept from one subject to something completely different.  There is a concept in accounting called “Accounting Controls” where you develop steps in a process to ensure completeness and accuracy.  This practice has served me well in so many other aspects of my career.  It taught me to always double check my work.
  • BOOK: The book Wild by Cheryl Strayed had a profound impact on me.  Her story chronicled the journey she took to re-discover herself while hiking 2,000 miles up the Pacific Crest trail in California.  I had a similar experience last year, leaving my career behind to travel the world and forge a new path in life.  It brought me to Colorado where the journey continues…


Thanks for spreading the inspiration, Steve!


What are your #tpt?