Today we’d like to introduce you to Adam Riggs-Zeigen.
Adam, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship and starting a business – one of my earliest childhood dreams was to be CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. As a kid, I also fell in love with computers. I wrote my first lines of code in BASIC when I was 8, and I got my first paycheck-job at 15 writing software in Turbo Pascal for an education software company.
After high school, I went to UC Santa Barbara and studied computer science. Outside the classroom, I started DJing quite a bit – first for my fraternity and other Greek houses, then large parties, weddings, and ultimately nightclubs.
My DJing hobby soon became an actual business, with 15 employees and six figures of annual revenue. The company was named Cold Beer Entertainment, which, at the time, seemed like a pretty good idea.
I ended up DJing for almost 10 years. I had an agent and was able to play shows across the country. After one of my biggest gigs, though – one that took a long time to secure – I realized I ultimately wasn’t going to be fulfilled in the long run. I wanted a career change and a new challenge.
I went back to school and earned my MBA from San Diego State. This led to a role at Qualcomm, where I worked in business development and product management for over six years. I learned a great deal – from the nuances of how a billion-dollar company operates, to how I can best apply my skill set. I realized, too, that I’m better suited for smaller companies and building things up, rather than working within a large enterprise.
After a few years at Qualcomm, I began a side-project called Rock My World, a startup that combined my interests in music, technology, health, and business. We were fortunate that the first app we brought to market, RockMyRun, attracted national media attention. It gained a devoted following and was twice the most popular fitness app in the U.S.
In 2013 I decided to leave Qualcomm to run Rock My World full time. Lots have happened since then, but that’s ultimately the path that led me to being Chief Rocker at Rock My World.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Haha – smooth road! Challenges are inherent in the world of start-ups. I’m not sure if I know any entrepreneurs who feel otherwise. That said, the challenges teach important lessons, help us grow, and keep things interesting.
For Rock My World, one of our first challenges was that my co-founder and I needed to nail down our founder-relationship. We’re very close – he was the best man at my wedding – but there was still the matter of defining roles and responsibilities. That’s not a snap-of-the-fingers discussion, or at least it wasn’t for us.
Then there are the age-old startup-challenges of raising capital, finding investors who are a great fit, and scaling. Growth, itself, presents challenges: What’s the proper rate of it? How do you maintain it? What are the proper ways to maintain it?
When someone starts a company, it’s often just them and another person or two. If things go well, that number can grow and grow. Having a core team of 16, like we do, presents challenges and opportunities that we didn’t have as a two- or three-person operation.
Please tell us about Rock My World Media.
Rock My World fuses engaging content – music, images, conversation – with data and artificial intelligence.
RockMyRun, for example, can sync steps or heart rate with a song’s beats per minute. We call it “smart media that motivates.”
Jolt.ai, our newest product, is a fitness chatbot for accountability, rewards, and motivation. Our primary market is gyms and fitness studios, as Jolt addresses their perennial challenges: retaining members and attracting new ones.
We initially thought that Jolt would be for the corporate wellness market. We piloted it on the Slack platform, refined it for much of 2017, and pivoted to gyms and fitness studios at the beginning of 2018.
It’s proven to have dramatically higher engagement and retention rates than other digital fitness products on the market. More importantly, Jolt.ai is proving to drive online reviews 3x better and referrals 11x better than email-based services. It’s been rewarding to watch it capture attention, and for our B2B and DTC, market-based continue to grow.
I’m most proud of Rock My World’s ability to help people when they’re at a point when they want to make a change. It’s a position, and a responsibility, we don’t take for granted.
Regarding what sets us apart, I like to think that it’s our values. They’re straightforward, and we live them: working hard, respecting others, and being empathetic. A company may grow quickly without these, but it won’t grow well.
Do you feel like our city is a good place for businesses like yours? If someone was just starting out, would you recommend them starting out here? If not, what can our city do to improve?”
San Diego has solid resources for startups, and it continues to attract more. Examples include the growing number of local incubators and co-working spaces, tech meetups, and the university scene.
A weaker point for the area, at least for us, is that there aren’t lots of successful direct-to-consumer software companies. Given that, there are fewer DTC mentorship opportunities here than elsewhere.
San Diego does have higher employee retention than many cities, which may have something to do with the weather. For a company like ours, where fitness is a core component of our mission, it’s a big plus nice to have a lot of active, health-conscious people around.
- RockMyRun – Rockstar Membership – $2.99(month) / $35.99 (year)