Sport and Startups – A Similar Journey

(approx 3 min)

– Nayan Karnavat (Cofounder, spyn)

Learning sport and starting up have lot of overlaps. The lessons from learning squash, following football, cricket and creating spyn (a sports discovery app) have reinforced each other. Here are some quotes from sports greats that have helped me immensely.

You can’t afford to live your life with regrets.

– Shane Warne (Australian Cricket Legend)

A comfortable life, good job with a decent pay cheque is often detrimental to your dreams. It makes it that much harder to see the bigger picture – that satisfaction comes more from your journey and your achievements than from your bank balance. Don’t bother about where you start. Be a sport and get going.


Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

– Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. (American Tennis Great)

There are many ways to play a forehand – top spin, flat, slice, drop, lob, short, long. But you are probably best at only one. Or two. Stick to them. It’s easy to get bothered by how others are making it big. Resist it. Be monk-headed and filter out those noises. Don’t get muddled by preachers, ‘Here’s how we did it’ emails and blogs (including this one). They are all part of a buffet and you must choose what you eat. Try to eat it all and you’ll probably fall sick.


People throw stones at you. Turn them into milestones.

– Sachin Tendulkar (Indian Cricket Legend)

When mercurial stars of cricket have their share of doubters, why would startups be spared? “You have NO experience. You have NO team. You can’t do it.” – is what we had to hear when we started out (we still keep getting that). And you feel sick in your guts. However, by setting daily targets and achieving them – we have achieved ‘SOME’ experience and a ‘SMALL’ team. And we aim to turn that into ‘GOOD’ and ‘GREAT’, all in small steps. It’s a waste of time to dream about overnight success. (Kids do happen overnight… but turning them into achievers takes years.)


If you don’t believe you can do it, then you have no chance at all.

– Arsene Wenger (Arsenal Coach)

That’s what keeps you going – the big dream. Footballers build up an attack through constant dodging and passing, only to be fouled, tackled or be declared offside more often than not. But you have to keep going. Startups are no different. The endless struggles in the beginning of a startup will sap you of your energy. Testosterone from my dreams has carried me so far. And this is probably just the beginning.


Money does not guarantee success.

– Jose Mourinho (Football coach)

Probably the most apt time for this Mourinho quote. A lot of startups (as well as football teams) have burnt too much cash without iterating on self-evaluation. That’s like going full throttle because you have stocked up on fuel. But without fixing the inefficiency in your engine, sooner or later, it’s bound to catch fire. Be it football or business, money does enable you, but over dependence on it will kill you.


It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe.

– Muhammad Ali

Did you just take off when you first sat on a bicycle? Probably not. Whenever you fell, your balance improved, until you were able to pedal a few meters. And then you fell when you tried to turn. And your balance improved some more… Starting up isn’t very different. Learning is an attitude. So get going, start falling and learn. And this is the most satisfying return working in a startup offers. Observing other newbies on the bicycle also teaches you stuff, but nothing teaches you more than the scratches on your own knees.


These are the biggest lessons from football, cricket and my one year journey with spyn. Looking forward to a lot more learning and sharing. I’d like to leave you with a Tommy Lasarda quote which can either categorize or catalyze you. Read it once to categorize yourself. Read it again and again, to catalyze yourself. And good luck!

In baseball and in business, there are three types of people. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened.

– Tommy Lasorda, Hall of Fame baseball player and manager

spyn is operational in Bangalore. However, you are welcome to try the concept and give us feedback.

Download spyn sports app
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