Interview with Mindbody CEO Rick Stollmeyer
Matt: Thank you for sharing your time Rick. I couldn’t be more excited to do this interview because Mindbody has been a source of inspiration for StrengthPortal since day one. My co-founder and I attended Cal Poly from 2008-2012 and we were really lucky to be exposed to you and your team while you were going through an incredible growth phase. I’d like to start this off by going back to the late 1990’s. At this time you were looking for something new after a career in the Navy and managing engineering service teams. Before you co-founded Mindbody you went back to Cal Poly to study Integrated Technology Management. Can you elaborate on what studying this topic really meant at the time? What type of career path were you interested in pursuing while you were studying technology and software?
Rick: Sure, so first of all thank you for doing this interview with me. It’s wonderful to see a fellow entrepreneur building meaningful tools for the fitness industry. After I’d left the Navy in the mid 1990’s I went into an engineering management role. Prior to this in the Navy I was a nuclear submarine officer, which is a highly-complex technical position. It’s probably one of the most technical positions in the Armed Services and the job makes you highly qualified to manage complex systems. Most of my shipmates went on to have careers in aerospace, nuclear energy, and manufacturing. So I tried working in a few different industries myself. I was in the chemical industry for a short while and then I worked in the nuclear industry. There was a really sharp economic downturn and there weren’t a lot of jobs at the time. I was living in San Diego for a bit and I knew engineers who were working shifts at the Circle K. I ended up getting hired by a nuclear utility plant in Chicago. After a few years in Chicago I was looking to get back to California and ended up getting a job at the Vandenberg Air Force Base with space launch. Vandenberg is the West Coast Cape Canaveral. SpaceX is very active there today, but back then it was Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences, and of course the Air Force itself. So my work was focused on business development and engineering management and we were securing contracts with commercial and government agencies. I developed an interest in earning a Masters degree and there wasn’t a part-time MBA program that I could take at Cal Poly. However, the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineers department (the IME department) at Cal Poly offered an Integrated Technology Management program where you could combine business courses and advanced engineering courses. My main interest at the time was to continue studying complex systems. Subjects like predictive maintenance, lean manufacturing principles (which was really innovative in the late 90s), just-in-time manufacturing, quality management, and so on. I was almost done with this program when an old friend from high school, Blake Beltram, showed me the software applications he was writing for boutique fitness studios. I’d never heard of this industry before and started to study it. I found out very quickly that Blake had tapped into this whole new way of fitness which would later be called “The Second Wave of Wellness.” This was a very different business model for the health and fitness industries. The fitness business model up until the late 1990s was mainly large health clubs. 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness, Bally's Fitness, Crunch, etc all originated in the late 80s or early 90s. That was really the first wave. The second wave was these boutique studios that had a much smaller footprint so we were right there at the beginning. The wave was just starting to gain momentum in LA and New York in the late 90s. So Blake and I ended up founding Mindbody from my garage in 2000 with the goal of delivering business management solutions to this new, growing segment in the industry. Despite the starting focus on B2B, even in the early days we had a larger vision in mind, which was to create a portal (that was the word back then for a marketplace) that would help connect personal trainers, teachers, and therapists to consumers. There was always a B2C objective.Read More