Doing Laps and Making Waves: Discover the Arab American Entrepreneur Behind the #1 Apple and Android App for Swimming
photo: Fares Ksebati, co-founder and CEO of MySwimPro.
By: Tanya Nawas/Staff Writer
An idea, a passion, a need: Any one of these can change your life and, depending on how you handle it, many other lives as well. Take Fares Ksebati for example. A lifelong swimmer and U.S. Masters swim coach, he combined his love of swimming with his desire to help others. Et voila! The MySwimPro app was born.
Fares Ksebati, co-founder and CEO of MySwimPro, is a bright, energetic 25 year-old, Syrian-American entrepreneur, who grew up in southeast Michigan. In 2013, he graduated with a B.A. in marketing from The Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business, and through competitive swimming, Ksebati met fellow MySwimPros Co-Founder Adam Oxner, a swimmer at the University of Michigan. Later, Ksebati would connect with the third and final MySwim co-founder, Michael Allon, at a startup technology meet-up in Detroit.
Ksebati and Oxner came up with idea of MySwimPro after getting regular requests for individualized workouts, training plans, and performance tips from numerous swimmers. “Friends were asking us for help writing workouts and offered to compensate us for our time to help them reach their goals,” Oxner said. “That’s when we knew we had identified a problem worth solving.”
“I went online and I didn’t think any of the resources available were very good or helped swimmers with the problems they have,” Ksebati said. “There were so many applications for running, biking or weightlifting, but nothing for swimming.”
MySwimPro’s first investor was the University of Michigan’s Desai Accelerator— a joint program between the ZLI at the Ross School of Business and the Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at the College of Engineering.
Since its launch in 2015, MySwimPro has made something of splash; netting more than 250,000 downloads from registered athletes. Apple Store editors named MySwimPro the 2016 Apple Watch App of the Year, and both the Apple App and Google Play Stores featured it on their home pages. “Being recognized among industry leading software companies is a great opportunity for us to showcase our team’s development talent,” Ksebati says.
Ksebati’s app has also been publicized on tv, radio, and numerous fitness and technology publications including Sports Illustrated, Android Headlines, CHIPIN, and SportsTechie to name a few. From every source the resounding message is the same: MySwimPro is the number one Apple and Android app for swimming.
photo: Fares Ksebati, co-founder and CEO of MySwimPro.
The praise doesn’t end there. In March, MySwimPro earned the confidence of a panel of experienced judges comprised of angel and venture capital investors from across Michigan, winning the $40,000 grand prize at The GreenLight Michigan Business Model Competition. And this August, Ksebati will be honored as The Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business 2017 recipient of its signature Emerging Leader Award.
When Ksebati isn’t busy winning prizes and accepting awards, he’s qualifying for international elite swimming competitions. Still at the top on his game, Fares will be travelling to Budapest to compete in the 17th FINA World Championships this August.
As MySwimPro’s recognition and brand continues to grow, so too does Ksebati’s need for investors. “Building our brand and promoting our products and services is a priority and our crowdfunding efforts will directly support this growth” says Ksebati. Become a MySwimPro investor here.
Continue reading about Fares Ksebati in our in-depth interview to learn more about his success, his future ambitions, and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Fares Ksebati (left) and ALex Oxner (right) after winning the grand prize at The GreenLight Michigan Business Model Competition, March 29, 2017.
What was your first job? and when did you start swimming?
I learned how to swim at age 5, and then joined a summer recreation swim team at 8 years old. The rest is history. As a competitive swimmer, nationally recognized swim coach, and now entrepreneur, there have been a few experiences that have helped shape where I am today:
- At 13 I started doing freelance cinematography projects in Detroit for artists.
- At 15, I was awarded $20k in electronics from Panasonic and selected to join their Living in HD program testing products for future development.
- At 16, I went to China for three weeks in a cultural exchange program.
- At 17, I was a walk-on freshman for the Varsity swimming team at Wayne State University and by Senior year, I was elected Captain and lead the team to three consecutive conference titles.
- At 21 I was accepted to the Challenge Detroit Fellowship program out of over 700 applicants to lead positive change and work with non-profits in the city of Detroit.
- At 23 I launched MySwimPro, which was named the Best Apple Watch App of 2016.
Many times entrepreneurs try to solve an existing problem with their products. Did you come up with MySwimPro to fill a need for yourself?
MySwimPro was born from the personal experience I had as a lifelong swimmer and coach. It was clear to me and our team that there was a gap in the swimming market when it comes to accessing swim coaching and that we could solve this need through technology. The vision for MySwimPro is to become the global platform for aquatic health and fitness. A digital community of swimmers to share, compare, and compete with each other. We’re staring with personal swim coaching, because that’s where the biggest need is, but we’re very excited about expanding our offering to reach our vision.
How did you connect with the iOS Apple and Android developers to help launch your app?
We have a rock-star team that combines world-class swimming talent and industry leading software engineering experience! My two Co-Founders are Adam Oxner and Michael Allon. They both lead the technical development of our product and have lead mobile teams at fortune 100 companies. Other team members include Benjamin Hendricks and Arthur Shi. Between our team members and advisory board, we leverage our international swimming accolades and passion for our sport of swimming to deliver an incredible experience for our community members.
From start to finish, how long did it take to launch MySwimPro?
We started developing MySwimPro at the end of 2014. In February (2015) we shipped our first Android app and by June (2015), we launched MySwimPro for iPhone. Since then, we’ve continued to enhance the app by delivering new features and experiences to our community members. We are regularly updating and building upon our early traction based on our community’s feedback. Last fall, we launched the world’s first swimming App for the Apple Watch, which was named by Apple as the Best Watch App of 2016. Earlier this year we launched MySwimPro on Android Wear and we have a few more exciting product launches planned for the next few months.
Is there anyone that you look up to and model yourself after? (You can name more than one)
I am continually inspired by entrepreneurs who have impacted their respective industries. We’ve been able to recruit a world-class advisory board that includes 3x Olympian Peter Vanderkaay and seasoned startup founders Todd Sullivanand Mitch Thrower. Beyond our team, I admire founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Kayla Itsines. These visionaries inspire and lead their organizations by focusing on purpose and executing on their mission.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?
Because I have not yet made a name for myself, I’ll quote Steve Jobs from his 2005 Stanford commencement address. His message resonates strongly with me, and serves as an excellent compass to guide future decision making.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Give first! Always add value and help others whenever possible. When you give with the expectation of getting something in return, you lose.
What advice would you give to a young Arab American entrepreneurs setting up their first business?
Surround yourself with other inspiring entrepreneurs who are executing in their industry. Actions speak louder than words, so be sure to stay focused on solving a real problem and delivering value. In the early stages, nothing else matters. Don’t get lost in what others say or do if they’re not the segment that you’re trying to serve. The starup community will recognize your sincerity and support the early traction that you have developed.
How many times has the app been downloaded?
Since launching in 2015, we’ve grown our community to over 250,000 members around the world and scaled revenue by more than 40% for the last five consecutive quarters. In the spring we launched an equity-crowdfunding campaign and currently taking public investment. For a limited time, for as low as $100, you can buy stock and invest in MySwimPro at https://wefunder.com/myswimpro/.
END OF INTERVIEW
Bottom line: MySwimPro is an all-in-one app where you can easily log your swims, track your progress, and diversify your routine. It functions as both an instructor and a recorder keeper, providing a database of hundreds of swimming workouts and a robust tracking system that will help you swim more efficiently and get the most out of your routine. In addition, the app offers links to social media, has videos aiding you in specific techniques, and preloaded workouts to help you get you started. The exercises on MySwimPro can also be organized by skill level, swim stroke and length of the workout.
Connect with Fares Ksebati on Social Media
Connect with MySwimPro on Social Media