From Getting Shot To Being On ‘Shark Tank’ – The Story Of One Entrepreneur’s Amazing Journey
Bros, embark on a journey back in time with me. Back to a time when life was simple, all the way back in 2009. We’re joining a young bro and Georgia Tech student by the name of Patrick Whaley. Patrick is a mechanical engineering major, aspiring bodybuilder, and is moving into a new apartment.
On this day in 2009, this bro’s life is changed forever. He was shot in the chest at point blank range during an armed robbery. The bullet tore through his right lung, hit his liver, and nicked a vital artery. That’s what bullets tend to do, after all. They don’t stop for anyone.
Six months later and Patrick hasn’t had any advances in his physical therapy. He’s understandably pissed about this.
Patrick decided to take things into his own hands, use his engineering prowess, and start using a prototype he’d already been working on for years. It was a prototype known as weighted compression gear, and Patrick’s recovery improved dramatically.
Fast-forward to present day, and TITIN Tech, the company Patrick started, is a fast growing start up that is revolutionizing the way professional athletes, Special Forces units, and regular bros workout.
Patrick and I are both residents of the dirty south and live in Hotlanta, so a couple of weeks ago I headed to the TITIN offices to talk with Patrick about TITIN, his struggles growing the company, and get some advice for young entrepreneurs.
Why weighted compression gear, and not just weighted vests?
Patrick Whaley: In order to accurately explain what weighted compression gear is, we first need to know why people use things like weight vests. Weight vests have been around for a long time now. They offer a way for someone to run, jump, or do any type of exercise with extra weight added.
The downside to weight vests, ankle weights, etc. is that they force the wearer to change their movement in order to compensate. These things are usually a “one size fits all” type product, that doesn’t fit snug to the body. Because of this, they can alter someone’s running gait or movement patterns, usually without the wearer even thinking about it.
TITIN actually has anatomically inspired design elements behind. All the weighted gel inserts have the same density as muscle tissue, and they are inserted where actual muscles lie. There are inserts at the pecs, shoulders, abs, and arms. Thanks to this the athlete can move without making any compensations, which leads to better results.
TITIN Tech also has an added element that athletes across the world are falling in love with. The weighted gel inserts can be heated or frozen whenever the athlete wants. This allows the wearer to use the shirt for training, and for recovery purposes. Gone are the days of baseball players needing to ice their arms. Just ask the Boston Red Sox, who bought shirts for the entire team.
Who are some people we would know who are actually using TITIN?
Various professional athletes all over the world like NFL players Andre Williams, Jonathan Cyprien, Michael Jenkins, and NFL Combine rookies Randy Gregory, La’el Collins, and PJ Williams.
Major organizations including Special Forces units like the Green Berets, The Pittsburgh Steelers, The Utah Jazz, and The Boston Red Sox are all using TITIN. We’re also in talks with a few other franchises, colleges, and military organizations, but I can’t share that info just quite yet.
In short, we’re everywhere. It’s virtually impossible to walk into a professional locker room and find guys who at least haven’t heard of our product.
Why would an average bro who is into fitness use TITIN?
Preloading before competition can be extremely beneficial to an athlete, and that’s exactly what we look to do with TITIN. We like to say using TITIN before a competition is like training on Earth, and performing on the Moon.
With TITIN an athlete can see an endurance increase by 11%, and a speed increase by 3%. In the world’s top athletes, these changes can mean the difference between winning and losing, or with our Special Forces athletes, life or death.
This is because of the anatomical similarities between the placements of the weights, the make up of the gel inserts, and the fit of the shirt. An athlete isn’t forced to compensate with movement changes at all, they can move just like normal, and hardly even notice they’re 8-20lbs heavier.
You’ve been at this for awhile, do you have any advice for bros who are interested in starting a business?
If you’re feeling like you have something continually pulling at you, something calling you, you’ve got to do it. I had been working on TITIN prototypes for years until I finally had the final product.
My parents advised me to get a good job after college and then build TITIN, and that was advice that I totally ignored. What better time to start a business in college?
Whatever it is that you’re looking to do, if you’re passionate about it, then go chase it. Chase after it every single day of your life. I started TITIN after I got shot, I was an engineering major who had no idea about business. I knew what I wanted to do though.
There’s never going to be a perfect time to start something. The best time is right now.
Tell me about Shark Tank. Was it as pressure filled as it looks on camera?
Shark Tank was a total whirlwind. I had a long and nasty legal battle with a previous venture capital firm that got finished up two days before filming the show. While waiting to go meet the Sharks, I sold about $4,000 worth of product to different producers, PA’s, stuntmen, etc. I was feeling on top of the world. That all changed as soon as I walked into the Tank.
Before going in, I thought I probably wanted either Mark Cuban or Daymond John over any of the other Sharks. Cuban and the Mavericks would be huge for TITIN, and Daymond’s apparel experience would be a major help.
It didn’t take long to figure out that Mark Cuban wasn’t having anything I was saying. 30 seconds into the pitch I was on the hot seat with Cuban, and before I knew what was going on he was out. Oh well.
Kevin O’Leary, Mr. Wonderful, is surprisingly nice. Any of the guys can be a dick if they want to, but I think Mr. Wonderful and that persona is partly for the cameras. He made an offer that was almost too good for me to pass up.
In the end I made a deal with Daymond that has been extremely beneficial for the both of us. Daymond’s experience in the retail and apparel industry is something TITIN has benefited from.
What are some of the struggles of growing a business like TITIN?
Growth and access to capital is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to growing a business. We initially did very well online, and utilizing Facebook Ads was a total game changer for our sales. Without Facebook Ads I’m not sure where we’d be today.
Production was a little too expensive in the beginning, but in order to streamline the production process you need access to a lot of capital, and when we didn’t have that it really cost us. We actually had to give up a multimillion-dollar contract with the Department of Defense, all because we didn’t have the capital to fulfill the orders.
I also had a long and ugly legal battle with a venture capital firm based in the UK. There were months where I was hanging by on a thread and maxing out my personal credit cards just to fulfill orders. In 2013 we really noticed that Facebook Ads were starting to be a major driver of the business, and we started heavily utilizing those.
After close to year of coming back from the dead thanks to growing online sales, I managed to buy back the equity stake in my company from the VC firm, and completed everything just two days before going on Shark Tank.
When building a company you’re going to make a ton of mistakes. There’s no true blueprint you can follow and at times that can be a little scary. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had though. Growing TITIN into a successful company, travelling the world, and helping athletes perform better is a job that I wouldn’t trade for the world.