Since retiring from the NFL in 2019, former Seattle Seahawks star Doug Baldwin has dipped his toes in the tech industry, advising early-stage companies and investing in others.
But now he’s diving deeper into the startup world as CEO of Ventrk, a healthcare spinout of Bellevue, Wash.-based invention firm Intellectual Ventures.
Baldwin recently took the CEO reins at Ventrk, the parent company of two exercise-focused apps: TheraCentric and TrainCentric.
Baldwin, 33, began advising Ventrk shortly after retiring from the NFL. When it was time to spin the company out of Intellectual Ventures, he was asked to take over as CEO.
This is Baldwin’s first time as an employee of a tech startup, let alone leading one. But his experience on the football field certainly provided some preparation as he aims for startup success.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be around winning organizations,” said Baldwin, a Stanford grad who won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks in 2013. “I know what it feels like. I know what it tastes like. I know what it smells like.”
We caught up with Baldwin to learn more about Ventrk and TheraCentric, a home exercise app designed for physical therapy patients. The technology behind the app was originally created by Seattle-area entrepreneurs and childhood friends Jarid Adams and Sam Bender; both remain at the company in executive roles. Ventrk employs four people and has raised $1.65 million since spinning out of IV; investors include HBSI Capital, which led the seed round, and other angels.
The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
GeekWire: It’s great to speak with you again, Doug. You’ve been busy since retiring — helping out The United Way, building a community center, speaking at the GeekWire Summit, raising your kids, and more. How did becoming a startup CEO fit into your post-NFL life?
Doug Baldwin: When I left football, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Diving into business and tech was always something I was interested in. As a child, I loved playing with LEGO sets, I loved building things. And I still have this fascination and passion to create. This is something I’ve been wanting to do, to try out and see if I can be successful.
GeekWire: Tell us more about TheraCentric.
Physical therapists typically send patients home with a piece of paper for their exercises. There’s no tracking of progress. There’s no collecting of data to show the progress and efficacy of the programs.
And people just don’t complete their programs. Studies show that people who actually complete their programs lower treatment costs. That’s a big deal for the patient, so they can get healthy. It’s a big deal for the physical therapists because they want to see their patients get healthier. It’s part of their reputation. And it’s a big deal to insurance companies. Our customer (the clinics and physical therapists) will pay a subscription fee to access this data for reimbursement. Insurance companies will want to know if their insured are actually doing their plan of care.
What’s the larger vision for Ventrk?
Once a user has done their treatment with TheraCentric, they can migrate over to TrainCentric, where you have your exercise programs and can work with trainers. It’s the same guided experience. And it’s not just with exercise — it’s sleep, diet, etc.
I’m really excited about this because as we look out into the world, there is more of an emphasis on taking care of your body. We have all these devices and technology now available, capturing data that helps you make better decisions about your health. We’re going to become the hub for that. We’re starting off with physical therapy because it just makes a ton of sense.
How will your experience with sports performance and data in the NFL help with TheraCentric and TrainCentric?
You come into the practice facility and it’s made for you. There’s no signup sheet, there’s no waiting line. We had all the tools available. You have these conversations and you have all this data about your exercise load the previous day, and that allows you to change what you’re doing the next day in order to get the most effective workout and for your performance to be the best on Sunday.
But the average person doesn’t have this. We’re taking all those principles and wrapping it up into a software platform that’s really empathetic for the patient and for the physical therapist and whoever else is using it.
All my experience and understanding of what is valuable for the health and well-being of the high-performing athlete, it comes into play here. If you can just break that down and build it back up into a platform that’s easily digestible and user-friendly for everyday people, we can make some impact on people’s lives.