Lessons learned from ZAMA Health Founder Brendan Sullivan in going above and beyond

Apr 11, 2024

By Trey Bowles, Managing Director of Techstars Physical Health

This week, ZAMA Health announced that it has been acquired by Volt Athletics. Volt is an AI-powered strength training platform providing personalized, science-based training for athletes, teams, and anyone looking to reach peak performance. The platform has been incredibly successful. Together, the combined companies will redefine what holistic athletic development looks like. 

It’s one thing to show up every day and do what you need to do. It’s quite another to show up every day, do what you need to do, plus a little more. 

That’s something Brendan Sullivan discovered long before he was the founder of ZAMA Health, captain of Yale’s track team, or even the high school state champion in the pole vault. As an athlete, he discovered early on that success was predicated on going the extra mile. As a founder, he’s brought the same willingness to go above and beyond.

The concept of ZAMA Health originated from Brendan Sullivan and his mother, Jane Sullivan, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, with a goal to better address mental health challenges faced by their local community. The concept quickly evolved into a comprehensive athlete development and mental health platform, with the vision of helping athletes realize their full potential, knowing that sports require as much mental aptitude as they do physical. 

ZAMA was a great fit for Techstars Physical Health, which is why in 2022 I welcomed Brendan into the program. Over the course of the 13-week accelerator, he set himself apart because of the grit, hustle, and determination he possesses as an athlete and an entrepreneur. 

In fact, the parallels between Brendan’s athletic and entrepreneurial drive are striking, and something I believe many startup founders can learn from: 

  • Put in the work and then some. If you only do what you’re expected to do, you limit the number of opportunities offered to you. Doing just a little bit more unlocks a world of possibility. Case in point: when I work with startups on introductions to VCs, I generally ask them to research investors and come back to me with an explanation for why they’re a fit. When I asked this of Brendan, he came back to me the very next day with a list of over 20 investors, including detailed reasoning for why he wanted the introduction, and an explanation for how ZAMA Health tied to their investment thesis. He did everything I asked, plus more (and quickly). 

  • Have the right team by your side. Even though entrepreneurism is often regarded as a solo journey, there’s immense value in team collaboration. Brendan recognized this value, which is why early on, he brought on a team of advisers that included medical and mental health experts, a collegiate athletic director, fitness executives, and even professional athletes that supported his vision, challenged his thinking, and saw around the corners he didn’t. 

  • Perseverance and grit go a long way. The journey to the podium is never a straight line in sports. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Babe Ruth held the record for the most number of strikeouts for nearly a decade. Simone Biles dropped out of the Olympics and then came back to win world and US championships. The same is true in entrepreneurship. What separates those who are good from those who are great is the ability to fight through when the going gets tough. When Brendan came across the inevitable obstacles of building a business, he approached it with persistence to overcome rather than defeat.

I couldn’t be more excited for Brendan with the acquisition of ZAMA Health by Volt Athletics. I’m even more so for Volt Athletics who will gain from the passion, capacity, grit, and willingness to go above and beyond that Brendan will bring to this new venture.

Techstars Physical Health Fort Worth Accelerator is accepting applications through May 22, 2024, for its Fall program. You can learn more about the accelerator here.