Chris Shuptrine: Raising the Bar on Strength Training

U.Va. alum Chris Shuptrine discusses his journey from graduating in 2008 with an English degree to founding a fitness tech startup, LiftUp.

You can’t be afraid of putting yourself out there.
Get excited and work to make it a reality.
Get over your fears and get out of your own head.Chris Shuptrine

All of these snippets of advice are things Chris Shuptrine, a 2008 UVa alumni, strives to remember everyday while working to make his startup company, LiftUp, a successful reality.  LiftUp is a smart-resistance band that assists in tracking a user’s strength training.  “Cardio is so easy to track nowadays with things like FitBit.  But, what about strength?”  Shuptrine and his co-founders put this question to the test by designing a resistance band that uses tracking sensors and an app to measure reps, calories, and strength. Along the way, Shuptrine has encountered his fair share of difficulties and experiences, each producing their own unique lesson.

1. You can’t be afraid of putting yourself out there: Chris was a writer for the Cavalier Daily, Declaration, and the Daily Progress, writing over 125 articles over the course of his four years at the University.  However, he wasn’t always determined to write for the organizations he did.  In fact, his first submission to the Declaration was done completely on a whim.  He wasn’t quite sure if they would like what he had written or if it would fit into the theme of the magazine.

“But one day I got an email from the Declaration staff saying they liked what I had submitted and wanted me to come on as a writer for them.  It was so cool to see something that I took a chance on pay off.” It was these writing experiences, in combination with his other extracurriculars at U.Va., which led Shuptrine to becoming an English major upon graduation. “I love that feeling of creation,” Shuptrine said, referencing his writing.  This feeling of creation can similarly be linked back to LiftUp.  Although still young, Shuptrine and his two co-founders have managed to combine their creative minds to come up with a product that exercise junkies everywhere can support.

2. Get excited about whatever you’re doing and work to make it a reality: Post-graduation, Chris realized his dream of publishing his first e-book, Work Survival Guide: Advice on the Job Search, Working, and Other Activities Best Done Naked. “It was only downloaded by about 30 people, but to me, that was everything.” As an author’s note, I had the privilege to read through the e-book myself, and let me tell you, it is definitely worth the download.  The book was published through his self-created publishing company, Post-Grad Pre-Dad (PGPD). “Essentially, PGPD was intended for people who were maturing as individuals after graduation, but were not yet dads. Unfortunately, it never really went anywhere.” Was it a fool’s errand? Shuptrine would fail to believe so. For him, it was important to build something and hope it worked out rather than always wonder what things would have been like if he hadn’t. “It’s important to think about the steps needed to get there and all of the possible scenarios that could play out. But, most importantly, you need to get excited and work to make [your idea] a reality.”

Towards the end of the interview, I decided to ask Chris a question that had been picking at me since he stated his college major was English: How the hell does an English major end up running an exercise-tech start-up company?  His response? “You wouldn’t believe how great a field business is for English majors.  You have to be creative, and, unlike those who actually graduate with a business degree, you have no preconceived notion of what business should be.  It’s a much easier transition than for those who have an idea already set in stone in their minds”  It was from this point that it started to dawn on me that by ignoring the haters’ “what are you going to possibly do with an English degree? comments, Chris was able to work at multiple companies that had more to do with entrepreneurship and technology than his own degree and still manage to succeed.

Chris Using
Shuptrine displays the ease of using LiftUp.

After working at Rimm-Kaufman in Charlottesville from 2008-2010, Shuptrine found a job working at Fiksu in Boston, despite the fact he had never been to Boston before.  “The transition between college and my first job was probably the biggest challenge I faced after graduating, simply because I didn’t know anything about marketing.  I had never taken a business class before, so it was a little nerve wracking to say the least.”  It was while working for Fiksu that Chris met his co-founder Nick Sulham on the website CoFoundersLabNick, an engineer and ex-personal trainer, had come up with the idea for a smart resistance band while traveling.  Chris decided to join Nick and LiftUp’s third co-founder, Hunter Ashmore, in their pursuit to make this idea a reality.

3. Get over your fears and get out of your own headLiftUp’s 30-Day Kickstarter begins March 23.  Venture Capital firms tend to be skeptical of crowd funding due to the fact that it can be so unpredictable.  Although Shuptrine took this into consideration when it came to fundraising, he and his team realized that it was one of the best ways to reach out directly to the people.  “We haven’t had any problems getting our Kickstarter ready, but we need to be cautious and conservative to some extent.  It’s our first crowdfunding experience, but ultimately we need a way to understand if people want our product.”  From creating a prototype to eventually looking for funding, Shuptrine said that it’s important to “get out of your head and get an outside perspective.  Rather than trying to perfect the product right away, take things in baby steps.”  College students especially can learn from this mind set.

As one of my professors has said, there are three things we can’t change: the past, the things we got right, and the future.  Chris Shuptrine is an entrepreneur that exemplifies this phrase by pursuing his ideas and not overthinking his college and previous job experience, his decisions to write, or his investment in LiftUp.  With this mind-set, anything is possible, and LiftUp is sure to elevate in popularity.  Best of luck to him and his co-founders with their Kickstarter campaign.

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