Q&A with Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, Cofounders of The Athletic

by Y Combinator10/17/2018

We put together a list of the top YC companies by valuation as of October 2018. You can see that list at https://ycombinator.com/topcompanies.

Here’s a Q&A with Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, Cofounders of The Athletic, one of the companies featured on the list.

What does The Athletic make/do?
The Athletic is a subscription-based publisher for die-hard sports fans.

How many employees does The Athletic have?
Close to 300.

How many founders?
Two (Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann)

What is the larger impact / societal impact of your product in the space you work within?
The Athletic is giving sports fans a new way to get news and content on their teams while creating more sustainable employment for journalists.

What’s an interesting element of The Athletic’s company culture?
Most of the company’s headquarters team did not come from editorial or traditional media backgrounds. We’re applying Silicon Valley principles to a historically sleepy industry.

Looking back, what motivated you to start The Athletic? We were frustrated, as sports fans, seeing the quality of sports journalism deteriorate in the digital era.

Is what you’re working on now the original idea or did you pivot?
Original idea! Of course, the “idea” evolves every day as we collect more data.

Were there moments where you thought the company might die? Describe one of those and anything you learned from it.
We were really struggling before being accepted into YC (S16). Both co-founders had been dealing with various medical issues, we were struggling to convince investors about our idea’s potential, and growth was unpredictable.

As we went through the program, growth picked up and we picked up momentum. But we learned to never get too high or too low. A great day was often followed by a very poor day. We’ve preserved this lesson into one of our four company values: “Never settle. Never take shortcuts.”

What was a particularly important insight you had about your market that made your product work?
Most digital media startups have focused on accumulating distribution or scale advantages while optimizing for the lowest cost of production. We realized very early on that our opportunity was to actually build our moat utilizing great journalistic talent. Basically, readers will happily pay for a service to get information from sources they value and trust.

What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a young founder?
Trust the data! And persist, persist, persist, persist.


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