John Gardner T'13 is the founder and CEO of Kudos, a tech-enabled personal training service that combines a human coach with a personalized exercise and nutrition program delivered via SMS, video chat and an app. Before Kudos, he was COO at BuildZoom, a home improvement marketplace and a consultant at Bain & Company focused on technology clients in San Francisco. He received his MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and BA from Columbia University.
We recently caught up with John to talk about post-Tuck life and how his startup Kudos is doing.
1. Can you briefly share your career journey post-Tuck?
Tuck helped me understand what I really want to do with my life. By the time I graduated, I knew then that I wanted to found and scale a company that used technology to help people in tangible, real world ways. I returned to consulting at Bain & Company in San Francisco with a laser focus on technology clients and building the skills I would ultimately need to break into the venture-backed startup world, which I did after 2 years when I joined BuildZoom, a data-driven marketplace for remodeling, as COO. After 2 years scaling BuildZoom and learning what it takes to go from nothing to something useful, I founded Kudos in October 2017.
2. What made you start Kudos? Have you been a longtime wellness advocate?
Fitness has been a passion ever since I joined the track team in 7th grade. But as a consultant and then a startup COO with almost no free time, every day I wished I had a coach to help structure my exercise and nutrition and push me to do improve over time. I believed then (and now have overwhelming evidence to support the notion) that humans need human support and accountability to reach their potential when it comes to fitness (and any very difficult behavior change). I saw that the ultra rich used personal trainers to fill this need, but that no one else could afford a trainer (certainly not 3+ times per week, which is really what is required to make a difference). So I decided to get certified as a trainer myself and leverage technology to make human to human training better and cheaper. And Kudos was born.
3. What exactly does Kudos offer?
Kudos provides exercise and nutrition training with an expert coach via SMS and video chat, when clients want, where clients want. The coach starts by discussing goals, obtaining exercise preferences, and identifying opportunities for reasonable, sustained improvements to nutrition. He or she then crafts a super personalized exercise and nutrition plan and delivers it daily via SMS, video chat and our app. The app walks clients through workouts, and coaches are available 24/7 to answer questions and remove barriers to success.
4. What do you want people to know about Kudos?
Everyone who gives Kudos the old college try meets their goals. 85% end up subscribing at the end of the trial week, and the vast majority of them stick with us (96% retention month to month). Everyone who does this sees results (for example, the average weight loss client loses 15 pounds in the first 2 months). It's not rocket science: If you exercise more, eat a bit better, and avoid injury, you will see results. Those things are very hard to do, however, and we work really hard and leverage technology to make it easy for clients.
5. Any advice for Tuck MBAs looking to take the entrepreneurial career path?
Do it as soon as you can. Make sure you are in a stage of life that can support it financially and emotionally, but then get as close to entrepreneurship as you can. For me, that meant going to work as an early employee at a seed stage startup, as I needed more first hand experience before starting my own company. But go after it - regardless of where Kudos goes, I'm so thankful I had the chance to scratch this itch.