By Mike Watkins//Correspondent | Thursday, April 20, 2017
In Chuck Katis’ view, the word entrepreneur has lost its impact.
It’s misunderstood. Overused. Misinterpreted.
Still, to anyone familiar with its traditional meaning, Katis is indeed an entrepreneur and has been even before he knew what it meant.
When he’s not swimming or performing magic – yes, he’s an accomplished magician as well as world-class breaststroker – Katis is thinking about “what’s next?”
He’s even been guilty of thinking of his next endeavor while he’s training.
“Swimming laps brings clarity. It’s a great time to think, conceptualize and plan,” he said. “I get some of my best ideas in the water.”
But Katis isn’t much for labels or titles.
In his opinion, he’s simply being Chuck.
“If I ever spent money on the pieces of paper we call ‘business cards,’ mine would simply have three emoji’s on the front: robot, spade and water,” he said. “I consider myself a swimmer, a ‘roboteur’ and a magician
“The driving force behind everything I do is the pursuit of underlying truth. Without getting bogged down by details of the past, I witnessed first-hand how much pain lies can cause. I wanted to be able to control that – holing a deck of cards always provided that outlet growing up.”
Over the course of his young life – he’s just 24 – Katis has thrown his hat into the entrepreneurial ring many times.
He began with the Magic of Miracles, a nonprofit to perform and teach magic to those “who need it most,” with twin sister, Jayme, when he was just a teenager.
He followed that while attending Harvard and then California-Berkeley with Mentagrate, an education marketplace that allows students to get academic help they need when they need it.
Post-Olympics and pre-election last year, he designed and sold bags of satirical Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton coffee – all for fun (and some cash, of course).
“I’ve always been a believer that you can do whatever you want as long as you ignore limitations others pretend exist,” he said. “Do it from where you’re at and with what you have.”
Most recently, Katis has willed BODbox (or BODbx) into a reality – a product he as well as other top swimmers and athletes have benefitted from in their own athletic endeavors.
Geared toward elite athletes, BODbx is a robot that uses artificial intelligence to push the limits of the human body by optimizing training on any given day.
Katis said it is smarter than any trainer or coach in that it can help complement all of their current programs.
“It’s a patent-pending robot that watches your movements, compares them to the ideal version of the same movements and trains you perfectly each day based off that comparison,” said Katis, who was inspired to create this product following what he called a disappointing outcome of 2016 Olympic Trials. “It leads to more efficient training in less time than previously possible.”
And the results are measurable and visually apparent.
Katis himself uses BODbx to aid his own training and said he’s experiencing the impact in his results.
“They (athletes) feel it,” he said. “We’re keeping the human-robot interaction very clean and simple, but the training results speak for themselves. I’ve been training about ¼ what I was before and racing faster than I was the same points last year. I don’t think guys on the team could believe it.”
Having been entrepreneurial in nature and drive since he was a young boy, Katis said much of his desire to pursue his own ideas came with the support of his mother, Joanne, who encouraged him and Jayme to follow their dreams.
But along with the support came the criticism and doubt from others who didn’t and still don’t share or understand his vision – one to make the world a better place one idea at a time.
“I ignored all of it,” he said. “It’s simple human reaction to something they could not then understand. I believe in the best in each person, and their doubt was always just a misunderstanding or some form of jealousy. The only thing I had was love for the creative process and for those that really enjoyed what we’re creating and that’s all I focused on.
“I firmly believe you’re either working to make the lives of people around you better, or you’re working to fill a created role that you believe supports your own self-interest. I’ve worked for others before and will always continue to do so. I think this is slightly different take on the world.”
Read more about Chuck and his entrepreneurial influences and drive in the Summer 2017 issue of Splash. If you know of a swimmer or coach who is embracing his/her own entrepreneurial spirit, please contact Mike Watkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.