Founder Interview: Jared Lewandowski, Umbrella Sports, Cohort 7

Umbrella Sports is the creator of SmartGrip, a discreet and effective golf grip training aid capturing practice and competition hand position and motion data for players and coaches.

Jared Lewandowski, Founder & CEO, participated in 2 cohorts of Founder University as he worked through the early days of building a business with a hardware component.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Jared to learn more about how he developed SmartGrip, got his first customers and navigated the challenges of bringing his vision to life.

What is the problem you are solving?

Golf is hard. 80% of golfers have an extreme slice and suffer from poor distance and control off the tee resulting in low confidence. Also, golf coaches, fitters, and manufacturers have no data on how their customers perform during competition. There is so much golf technology available and they can collect some great data on our swings off the course, yet none of them can be used during play and provide immediate results, both of which are critical for accelerated learning and habit-correction.

Why do you want to solve this problem? How did you come up with this idea?

We are moving into a world of technology and where AI will be available to help us improve skills faster than ever before, and the more data we can collect, the better and faster our improvement will be. I learned early on how critical of a role the grip plays in golf, so with my two decades of product design experience I was determined to find a way.

My mission is to expand the game of golf to others how might be frustrated with how hard it is, and to gather and provide more swing data to businesses so they can improve their experiences with their customers.

Tell us about a critical business decision you made in the last month.

Making the jump from our basic MVP which focused solely on grip position and fixing a slice, to a smarter device which can collect real-time hand position and motion data.

This was a huge step for us as we've been a hardware-only company and moving into Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) and software will have its own set of new, exciting challenges.

As a founder, what is a lesson you wished you learned sooner?

Move fast, fail fast, and keep track of everything! Coming up with ideas is easy and fun, but making a business out of it is another level of commitment.

How did you validate your idea?

Hardware is hard, and mistakes can be expensive!

Because of that, we knew we needed to focus on refining the hardware first and we've gone through hundreds of prototypes since we started. I used them on the golf course, driving ranges, and had friends and coaches use them.

From the beginning, I wanted to make sure this was a device that would be highly compliant, so we interviewed golf coaches and professionals to better understand what they do when gripping their club.

We also needed to ensure we were creating something they'd recommend using, rather than steer people away from us.

We're proud to say that SmartGrip is fully permitted for competition golf by the governing body of golf in the US, the United States Golf Association (USGA).

How did you acquire your first customers?

Indiegogo! We ran a 45-day campaign and hit our goal with customers from over 14 countries. We will be forever grateful for them and their faith in us and our mission.

What has been the most rewarding part of your founder journey?

Seeing the look on people's faces when they use our product. They are shocked! And to be honest, I am often shocked as well.

I continue to be amazed in the results and the positive impact something I created has had on people and their golf game. It's just wonderful to see others enjoy golf with SmartGrip as that has been our goal since day one.

Kelly Schricker

Principal at LAUNCH

Kelly is a Principal at LAUNCH, an investment firm founded by angel investor Jason Calacanis. She spends her time supporting founders. She co-hosts Founder University’s 12-week program and Founder University Podcast. Prior to LAUNCH, Kelly was VP of Operations at, and helped grow revenue from <$1M to $4M+ in 3 years. She's spent over 10 years in early-stage startups, as a founder and early employee focusing on growth and operations.

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