Travis McDonough: ‘I’m not very good at relaxing’

Travis McDonough’s Halifax-based software company Kinduct Technologies analyzes data on sleep, nutrition, and workouts from wearable technologies, and correlates athletes’ behaviour with their performance. Kinduct’s clients include more than 60 professional sports teams, 25,000 fitness trainers and the Canadian Armed Forces, which are licensed to use 30,000 devices.

As a child I was [consumed] by sports, it was my passion, my purpose – it’s what I got up every day to do. With that physical activity came mental activity, and I had a horrendous case of attention deficit disorder [ADD] and certainly this cocktail of deficit and a little bit of dyslexia. In high school you’re branded, labelled – just because you think differently. It takes a while to shake those shackles, those labels. My brain was going a hundred miles an hour, like a Ferrari with no brakes, and I couldn’t channel it properly.

I was a disaster academically, never achieving high standards. I was lucky to get into university. I do think ADD can be an attribute if you can handle it in a proper way. I think a lot of parents with kids who have it think it’s a massive liability but if you can embrace it and channel that type of thinking, it can become a strength.

My father is one of my most important mentors. I was lucky enough to grow up in a house full of different types of leaders. My brother is a community leader, my mother was a political leader [Alexa McDonough, first female leader of the federal NDP], but my dad was the family leader and oftentimes the family leader doesn’t get the credit they so deserve. But he was the guy who He made sure the TV was off when we were around the table, and that we got away for the weekends together as a family. In many ways that’s how we treat the company – the people inside it are family members.

My mother was a relentless worker and extremely passionate; that passion was based on certain principles – ethical principles or political principles – and she never wavered from that. I think it was crucial for me to watch that and understand what it took to commit to a cause.

I had a sports injury. Many people said I wouldn’t play again; I should get a surgical procedure. A local chiropractor helped me get me back on my feet without surgery. My recovery was more preventative and rehabilitative so I pursued education in Toronto as a doctor of chiropractic.

I moved to Ireland the day after I graduated. I fell in love with Ennis in [the county of] Clare, a hotbed of Irish music. Hurling is the national sport and I started to treat the players. I did physical medicine founded on research and fundamentals of biomechanical principles … and the clinic grew quite rapidly. One clinic turned into multiple clinics and one practitioner turned into 40 practitioners at the peak.

I learned a lot about what not to do. The economic downturn reduced the ability to cash out and say it was a massive success; it was mediocre, at best. I built up a lot but didn’t know certain fundamental tenets in business. But my kids – eight, 10 and 11 – were born there, have Irish names, European Union passports.

Kinduct helps professional sporting organizations understand the science of winning through injury prevention and performance enhancement. There’s been an explosion of ancillary tracking devices and third-party data devices; the metrics in disparate silos and segregated everywhere but where they should be – in one spot. We pull them all into one spot so you can understand relationships, trends and patterns, and ultimately use data from the past and present … to predict probabilities of something happening in the future. It pushes out recommendations on what to eat, how to exercise, when to rest; all those things to ultimately drive better outcomes.

I have an extra chip on my shoulder to prove that benign mediocrity is not some constitutional attribute of this [Atlantic Canada] region. There is an onus and responsibility for people like myself and our company, any business leader, to wave the flag and to change the thinking of “Are we good enough or not?,” because we are.

I would be nothing but a proselytizer or a dreamer unless I had great people around me, and to be able to have an incredible team is what has allowed us to get to where we are today. In my previous business efforts, I always had a vision and imagination, but I didn’t have the people necessarily to help.

The past two years have been a total ride up and down, a total odyssey. It feels as if we’re on this journey that’s got a power of its own. It’s not an industry where others have paved the path – we’re in the jungle with the machete hacking down the bushes to create this space – we’re actually helping to create an industry that’s never been created before.

I’m not very good at relaxing. I play sports with my kids, I like to play basketball with my son in the basement or go for a run with my daughter. We get away to the cottage and the minute I get to the cottage we try to have a no-technology policy. I can feel the tension ease from my shoulders and it does feel like it’s this uncorking or unwinding. That really helps – when we get out for walks, getting outdoors a lot – I love that.

I’m not political, but you can apply that to apply a different realm and I have huge respect for what she did; it was incredible to watch. Of course there’s sometimes ups and downs, and having more of your family in a fishbowl and I think was one of the reasons why I enjoyed being unrecognized, in that world in Ireland getting a brand new start.

As told to Halifax-based freelance journalist Cynthia Martin.

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