Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them.

May 14, 2020

It was mentioned numerous times before how it all started. But let’s dig deeper today. It is always interesting to know how people come up with ideas for a start-up. Today is about how Dmitri Voloshin came up with the idea of Sonr. 

His love for swimming started long before he created a successful company. Dmitri has been learning to swim for as long as he can remember: at school, at sea with friends, he raced in the lakes, then rivers and oceans followed. But he did it with the head above water, no technique at all, not to mention speed and distance. 

In 2012 Dmitri decided to become an Iron Man. An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run, raced in that order. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. So imagine how serious should the preparations be for this competition. 

The coach was found pretty quickly and as they started to work on the technique, Dmitri [as he claims] resembled a cat drowning and sometimes a drunk dude on a vacation. The coach was highly frustrated and screamed: “Elbow! Elbow high!!! Reach out!!! Don’t reinforce your mistakes, who taught you this way, damn it?!”. It was a lot of obscene language but we better not mention it. 

What we will mention is what the coach told Dmitri and it stuck in his memory forever:

“Dmitri, the main thing about swimming is not to reinforce your mistakes. When you swim incorrectly, the brain remembers it, muscle memory captures the incorrect movements, and then it will be complicated to correct them just like a bad habit. Old neural connections are healthy, but they must be broken, and new correct ones must be built instead. Therefore, whenever you swim, listen, and watch what I say in order to immediately correct mistakes.”

It was very hard to listen to him being so far away and half underwater. But hey. You got to listen to your coach no matter the circumstances. If only he could hear him underwater. 

Wait a minute. 

Walkie-talkies! With the help of a walkie-talkie, the trainer would be able to instruct him while he was swimming. Like real-time coaching. Control the movements, improve the technique, correct the mistakes. Learn to swim faster. 

The next day, Dmitri brought in a Motorola walkie-talkie to the pool and handed it to Victor, his coach. “Speak to me on it,” he told him, and “I will listen.” Then he wrapped his transmitter in a plastic bag and pulled out the wire of the earphone. He stuck it in his ear, put the radio under the rubber strap of his goggles, and swam. Of course, he couldn’t hear anything. It turned out that the walkie-talkies do not work underwater, even depth of 5 cm is an insurmountable obstacle for them. Sometimes his head plunged 20 cm underwater, and even half a meter when changing direction at the pool’s edge.

The coach supported the idea fully but they did not solve the problem. It did stick in Dmitri’s head. Like he can do more. But at that time he concentrated on training and one year later he swam his first 2 km in open water, then 5 km, and four years later, he swam the Strait of Gibraltar — 17 km.

All this time he could not get the idea out of his mind. It was like that word on the tip of your tongue. You know it’s there. You just don’t know how to shape it. Maybe give it some time. Maybe after years of swimming practice, after countless mistakes and millions of broken incorrect neural connections he could create something truly for swimmers.

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