When Swiss athletes Mike Kurt and Fabian Kauter struggled to find funding, they set up a crowdfunding platform specifically for athletes – and the results have been tremendous

Swiss slalom canoeist Mike Kurt won gold medals at world and European championships, competed in three Olympic Games and spent more than a decade ranked in the world’s top 10 – but he always struggled to find sufficient funding to maintain his career.

Following disappointment at the Olympic Games London 2012, Kurt joined forces with Swiss fencer Fabian Kauter to establish I Believe in You, which allows athletes to crowdfund for their careers. The platform has been a great success for athletes at all levels – including Swiss 400m hurdler Kariem Hussein, who raised funds through the platform and went on to win gold at the 2014 European Athletics Championships.

As Kurt explains, there are plenty of parallels between winning in sport and succeeding at business – and he has plenty of good advice for anyone looking to follow suit.

Turn negatives into positives
“I was always one of the only canoeists in the world, and definitely the only one in the top 10, who was having to work at the same time. The funding in our sport is not as good as many others, especially in Switzerland, so I was always forced to look after financial resources myself. I had very flexible employers who allowed me to train and compete – but it was challenging. [After London 2012] I was working in a fundraising company and the whole topic of crowdfunding came up – and we basically had the idea to implement crowdfunding in sports.”

Use your credibility
“When somebody like Fabian or I talk about funding, we automatically get a lot of credibility, because we know what it’s like [to struggle as an athlete]. Even if we are not household names, we will probably have more credibility than if Roger Federer was talking about sports funding, because everybody will just say that he can raise millions a year himself.”

Transfer your skills
“There are a lot of skills that you learn in sport [that can help in business], like being very focused on your target or working very, very hard. I think, for myself, the most important thing is probably that I was able to take the drive, the passion and fascination that I used to have for my sport into my work as well.”

Stay humble
“One of the biggest things [you can take from sport] is that you’re able to handle defeat. You always have to be humble – be aware that it’s another world and there are other requirements.”

Don’t wait too long
“Athletes have so much time while they are still training, especially when they are full-time athletes, and I think you need to really use that time to prepare your second career. Don’t just stop your sport and then have no idea what to do next.”

For more advice on building your own business after your career, visit the Athlete Learning Gateway and take the course “Business Start–Up: From Idea to Launch”