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Mindset Design: From Idea to Game-Changer in Mental Coaching for Athletes


Bianca Iulia Simion

· 3 min read
Mindset Design: From Idea to Game-Changer in Mental Coaching for Athletes
Interview with Karina Karagaeva and Radinela Dimitrakova - Co-Founders of Mindset Design

Mindset Design is a game-changing company at the forefront of mental coaching for athletes. Co-founded by Radinela and Karina, this innovative venture combines their passion for mindset transformation and expertise in coaching athletes. Their app revolutionizes the industry by providing a coach-and-player-centric approach, seamlessly integrating mental training with physical exercises. With a focus on individual sports, starting with tennis, Mindset Design aims to enhance performance and empower athletes across various disciplines.

Can you tell us more about Mindset Design and what motivated you to start this company?

It all started when we asked ChatGPT to generate billion-dollar business ideas. Now, on a serious note - Radinela and I are both professionally and personally interested in mindset transformation and the science behind it. Before becoming business partners, we were both coaching athletes and business leaders helping them improve their mentality and mental skills. When we met we were both searching for ways to leverage technology and create a product that will put mental coaching on the next level. For us, it was obvious that athletes would benefit from such a product so we introduced our raw idea in front of a group of 40-50 tennis coaches at a conference in Sofia. We were amazed by their positive response and this was our first confirmation that we’ve found an unserved need on the market. We ended up having clients before having a product, but we played it well and quickly built a pilot version that we tested and collected feedback from coaches from a couple of tennis schools in Sofia. Within 3-4 months of the customer discovery process, we realized that we are on the right track for something big. So we invited more people to the team and started thinking more strategically about how to build a scalable business around our initial idea.

At the time being, the focus is on tennis. Will the app cover more sports in the future?

Absolutely. Mental challenges are very similar among athletes in individual sports, and that’s why our methodology and product are applicable to any individual sport. We focus on the most popular ones - starting with tennis, then adding padel, table tennis, badminton, pickleball, swimming, cycling, and winter sports. The mental pressure on athletes in individual sports is higher compared to group sports. That’s why we’re focusing on this segment although we receive requests from football and basketball teams to test the product already. We don’t exclude the option to develop a product for group sports in the future, but we prioritize dominating individual sports now - one sport at a time.

You mentioned mental coaching apps available on the market are boring. What makes your product better and more exciting?

Most of the sports mindset apps or mindfulness apps are good-looking video/audio libraries without a logical content structure, no meaningful interaction with the user, or a practical application of the presented ideas. That’s why they are irrelevant to the context in which athletes are facing specific everyday mental challenges. We wanted to create a coach-and-player-centric app that fits perfectly into their training routine and is highly context-driven. Our main advantage is that we combine in a unique way physical with mental training so coaches don’t have to plan separate sessions for the mental training. To give you an example - while players improve their forehand they also work on their focus. While training the strength of their service, they practice a positive inner dialogue, etc. This is how the exercises are designed and this is our proprietary knowledge.

Another advantage is that Mindset Design provides structured training content, exercises that build one on top of the other, and simplicity that saves coaches time. Exercises unlock at a certain pace so it keeps coaches curious about what’s the next drill. After all, every coach loves a good methodology that takes little effort to implement and adds value to their sessions.

When it comes to the players - the app provokes their curiosity to explore themselves, teaches them practical skills, and gives them the feeling they’re using cutting-edge tools for their training. Mindset Design is gamified with less than 10% theory and a lot of practical exercises that give points when successfully performed.

One of the strongest motivators for players to do the exercises and collect points is the opportunity to win a wild card* and get access to an international tournament. This feature is something that makes Mindset Design absolutely unique on the market as added value in the context of junior players’ development.

Last, but not least - instead of having videos that demonstrate the exercises, the training content is presented in a 3D virtual model of a tennis court where coaches and players experience the instructions of an exercise from their respective points of view. This makes the whole training experience much more engaging and fun.

*Wild card - an opportunity to enter a sports competition without having to take part in qualifying matches or be ranked at a particular level.

You mentioned Mindset Design is an app. Why should players trust your product for their performance enhancement?

Our methodology and training content are co-created together with tennis and mental coaches and sit on solid neuroscience research. Before shaping our training approach, we explored the best practices from the global leaders in mental training for athletes from the US and Western Europe. But the strongest proof is the rapid significant improvement that players already show after using our pilot product. I think that every young athlete will appreciate feeling more confident and more in control of his performance and this is exactly what we promise to our users.

Considering you already have 100+ paying customers, can you tell us how some of them responded? Do they perform better on the court?

Here is the moment to mention that one of our goals as a company is to prove that a strong mentality can be measured objectively and can be improved with proper training. We measure objectively mental toughness in the consistency of winning points in high-pressure situations like tiebreaks and deciding sets. Our initial users showed between 20-40 % improvement after the first 4-6 weeks of using the pilot product. This means that if a player won in 6 out of 10 high-pressure situations before using Mindset Design, now the same player wins in 8 out of 10 which reflects significantly on his ranking in the long run. This objective result is combined with the subjective feedback from the players. They state that they feel more calm and focused while playing for example. One of our favorite moments happened a couple of weeks ago when one of our kids who was having modest results until this moment won an international tournament here in Sofia. After beating his last opponent and becoming the champion, he told his coach with a big smile on his face “Finally, I conquered myself!” This kid’s reaction sums up in one sentence what makes Mindset Design such a meaningful business endeavor for our team to pursue.

What are your expansion plans?

In the next 18 months, we prioritize achieving significant market penetration with our product for tennis players in our target locations in Europe - France, Spain, and the UK. For us, that means having 30% of tennis clubs with competing players in these major European markets use our product. Having in mind that our first major sales push will be in January next year, we will aim at validating the product-channel fit in Europe by the end of 2024. With the growth of the sales team in the second half of 2024, we will approach the US market. Thanks to one of our current partnerships we will introduce the product first to the top universities in the US and the respective supporting structures that participate in the junior athletes' career and academic development. It’s important to say that we prioritize dominating one sports segment until we reach a top-of-mind product status and then proceed with the development of the next products targeting the next sports segments.

What is the competition status? Could this company become a leader regarding mental coaching for young athletes?

Our most obvious competitors are the mental coaches and against them, we have the advantage that any tech product has - we are scalable by design. The other group of competitors is the sports mindset apps. They offer generic content and try to reach all sorts of athletes at once, ending up being too broad in their marketing activities, and unable to solve specific issues. We believe we have a significant advantage in this aspect by choosing to focus on one sport at once, develop highly specific content for it, and thus build solid brand awareness. This is part of our long-term strategy to set the standard for mental training in every sport we enter. The speed of the company’s development is key of course. Other sports mindset apps on the market are having between 5k-10k downloads which only proves the market demand but the field is not yet saturated. So we believe this is the best moment to enter the game and offer coaches and players a significantly better product.

Mindset Design is raising €550,000 to help young athletes improve their performance. Explore the round materials here.

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