As a former Stanford University soccer player, Rishi Mandal had a realization: All elite athletes, universally, “depend on coaches and trainers to manage their fitness and habits at all times.” What if Mandal could offer the same level of top one-to-one training to ordinary people?
Mandal and his co-founder Justin Santamaria, a former Apple lead engineer, set out to do exactly that. In 2019 the pair launched Future, an app which, for US$150, offers members access to their own personal fitness coach, many of whom previously trained professional and college-level athletes. In turn, the coaches hold app-users accountable using Apple Watch data.
For Mandal, 36, who was born and raised in California’s Bay Area “right in the heart of Silicon Valley” and still lives there today with his wife and two kids, entrepreneurship runs in the blood.
“When I was 12 years old, my father quit his job to start a technology company [Cyras Systems, which was purchased by Ciena for over US$2.6 billion in 2000] in the garage of our home. I remember working as the company’s first ‘IT guy’ and registering the domain for their website,” he says. “He and his team went on to build a tremendous company. Seeing that trajectory, I knew I wanted to be an inventor.”
From 2004 to 2008 Mandal worked as an astrophysics researcher at NASA and Stanford University, before joining Google as a product leader in 2010. The same year he founded digital concierge service Sosh and sold it to Postmates in 2015. “Eventually, I found that I could combine my interests in invention and problem-solving by creating companies. And a huge benefit was that it gave me an opportunity to solve tangible human challenges,” he says.
Part of Mandal’s drive to create a healthcare app came from what he saw as chronic issues in American society.
“We primarily receive care once we’re diagnosed with an illness,” he says. “Before that, we’re each expected to manage our daily health factors on our own—our diet, exercise, sleep, stress, and more. Given how challenging and busy modern life is, managing these things on our own is impractical and ineffective. This is, in part, why we have such high rates of inactivity.”
Future is designed to be used throughout your entire life: from at home workouts to the gym to the outdoors to travel. “Preventative wellness has become a bigger priority, and health requires consistency,” Mandal says.
Future employs more trainers than the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NFL combined, “By giving each member a coach, our goal is to help make people a little better each day. Better tomorrow. Hence, we focus on the future.”
Mandal shared a few of his favorite things with Penta.
My favorite thing to drink right now is… unbalanced wines—something with perspective. These days, that means northern Italian white wines. Maybe something aged in clay amphorae. The weirder the better, frankly.
The restaurant/bar in my hometown that I love to take a visitor to is… Zuni Cafe. It’s a charming, two-level bistro in a triangle-shaped brick building, and has been a staple in San Francisco for over 40 years. I’d start with a Caesar, then share the brick-oven roasted chicken, which is served over an aggressively dressed bread salad. There’s nothing better than a long lunch at Zuni with the sun streaming in.
If I were to buy a piece of art, it would be by… my great friend, Eric Wolfinger,
[who] is a renowned food photographer. At my house I have one of [his] biggest prints in existence… It’s an arresting photo of wild ibexes running down a steep slope in the Swiss Alps.
A fitness exercise I can’t stop doing is… Zone 2 cardio training. For me, this means adding long, slower-paced runs where I keep my heart rate in a specific zone. By slowing down, I feel my running mechanics improve, and in order to keep my heart rate steady, I’ve had to focus on my breathing. I typically run through the state park by my house. It’s become addictive.
A person who inspired me to do what I do is… My father [
]. He immigrated to this country [from India in the 1970s] as a young adult. Over the course of a few decades, he went from working the night shift at a 7-Eleven to co-founding and running a multi-billion-dollar company.
My favorite sport to watch is… I’m a huge fan of watching basketball, specifically, the NBA. As a spectator sport, it has an ideal mix of pace and strategy. And with small team sizes, the players’ personal stories—and Tweets—add some intrigue. The recent addition of hyper-detailed video tracking has yielded a layer of advanced analytics.
If I could have a meal with anybody, anywhere, it would be… I’d love to have a working lunch with chef Francis Mallmann in Patagonia. I once saw him catch a fish and—while his boots were still in the water—scale and fillet it right on the spot. Then he cooked it over an open fire on the beach. A meal like that would engage your mind and all your senses. And, of course, chef Mallmann is a legend.
A passion of mine that few people know about is… recently, I’ve started reading fiction again. I particularly love spy and mystery novels (the cerebral kind, not the action-packed ones). In short order, I’ve read virtually every novel and short story written by John Le Carré, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers. My favorite is Le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.
The thing that gets me up in the morning is… my kids’ morning chatter and singing. All things considered, it’s a pretty great way to start the day.
My favorite hotel in the world is… the Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como in Italy. It’s a vintage marvel (it originally opened in 1910) and has unbelievable views. Best of all, it has a swimming pool that floats in the lake. How crazy is that?
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.