The Odd And Surprising Alternative Career Paths Of 6 Successful Entrepreneurs

Taxidermists, soccer players, Ironman athletes: These famous entrepreneurs would have interesting alter-egos if things would have turned out differently.


Entrepreneurs are usually the last people you would imagine who would think about what life would be like if they weren’t in their current jobs. After all, they’re the ones who chose their line of work because they’re immensely passionate about what they are doing.


But even the most successful entrepreneurs are like the rest of us who have multiple interests and skills. Sometimes the idea of another career comes from hearing about a rising industry you find fascinating. Or meeting someone else with a career you envy. Or even briefly experiencing what your other life could have been like if you had chose it instead.

If they weren’t in their current line of work, Virgin’s Richard Branson and Mark Bakacs, cofounder of Ideapod, say they would focus on technologies to change the world. Aaron Schildkrout, co-founder of HowAboutWe, is thinking a lot about the Internet and the human brain.

Here’s what six successful entrepreneurs say they would be doing for work if they didn’t have their current responsibilities:

Alex Douzet


CEO and cofounder of TheLadders

“If I weren’t CEO of TheLadders, I would be a professional Ironman athlete. I’m currently a two-time Ironman finisher and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of the race, the toughest endurance sport in the world.”

“Beyond the personal rewards, Ironman races teach me so much on a professional level; they actually help me become a better CEO and leader. For me, the biggest takeaway from the sport is the importance of enduring tremendous pressure. It is about the degree of pressure you apply to yourself and finding the optimal pressure point where you can deliver the best performance. In events like the Ironman World Championship, this is the difference between standing on or off the winners’ podium.”

Richard Branson


Founder at Virgin Group

Branson writes on LinkedIn that if he were young today, he would look into industries that need “shaking up” and use “all sorts of new technology” to change the world.

“From opportunities to tackle climate change to research to beat terrible diseases, as well as inventions to improve everyone’s lives, I am sure the coming years will be a period of tremendous innovation. Most 22-year-olds today think that the way to make their fortunes is through setting up tech businesses, and it is true that can be a fruitful direction. But other more conventional businesses shouldn’t be forgotten. There are still plenty of different sectors that need shaking up. It is more important to follow your passion than going into tech simply to make a fortune.”

Colin Hodge


CEO and founder of Down (formerly Bang With Friends)

Hodge tells Fast Company that it’s difficult for him to imagine life outside of the exciting tech world he’s in, but if he had to choose, he’d play professional soccer as a midfielder.

“When I was in Seattle, I had the opportunity to join the open tryouts for the Seattle Sounders FC as they moved up to the MLS. I went to the tryouts with a few friends and the Sounders trainers put us through the ringer.”

“With some late heroics and luck, I was able to move from the round of more than 300 players to the top 24. That’s as far as I made it as I was outclassed and outrun by younger players, but it was a great glimpse of my soccer dream.”


Aaron Schildkrout

Cofounder of HowAboutWe

“The questions I’m most interested in right now are about the intersection between the brain and the Internet. If I wasn’t running HowAboutWe I would be creating a company that lived at this intersection and that, hopefully, helped people navigate the exceedingly complex human questions that are bound to arise as the line between mind and computer become increasingly blurred. I don’t think this is science fiction. I think it’s science non-fiction and it’s coming much faster than most people imagine.”

Cindy Gallop


Founder of MakeLoveNotPorn and IfWeRanTheWorld

“There is nothing I would rather be doing than what I’m doing now, but if you absolutely pinned me to the wall … possibly, a taxidermist,” she tells Fast Company. Gallop, who has said before that she has “a thing for taxidermy” displays different antique items throughout her famous black apartment, including a pair of 100-year-old stags heads and a stuffed mongoose and cobra.

Justin Brown

Cofounder of Ideapod


Brown believes there’s a huge opportunity in how people find useful information and create meaning out of it.

“If I wasn’t working on Ideapod, I would still be working to create or support initiatives that enable people to communicate and create at the level of ideas. Three areas come to mind that I think are ripe for disruption: mainstream media (how we receive our information), organizational innovation (how organizations access and adopt new ideas) and governance (how citizens participate in the democratic process). If not for Ideapod (or because of Ideapod), these would be my areas of focus.”

About the author

Vivian Giang is a business writer of gender conversations, leadership, entrepreneurship, workplace psychology, and whatever else she finds interesting related to work and play. You can find her on Twitter at @vivian_giang.