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Kevin Greco

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— January 15, 2019

Kevin Greco

  • From SpaceX to Space-Age Skates
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Followers of Elon Musk know the entrepreneur is unconventional—a dynamic that paid off five years ago for Kevin Greco, a young Alaskan with big dreams.

Greco, a sports enthusiast who comes from a family of fighter pilots and wanted to be around aviation, had applied repeatedly for a job with SpaceX, Musk’s private aerospace manufacturing and space transport company, only to be rejected time and again.

So Greco decided on a new tack: He cold-called the company, but with a twist. Greco told the administrator who answered the phone that he had been disconnected from Ryan Fitzpatrick, head of SpaceX recruiting, when in fact he had not been on the phone with him at all. The administrator patched him through.

Greco landed a human resources internship on the spot. One month later, he moved to engineering and worked on the Falcon 9 rocket. Musk is known for putting a premium on skills over school degrees, and the philosophy suited Greco. “If you can prove you know how to do something, you’re allowed to do it,” Greco says. “The way I got into SpaceX, pitching the head of HR, I did the same thing with the engineers. I said, ‘Here are the issues, and here’s how I can improve the situation.’”

Fitzpatrick, now the recruiting head at Imbellus, a Los Angeles tech startup developing cognitive skills assessments, recalls being impressed by Greco’s insightful questions and preparation. “I’ve been doing recruiting for 15 years,” Fitzpatrick says, “and few people are able to set a course and kind of march toward their goals like Kevin has. To cold-call me and get an internship is a 1 out of 10,000 type of thing.”

These days, at 25 years old, Greco has parlayed his business experience and background skiing rugged Alaskan mountaintops into a solid career as an entrepreneur. He is the North American president of Sled Dogs, an enterprising sports equipment company that produces unique skates with a short ski on the sole instead of a blade.

Sled Dogs was three years old when Greco joined the company in late 2017. He initiated design changes that put more of the mechanics of hockey in the skates, for edging, for example—more details are proprietary, he says. He also leveraged his contacts to connect with winter sports figures and others who could be ambassadors for the company: former professional hockey player J.T. Barnett and model/athlete Jala Sue, among others. The company grew its distribution pipeline, Greco said, from just a few countries to 41 today.

He grew up extreme skiing Mount Alyeska, near his home in Girdwood, Alaska, 40 miles south of Anchorage. He would race the gates as a slalom skier, then got into backcountry deep-powder, high-traverse skiing. He would carry his skis on his back for hours to reach a starting point. “It was very aggressive, very steep kind of skiing,” Greco says. “I would catch the first chairlift up at 8:30 a.m. and ski through the night skiing sessions without a break.”

That persistent, assertive attitude would prove to be a theme in Greco’s life. At age 14, he had a skiing accident but continued life as usual. A week after the accident, despite feeling pain, he was wrestling with a friend who came down on Greco’s back. He discovered that he had fractured his back in the ski accident, and the wrestling exacerbated the injury. “I was active and just wouldn’t stop,” he says.

Doctors cautioned Greco that he would not be as active, but he recovered and today skates nearly daily on his Sled Dogs. Putting to rest a fear of injury among sports novices is one of Greco’s selling points for Sled Dogs. Because the skates are short, he says there is less injury risk from twisting the way you might when your foot is bound into a conventional ski or snowboard.

And he says the Sled Dogs are easy to learn. Greco, whose move to Los Angeles was a culture shock, wants to encourage urban millennials to get into the mountains. “To move to the city, you see so many people who don’t get out because they work these 9-to-5 jobs,” Greco says. “The mountains should be more accessible to young people. That’s what we’re all about.”

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