David McQuillen: From Swiss banker to CSO of Sufferlandria
How a top banker left his job and now runs a multimillion-dollar business from his Hobart home
Don’t worry if you don’t know what a CSO is or where Sufferlandria is. CSO stands for Chief Suffering Officer and that’s David McQuillen – the head of Sufferlandria who likes nothing more than to have folk suffer on the seat of a bike courtesy of his company, The Sufferfest.
The Sufferfest is a world leading cycling and endurance athlete training app. It’s used with turbo trainers, rollers and spin bikes to help cyclists get faster and stronger through science-based training programs. It blends humour with Olympic-level coaching and mixes agony with victory. Those who choose to join the ‘community’ are known as Sufferlandrians.
Its founder McQuillen grew up in the United States before moving to London to pursue a Master of Business Administration in Information Technology (IT) Strategy and then beginning an international banking career. It was while working in Zurich as a banker that he met his future wife Claire, a Tasmanian. “Although I wasn’t sure where Tasmania was, I was sure that I liked her!”
McQuillen found it hard to stay motivated while training for cycling events indoors in Zurich in the depths of winter. So he made short videos to keep himself entertained while on the bike and he named this quirky side interest, The Sufferfest. When friends began asking for more of his Sufferfest videos, that’s when he realised there was genuine interest in his side hustle.
Two children later, McQuillen was headhunted by another bank and the family spent three years in Singapore. During that time, they had a third child, but McQuillen felt he never got to see his family. Banking was a very lucrative career, but the personal cost was too high, with endless long hours and weekend work impacting David’s family life.
“I left banking and we moved to Australia to see if I could grow Sufferfest into something bigger. I hired a small team to help me and after two years our family relocated to Hobart, Claire’s birthplace. It’s so much easier to do things here. The family is happy and time I spend at work is more effective. I can enjoy riding my bike and we have world-class mountain and road biking on our doorstep.” says McQuillen.
Since moving to Tasmania, The Sufferfest has boomed. Annual revenue has hit seven figures. Customers pedal away in more than 110 countries. There are 135 000+ followers on Facebook and 175 cycling studios and gyms around the world that license videos to run the Sufferfest programs. There are even five Sufferlandrians who have a Sufferlandrian tattoo!
Today, McQuillen is responsible for setting the overall strategy of the business, for corporate partnerships and doing the creative work for every video. Pro cycling coach, Neil Henderson, designs each program. They come with names like Revolver, Blender and It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time. McQuillen does this all from his living room or their new co-working space Parliament on Hobart’s waterfront.
“We have two epicentres: one in Nevada, USA for our programming and our creative headquarters in Hobart. We’re looking to bring more creatives on board drawing on the local Hobart talent pool. Our head of marketing also fell in love with Tasmania after we brought our team of 14 here for the last conference, and he will be relocating to Hobart from Oregon, USA soon.”
McQuillen continues to innovate. The Sufferfest’s offerings now include yoga for cyclists and mental toughness programs, and strength training will be added to the app in August 2018.
They also run a training camp each year in Switzerland at Union Cycliste Internationale’s headquarters, which is an opportunity for Sufferlandrians to meet one another.
David is most proud of making people feel better about themselves. He’s also proud his business is self-funded and his team have work-life balance. Over the past few years, they have raised more than $650 000 USD for the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease – Phinney was McQuillen’s cycling hero growing up. They also sponsor African cyclists, resulting in one making it to the Rio Olympics and four others competing in the recent Commonwealth Games.
When McQuillen isn’t inventing new modes of suffering for the masses, he’s running Sufferfest classes in Hobart, out on his bike or enjoying time with family. “It doesn’t get better than Tasmania. Craft beer, food, wine, the outdoors…it’s the best.”
Are you interested in making a move? Make it Tasmania.
Find out more about The Sufferfest.
For information on starting a business in Tasmania look through our stories or visit Business Tasmania.