Adam Ashe looks ahead to life after rugby with Zappaty

Sponsored content: Former Scotland back-rower discusses his new role helping develop an exciting cutting-edge file-sharing start-up

Adam Ashe is an investor and was recently appointed Business Development Manager for Zappaty. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Adam Ashe is an investor and was recently appointed Business Development Manager for Zappaty. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THE end of the professional rugby player part of Adam Ashe’s life arrived two years ago. He was only 28, but had done extremely well to last as long as he did. The back-rower’s career had been more of a struggle than it needed to be for at least seven years before the final curtain came down. 

“It was back in November 2014, I was playing for Scotland against the All Blacks at Murrayfield, and when I woke up that morning I couldn’t get out of bed,” he recalls. “I’d been having neck pain for about a year, but that morning was different – it had got pretty severe and my neck was very sensitive to changes in pillows and bedding – and I remember going down and trying to sit at the table for breakfast and I was in so much pain I couldn’t eat.”

This was clearly a big problem, but opportunities to test yourself against the fabled All Blacks do not come around very often and the then 21-year-old – winning only his third cap – was determined to play no matter what.


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“I swallowed some painkillers and anti-inflammatories, played the game, hurt my neck again trying to chop-tackle Victor Vito off the back of a five-man line-out, then the next morning it was a whole other world of pain. My mum drove me from Edinburgh back home to Glasgow as I couldn’t sit up, I could only lie down.

“That was the injury from which I struggled to get back to my best. In hindsight, I probably should have got an operation, but I didn’t. I probably got back to 80 percent after six months, but never got back above that through the remainder of my career. I lost a lot of upper body strength which never came back.”

Ashe had been thrust into the limelight five months earlier when he was plucked from the obscurity of a summer playing club rugby in New Zealand on a rugby scholarship to make his senior Scotland debut against South Africa in Port Elizabeth.

At that point, he had managed just two bench appearances for Glasgow Warriors over the previous two years since leaving school, and by the time the All Blacks Test came along he was still a novice with just a couple more pro appearances under his belt, but Vern Cotter – Scotland’s head coach at that time – clearly believed he had identified a ball-player with the physical attributes to excel on the international stage.

The back-rower went on to have a solid pro career with Glasgow Warriors, making 73 club appearances and picking up six caps in total, before agreeing to being released early from his contract by Scottish Rugby in September 2020, and taking up an opportunity to play for the LA Giltinis in Major League Rugby [MLR]. He admits to being frustrated at the time when various injuries got in the way of his career soaring to the heights that seemed possible back in 2014, but insists that he doesn’t now look backwards with regret.

“It was fine – I could manage it – but then in my second season at LA, in the last game I ever played two years ago, I got a concussion and badly compressed my neck whilst being tackled, a few moments later I got another concussion and split my head open. I got 10 staples in my head. It was a dark moment. I knew at that point I was finished.”

“Having had a bad neck injury earlier in my career, I had said to myself that if I ever got back to that level of neck pain I would hang up my boots. The pain was excruciating for six weeks, I couldn’t sit in team meetings. Luckily I was given a coaching role within the team which kept me engaged through days of pain.

“The doctors said that if I wanted to keep playing then I was going to have to get a surgery. I could only see myself playing for another two years even if I kept fully fit. I decided to call it a day instead of going down the operation route.

“I’m completely okay with it,” he adds. “I’ve carried on coaching and I still enjoy being in the game. I can still run, I can still go to the gym, it doesn’t affect my everyday life, but I honestly don’t feel any urge to play. I have recovered enough to live a good life. I can’t run head first into people anymore but I’m okay with that.

“I was someone who got a lot of injuries throughout my career. I think people think if you get injured a lot you are maybe scared to commit fully to rugby. But it was never like that for me. It wasn’t the fear of getting hurt, it was the fear of being out for another six months and feeling like you are starting all over again for the umpteenth time. I just got a bit over it.”

 

Looking ahead. Adam Ashe spent time in Nicelast month following Scotland's World Cup campaign but is at peace with the end of his own playing career having moved on to the next stage of his life. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Looking ahead. Adam Ashe spent time in Nice last month following Scotland’s World Cup campaign but is at peace with the end of his own playing career having moved on to the next stage of his life. Image: © Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk

 

It helped that Ashe had already laid the groundwork for life after playing, picking up coaching experience at club level with West of Scotland, Whitecraigs, Glasgow Accies and Stirling County whilst still at Glasgow Warriors.

“A few months later I got a phone call from the General Manager at the Chicago Hounds, who were a new franchise in the MLR, asking me if I wanted to go out and coach their forwards for a few months in their inaugural season. I thought it sounded cool so I packed my bags and was off again,” he explains.

“The first year for any new team in a league is going to be hard unless you are prepared to spend a bit more than you should be spending, but I absolutely loved the experience. I was very fortunate to step out of playing professional rugby and go so quickly into a professional coaching job. It was a tough challenge under the circumstances, with not much resource and lots of things up in the air like where we were playing and training, but it was a great learning curve with a short season of six months.

“Then, literally, as the season was ending, we found out that Alisa, my wife, was pregnant, so we weighed up everything and decided it was time to head back to Scotland. Healthcare in the USA is a nightmare and we’ve got family at home, so we’ve bought a place in Glasgow and are really excited about what comes next.

“I’m very entrepreneurial and creative so have always had other things outside of rugby that I wanted to explore.”

As well as coaching, Ashe has pursued a couple of business opportunities since hanging up his boots, which now includes Zappaty, an exciting cutting-edge tech file-sharing start-up, launched earlier this year, for who he is now Business Development Manager as well as an investor.

“Throughout my career, I was always looking at different things,” he reflects. “Along with my co-founder I started Pure Sport back in 2017 and built that up over a couple of years, then I left Glasgow Warriors in 2019 and ended up selling some of my ownership in the company. I’m still a shareholder and the team are doing an amazing job with that company down in London.

“In amongst that happening, I met a couple of guys through the Business Club at Glasgow Warriors, Alex Stewart and Neil Watson, who both invested into Pure Sport. They have been really great mentors for me in terms of understanding how to pursue business opportunities. These guys have had a profound affect on my life in so many ways. Both are brilliant role models and they understand the value and power of bringing people together.

“Neil, who has guided me and influenced me in such a positive manner, introduced me to the Zappaty founders. We spoke about the product and where the company wanted to go over the next three to four years. The tech world is something that really excites me. I have friends who have founded tech companies and built them up quickly, selling them for great multiples. When investing there’s always a degree of risk but when you believe in the people and product it can become a very exciting journey.

“The great thing about Zappaty is that it is an extremely secure platform to send large files on. It is end-to-end encrypted and has a really well developed fly-wheel technology, so if you are sending a big file and your wifi signal drops then with other platforms it will just go back to the start – a real pain in the backside if you are sending a terabyte file which is going to take an hour and a half – whereas with Zappaty, as soon as you get the signal again it will start up where it left off.

“It also has a really cost effective and robust storage element, so that means that the file doesn’t drop off the face of the earth after a few days if you don’t manage to download it in time. The platform was launched in beta earlier this year and has already started to build its customer base. We’re planning for massive growth.

“So, I’m treating it a bit like Pure Sport and have basically reached out to my network to see if anyone is interested in getting involved, and we’ve built a little investment group around that. Finn Russell is involved, Duhan van der Merwe, Huw Jones, Adam Hastings, Jamie Bhatti and probably a couple more will come on board over the next couple of months. I am very excited about Zappaty and what lies ahead.

“When you are in the limelight of being a professional athlete you have an opportunity to reach a wide audience. Sometimes opportunities present themselves from a corporate point of view. You have a short window of time to make the most of these opportunities. There are a lot of similarities to pro sport and fast-growing businesses: making decisions, pressure to perform, working in a newly formed team and so on. These guys have a lot to offer the business and it’s great to have them on board as shareholders.

“The founders who started this company came from tech, the sporting world is obviously completely different. I think it serves a company well when you have shareholders from different backgrounds who can bring different skills to the table.”

 

  • Launched to the public in 2023, Zappaty provides a robust, resilient solution to the problem of sharing and storing very large files. This allows individuals and teams to share and work on rich content or highly complex files more securely.
  • Zappaty deals effortlessly with poor bandwidth and dropped signals and can transfer much larger files sizes than many of the commercial products available today. With end-to-end file encryption to a blockchain and cloud-based storage Zappaty uses the very latest proprietary tech to reduce the cost to serve. The business is truly borderless, has already launched and has started building a user base.
  • Information for potential investors: Zappaty has raised £1.2m to date, is pre-revenue and is currently raising a Seed round. This round will enable more investment in platform development and scaling both the user base and team.
  • If you want to find out more about the business or how to get involved, contact Adam Ashe or Zappaty CEO David Stickland. Like any investment, capital is at risk.

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About David Barnes 3911 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

1 Comment

  1. Was hoping to see the new guys like Rowe and Trotter. Not sure what’s going on with Thompson again as he’s not registered as injured yet Weir who is well past his best gets the bench spot. The fact that Glasgow haven’t strengthened the 10 position gives me the fear, particularly for the Champions Cup.

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