January 1: @KikiSchirr on Fitness Startups
For January 1st, we’re profiling fitness startups. Today’s guest expert is Fittr CMO Kiki Schirr.
Fitness and technology are a lot like Sriracha and mayonnaise—it’s only in the last five years that we realized the two are made better by being together, and we’d never go back.
Being a part of Fittr, an app that designs completely custom workouts, has allowed me to watch a lot of the excitement unfold. If you’ll forgive another metaphor, fitness is the new Wild West, and everyone wants a piece of the land. Apple and Google are duking it out for the role of Wyatt Earp.
You see, there are two major movements in the tech/fitness realm right now: Hardware (mostly wearables) and Software (like Fittr). The thing is, much like Sriracha and Mayo (or, you know, Yin and Yang), we’ll find that neither side is whole without the other.
A lot of people have thrown their hat into the wearables ring. Every time a Tech Crunch writer coughs, a new company puts out a wearable. (Will.i.am, most famously, has his own watch, the Puls, though it does not claim fitness amongst its features) The real players in this game right now are the forthcoming Apple Watch, Jawbone, and dark horses like OM Signal.
OM Signal, btw, is a b-a- company that you should know about. They design fitness shirts that make the Jawbone’s data repository look like the sloppy times tables of a 2nd grader. And—I asked—they’re very washable, and—I asked—they’re coming out in a sports bra soon. $249 might seem steep for a shirt (though that’s what a Brooks Brothers hoodie costs) but it might become worth it when you consider that it tracks breathing, calories, steps, general activity, and ideal heart training heart rate zones, with many additional features in the works.
Another interesting fitness direction is full-body scanning. VirtualU is producing a sub $10k millimeter-precise full body scanner and last year they pivoted from the retail clothing space to be a fitness device. For people like bodybuilders and those rapidly losing weight, the $5/month fee to use the scanning software might provide additional encouragement. (or paranoia)
There are currently three main types of fitness software.* There are cookie-cutter workout providers, middle men, and tracking.
Cookie-cutter workout providers have pre-generated or puzzle-piece workouts that can be pulled up on demand. Often the workouts are complex and beneficial, but one of the major drawbacks is the limited nature of their generation, and the inevitable boredom that sets in with a non-dynamic workout.
Fitocracy does their best to fight workout stagnation with one of the best gamified programs I’ve seen outside of Duolingo. They have challenges, quests, competitions, badges—all on top of their workouts, and they have a loyal gamer following because of it.
Middle men take existing personal trainers and connect them with fitness-minded users. Wello, recently purchased by Weight Watchers, streams live video of a personal trainer to your computer or mobile device.
Other programs simply connect you with a gym, like DC-based Drop In, which allows you a single-price pass with a myriad of gyms and fitness studios.
Trackers are pretty straightforward: they collect and aggregate data. Most of the software that accompanies wearables falls into this category, and Fittr has elements of this, too. The most famous of these apps is probably MyFitnessPal with its insane dictionary of food nutrition content. MyFitnessPal is a great resource for individual users, but needs to look more at integration with other apps, as it has a difficult UX and and even more difficult gauntlet for their partnership program.
RunKeeper and other apps of its ilk comprise the rest of the tracking category. Apps like this use GPS to capture the paths, distance, and speed of cardio workouts like walking, jogging, and biking. While not very complicated on the surface, these apps have incredibly loyal followings.
*Fittr falls into a separate category because it unifies all three— it provides workouts (though they are tailored to the individual and made on demand), the workouts have been designed by an ACE-certified personal trainer (our CEO, Tyler), and we provide stat tracking that will soon be bolstered with Apple Health. And then there’s the fact we will soon be supporting wearable integration.
The accompanying graphic is from our pitch deck.
FIVE YEAR FITNESS FORECAST
I was asked to speak to fitness in 2020, which is a very impressive sounding year despite being only five away(!) I think there aren’t too many things you can say with certainty about the future, but I will say these three things:
The wearable space will contract and simplify as brands compete for and win dominance.
Apple, Google, Samsung, and Jawbone by my guess will all remain contenders. The reason that I single out Jawbone is because of all the wearables, it is the first to provide a strong focus on the software side of its device, making its user interface both simple and insightful.
There will be a greater and greater integration of medical data with fitness and less focus on remedial fitness and more on preventative health. People will start to provide their doctors with data from wearables to consider with their condition (Indeed, MS patients are already wearing FitBits) and healthcare providers will adopt offering discounts to people with safer fitness habits, such as 90 minutes of elevated heart rate per week. Cellphones will also become tools for home diagnosis of medical conditions prior to seeing a doctor IRL (see companies like Cellscope, BioscanR) and home treatment will become more common and accepted.
So while Sriracha and mayo might be our primary combination currently, medicine will soon join the ring (perhaps as beer in this extended metaphor)
I hope you have enjoyed my quick-and-dirty analysis of the fitness and technology market. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kiki is CMO at Fittr, the best custom workout generator. She has written for Tech Cocktail and Launching Creative, and has a sometimes dusty but useful Medium account. In her spare time—which is precious since joining Fittr—she paints and recently published a coloring book.
Fittr provides completely custom workouts for every individual. Workout design factors include time, personal preferences, goal, ability, and equipment available, and with hundreds of individual exercises there are actually trillions of potential workout combinations. Fittr is an SaaS, charging $7.99 for one month of membership, with decreasing rates for greater time commitments, as in a gym. Stat and goal tracking are always free. Fittr 1.0 is currently available on iOS, and 2.0 will be launching in January. An Android version is due out sometime during Q1.