09 Jan Startup Spotlight: SWORKIT (Fitness App)
Many of us have made a New Year’s Resolution to get in shape? As entrepreneurs, we have limited time and are always looking for new technology to help us stay on track and stay in shape. So, instead of looking to the market for an answer we went right to one of our users, Sworkit!
Sworkit eliminates just about all of the possible excuses by offering on-demand exercise routines that you can do anywhere and anytime. Got back-to-back meetings all day? No problem, pull out your phone and Sworkit’s mobile app can give you a full body routine that takes 5 minutes that you can do right in your office, no equipment required.
Earlier this week we had a chance to catch up with Ben Young, co-founder of Sworkit, to hear how he’s gaining a foothold in the hyper-competitive fitness market.
What is Sworkit?
The Sworkit app provides video guided workouts for strength building, cardio, yoga, and stretching. Each exercise is tailored to what you need: any amount of time that you have available and any physical limitations that you may have, like injuries. All the exercises are designed using body weight and no equipment is required so you can do them anywhere using your phone or tablet. Our goal is to build the world’s largest guided exercise platform on mobile, web, and smart TV for fitness and rehabilitative needs.
Why did you decide to build the Sworkit product and start a company?
I personally gained a bunch of weight while working in various technology jobs. I knew there was no magic to staying healthy – it’s just nutrition and exercise – but I was struggling with motivation. So through my own journey of getting back in shape I became interested in the idea of behavior change using incentives and rewards. We founded our company, Nexercise, with the goal of altering people’s behavior by gamifying exercise and nutrition.
But we eventually learned that the biggest motivation is still intrinsic – each individual finally deciding that “I need to make a change” – and that external rewards and incentives don’t drive this kind of behavior changes. So we pivoted from trying to address motivation and instead looked for ways to to lower the barriers to exercise. Nexercise acquired Sworkit, an app that already existed and had a loyal following. We retooled and re-released the app with the narrower focus of lowering barriers and streamlining the experience. Since then Sworkit has really taken off.
Fitness and exercise is a very crowded market, what makes Sworkit different?
Compared to other fitness apps that are being released, Sworkit is the fastest from app download to actually working out. You don’t have to download each individual workout on Sworkit. Sworkit also allows enormous customization based on your timeframe, your preferred style of working out, and your physical limitations. You can custom build workouts, and so we have lots of professional trainers and physical therapists using Sworkit to design and deliver workouts to their clients.
Who should use Sworkit?
Moms looking to squeeze in a 10-15 min workout while caring for their newborns, Travelers stuck in hotels, busy professionals…anyone that’s busy. It’s cliche to say “it’s for everyone,” but there is something in it for everyone. I met a power lifter who was skeptical of the concept but he now builds custom stretching routines from our library.
What have you learned along the path to launching Sworkit?
We made mistakes on our first product that we learned from when working on Sworkit. Most importantly we learned to avoid the temptation of adding random features to the plate, or what we call “app bloat.” Most of our product roadmap for 2015 focuses on refining the product and going deeper into our core strengths, which is making it even more seamless and easy to use.
Describe a challenge that you have faced in building your business?
[Laughing]… where to start. This one may sound cliche, but at the beginning we failed to set company core values or a very clear mission. Without those to guide you, it’s easy to muddy the waters. They are essential in aligning everybody.
A related challenge is making sure to hire really solid people, because that is your biggest competitive differentiator. You obviously need good people, but they must also be dedicated and aligned with the mission, especially in early stage companies when the salaries aren’t as motivating.
Where do you go when you need advice on a difficult decision?
We went through TechStars and still lean on our mentors from the program, I’m in regular contact with them, at least once a month. Otherwise, I turn to other founders for insight and I read a ton… books, blogs, you name it. I am really glad to see what you are doing at TrepScore because it will save people like me tons of time!
What are some of your goals as a company heading into 2015?
As far as growth, we want to be among the top 20 apps in health and fitness, and do that in multiple countries. We want to hit 10 million downloads. And we want to do all of that organically.
As far as the product, we’re making the user experience even more seamless and expanding our global reach. For example, we’re excited to offer the Asian languages (Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Hindi). We will also introduce longer term training plans, such as 60-day plans.
What does it cost and where can people find it?
The Sworkit app is free, you can download it in the app stores or access it on our website. There is also a Pro version that costs $1.99 and gives you unlimited custom workouts, more customization (interval lengths), and no advertising.