The gym of the future may be your living room

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Harry Alford III

5 fitness startups seizing new opportunities during COVID-19

Beyond the Rhetoric

By Harry C. Alford III

Fitness applications and marketplace platforms can be a forcing function for productivity today, and after the crisis ends.

In 2016, I launched an on-demand fitness platform, NamaStay. NamaStay was a two-sided marketplace connecting users with certified yoga instructors. At the time, the market opportunity for yoga instruction was $3.7 billion and $3.3 billion for personal instruction. I assumed that people were not practicing yoga and improving their health because they could not get to a studio. Also, a majority of yoga teachers surveyed work part-time, which meant they had flexible schedules and higher-earning power. After testing the assumptions, I realized two things:

  • Customers loved the marketplace. Additionally, they received expert training from the comfort of their own home.
  • There wasn’t liquidity of supply. Yoga teachers weren’t compelled to travel around the city to give instruction. They liked the prospect of making more money, but going to each class cut into their free time.

Both sides of the marketplace ultimately wanted a solution that gives them their time back. Four years ago, consumers and trainers weren’t forced to digitize their workout routines. Today, COVID-19 is an accelerant for innovation. The coronavirus outbreak and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression have forced consumers, even entire towns, to say goodbye to brick-and-mortar fitness facilities and find alternative ways to make gains — online.

In Pitchbook’s latest research note, analysts break down how companies in the fitness space are seizing new opportunities to reshape their business models and operations. The report states:

“While the market for traditional gym-based fitness is likely to return over time, we believe the emerging digital fitness industry is liable to experience rapid growth in the near term and remain relevant even after the pandemic has passed.”

As traditional gyms and fitness providers seek to improve digital offerings, demand will likely increase for content production and streaming tools. Below are startups across multiple segments, including corporate wellness, fitness applications, VR, and marketplaces, that are capitalizing on the shift to at-home fitness:

Every Mother

Every Mother is designed for women at all stages of motherhood, offering an evidence-based pre- and post-natal fitness exercise program. The female-led startup has closed a $1.5 million seed round led by Courtside Ventures, with participation from Serena Williams’ Serena Ventures, and Techstars Ventures, among other angel investors.

Ompractice

Yoga Journal once said, “2-way live streaming yoga is the yoga of the future.” The future has arrived ahead of schedule thanks to social distancing requirements and Ompractice. Since 2017, Ompractice has provided virtual group yoga and wellness classes for individuals and organizations at scale. [Yoga] studios can bring their studios online extending their reach beyond their regular audience. They’ve partnered with health insurers so consumers can receive a deeply discounted monthly or annual membership.

BurnAlong

BurnAlong helps employers create healthier workforces and helps employees achieve fitness and wellness goals. Customers include corporate employers, municipalities, insurers, and brokers. BurnAlong got one government setup in under six hours, and employees started using the platform the same day. The company is seeing increased interest in streaming health and wellness classes during the pandemic and just raised $4 million.

Supernatural

Supernatural is an immersive, virtual reality fitness experience that combines the best music, coaches, destinations, and movements into an incredible home workout. A new workout is released every day, and Supernatural brings you immersive full-body exercises while staying within the footprint of a yoga mat. The only requirement is an Oculus Quest headset .

Future

Future combines the best of 1-on-1 coaching with cutting-edge technology to bring an experience that’s built just for you, whatever your skill level, wherever you are. Future has raised $11.5 million from seven investors such as Kleiner Perkins and Courtside Ventures.

These are just a few of the fitness technologies that can help you stay active in the comfort of your home — on your own time. It’s a new era of digital fitness. What couldn’t have been possible four years ago for at-home fitness, consumers have adopted technologically advanced products in place of, or in conjunction with, traditional alternatives thanks mainly to the pandemic. Gym-based workouts may survive the downturn, but consumers might want to stay home.

About the Author

Whether in venture capital, education, or sports, Harry Alford III’s career has always centered around inclusion. Harry Alford is co-founder of venture development firm humble ventures, where he accelerates the growth of startups in partnership with large enterprises and investors. In addition to being a Techstars mentor and a member of the Board of Advisors for the Dingman Center, Harry is the Interim Director of the University of Maryland’s Southern Management Leadership Program, where he supports and develops students who have an interest in entrepreneurship and an enthusiasm for starting a business venture, leading a company, or changing the world. Harry, a two-time All-American, ACC Tournament MVP, and ACC All-Tournament Team as a goalie on the Maryland Lacrosse team (2003-2007), holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland, an M.A. in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University, and an MBA from Babson College. Harry also has experience playing professionally in Major League Lacrosse. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his family.

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