Paul Slater and Dave Stidolph are the co-founders of Fit Gurus, an online personal training platform offering people unrestricted access to tough, no-frills workouts designed by their vetted PT’s, and in turn creating a more scalable revenue stream for those PT’s.
In this interview we speak to Paul and Dave about why the online PT model is working so well, how it benefits PT’s, and their ambitious goals to hit 2,000 users per day before the end of this year.
Can you tell us about the journey so far?
Dave and I met in a gym a few years back, Dave being a personal trainer and I was someone who needed training. As the relationship developed we talked about setting up a company. Out of that we decided to make a very lean startup product where people can get awesome workouts online from very talented trainers. All of those workouts are no BS, no nonsense, no quick or easy shortcuts. We’re really about the love of training, which is a testament to Dave’s training style; and I grew to love that style. We’re not big fans of ‘tricks’ like clever photography or lighting.
We created a minimum viable product in less than 4 weeks, launched it and got paying clients who were dotted around the world. The signs were there, and Dave did a great job in finding likeminded trainers. From there we set out to make Fit Gurus the single point online for the best workouts, and to scale it out internationally. It’s always about scale.
[pullquote]We created a minimum viable product in less than 4 weeks, launched it and got paying clients who were dotted around the world. The signs were there.[/pullquote]
Jump to 3 or 4 weeks after we launched, everything was going alright but we needed to step our game up. We started working with a mentor from the local business community who had been involved in tech companies. We then managed to land a spot on the Ignite 100 Accelerator last November.
It was a bit like doing a years’ worth of work in 4 months – we had people tearing our business plan up and putting it back together, and challenging every assumption. That was probably the hardest 4 months of our careers. You come out of the programme knowing whether or not you need investment.
“It was a bit like doing a years’ worth of work in 4 months – we had people tearing our business plan up and putting it back together.”
We were one of first teams on our cohort to launch a fundraise. As part of that we were the first UK company to raise capital on Angel List. We raised £80,000 on Angel List, £20,000 from Angel Investors, and £100,000 from a VC company called North Star. In total we raised £200,000, giving us a chance to grow the team, get more help with technical development, and do more marketing. We like to think we’ve done extremely well considering we’ve only been around since last August.
What are your key channels for driving business?
It’s two-pronged; business comes from the content and workouts that we create, and also from the trainers we bring in. The trainers are like another part of the sales force; as we scale that side, we get a bigger audience, particularly on social media.
We’re pretty hot on social media. We grow very fast, have lots of skills on the team, and don’t just run one account. The most important metrics for us are users (internationally), quality trainers, and the amount of engagement. We’ve recently switched from paid to the ‘freemium’ model. The revenue goal is not just about Fit Gurus making money, it’s also about elite trainers joining the team and doing well too. When the premium model plan launches, the trainers will be very much involved in the delivery to the customer.
We understand online PT will be a big part of the budget gym offering over the next few years, do you see this as a potential route to market?
Definitely. We’re very open to talking to other commercial organisations that see value in our demographic. We’re focused on the user first, and making Fit Gurus the best place online to get the best workouts from the best trainers. That’s our focus, so the brands we work with have to be right.
We’re talking to one supplements business at the moment, and we really like these guys and the products; we won’t just do things for the sake of a few quid. It’s staying true to the no BS approach rather than promoting the healthy lifestyle kind of thing. Any business in this game will only survive if they build a loyal brand around them, and our customers have to love the brand as much as we do.
Will online personal training be a good or a bad thing for personal trainers?
It comes down to how good the trainer is – that’s what differentiates them. All PTs claim to be the best and have the same end product. A huge focus for us is having really good relationships with all of our trainers; they’re not just numbers to us. We are building a community of users and therefore also building a community of trainers.
From day one we’ve told the PT’s that they have influence over the business. We run every major decision by the team, so we ran the freemium model by them first. Before we moved to that model, we stated both sides of the case. Thankfully all of our PT’s are very switched on; we have a great team on the board and top UK investors and business mentors advising us on a daily basis.
“From day one we’ve told the PT’s that they have influence over the business. We run every major decision by the team.”
All of the trainers on the platform are awesome and have been screened by Dave. Some are well known online and some are relatively unknown. The ones that are relatively unknown might be new or not very good at marketing themselves online, but they are very talented and committed to helping people achieve their goals. Now they have a company that can wrap tech around them and help them to shout about themselves. It’s great that we can give the lesser-known guys a platform. It’s not a righteous thing with us, we help to put the trainers out there as much as possible.
Even for our trainers that have a very strong online presence and are great at marketing themselves, we wrap tools around them so that they can create a bigger following and fanbase. It’s good for them to be on systems like this because as a trainer, there’s always more you can learn, and working with other trainers enhances your own abilities. In a gym there’s capped income, and there’s only so many hours in the day to train so many people.
[pullquote]Even for our trainers that have a very strong online presence and are great at marketing themselves, we wrap tools around them so that they can create a bigger following and fanbase.[/pullquote]
On the new freemium model, the workouts are free. We’re going for the maximum amount of users. When we introduce the premium model it will be built around customisation and personalisation, and we’ll look at revenue share. We’re working on some really innovative ideas that no one else has really touched on yet. We believe in the freemium model to get the audience in and interacting with these trainers in a different way.
The interesting thing about our approach is not focusing on ’12 weeks’ or ’12 week goals’ – let’s just nail today. Our workouts will remove any doubt that what we’re doing is going to match your goals. Fit Gurus guarantee every workout will kick your ass!
How is the business doing so far?
Users are growing month on month, so it’s going well. It’s very early doors since switching to the free model. First we focused on a small number of people to get the right product. V3 of Fit Gurus is being built now, which is a combination of customer discovery and quizzing clients on a regular basis.
We’re aiming for 2,000 new users a day, and we should be hitting those figures within the next 5 months. We know how to get to those figures; we’re in a very knowledgeable tech marketing business and just have to follow the steps in the strategy to get there. The biggest challenge is: Can we build out everything that we need to hit that figure? Our tech is getting smarter and smarter, and requires deep thinking and very good quality developers.