2020 was a tough year for the fitness industry. Between managing cash flow, retaining staff, or adapting radical new processes, the challenges were plentiful. But what if 2020 was the year you planned to launch your new fitness product? That was exactly the challenge for Avrum Elmakis, co-founder and CEO of CLMBR, a new connected vertical climbing machine. We spoke to Avrum about:
- Launching the company during a pandemic
- Introducing a new piece of equipment to the connected fitness category
- Designing a single product for commercial and home use, and
- How the company landed some top tier celebrity investors like Jay-Z and Novak Djokovic
Where did the idea for CLMBR come from?
As an entrepreneur, I love creating disruptive businesses. Several years ago, I took a personal interest in fitness and it was my own journey that led me to the creation of CLMBR. I became a triathlete and spent a lot of time running, cycling, swimming, and at the same time, I became fascinated with the business of fitness.
I discovered a gym in Denver, Colorado where we’re located and where I live with my family. They were using some older climbing technology in a group fitness setting as a cardio class. It was like a spin class but with climbing machines instead of bikes. After the class, my body felt great. I started feeling faster and more efficient. That was my ah-ha moment. It was like a lightbulb went off. Climbing was just better. There was no pain, my whole body was in motion. CLMBR was born as a result of this experience.
I proceeded to look at what I could do to popularise climbing as a modality and make a machine that is beautiful, approachable, differentiated, high tech and able to be used commercially and at-home.
How do you popularise a new modality of connected fitness like this?
Well, it’s already been around for a long time. Climbing machines have been used by smart people in fitness for more than 40 years. We didn’t invent the modality. Our goal is to popularise it.
I believe that the quality of movement is becoming more and more important. People are starting to really think about what they are getting out of different types of exercise. A bike or a rower was never meant to be a stationary instrument. People just accept the paradigm they are given. Sitting down to exercise doesn’t make a lot of sense.
To popularise climbing as a new modality we’re looking at educating people in three key areas. The first is through the medical/healthcare community and educating people about why being upright is good for us. The second is through popular culture using entertainers, celebrities and athletes to help define and drive the culture of CLBMR. The third is through the everyday user. Once people start using our product, the benefits are self-evident. You can burn the same amount of calories as other cardio machines in half the time. You feel better. The product takes up less space. It’s obvious.
CLMBR will be sold as both a commercial and at-home fitness tool. How do you establish the market for both?
Our design uses a minimal amount of floor space and it is more vertical than typical cardio machines. As a result, it is very appealing to both commercial and residential users. There’s an intense level of curiosity with everything from hotels to gyms to individual users.
The only real difference is that the consumer is getting a commercially viable product vs. making a consumer only product. The main difference is the screen. For home use, it’s going to be all about content and experience and how you make that person feel like they are part of a community. For commercial use, it’s more focused on the physical community and group interaction. You don’t need the same video experience.
Your Indiegogo campaign earlier this year was a huge success: 100% funded in 20 minutes. How did you do this? Were you surprised by this response?
You can’t seek to create something for the sole purpose of making money. It has to be authentic and true. When it is, you’re given a greater opportunity to be successful.
I think people are really excited about something new and different and they want to take control and adopt that thing as early as possible. When we talk about how CLMBR is no impact, space saving and that you can burn 50% more calories than the next closest cardio machine, people start listening.
It all starts with authenticity.
What has it been like to launch a product during a pandemic? How has it impacted your launch plans?
It has been unbelievable in terms of challenge. We’re a startup. We’re not an established corporation and we didn’t have many established protocols. The pandemic impacted everything from how to function as a company to our supply chain. We were scheduled to visit our suppliers in Asia last year and that was shut down as of January 2020.
Like everyone else, we were blindsided. Consumers understand of course, but it’s been very difficult to say the least! Every potential input has been challenged, constrained and made increasingly difficult. But things are starting to open up again and over the next six months, I believe the world will continue toward a trend of normalcy.
The net effect has been a 9-12 month delay in launch from when we originally believed we would be selling and shipping machines.
I only work on businesses that I believe in and that I am 100% passionate about. Therefore, we are committed to seeing things through.
You’ve made headlines recently for attracting some high profile celebrity investors like Jay-Z, Pittbull, Novak Djokovic and Ryan Seacrest. How did this come about? Any advice for other entrepreneurs looking to attract celebrity investors like this?
It really boils down to authenticity. If you were to ask any of these people what they would choose to do to workout, it would all come back to climbing. They have ultimate optionalty but it all boils down to efficiency and safety.
In terms of how we got these people on board, it was a combination of factors: a lifetime of networking, introductions through our board and other people we know in the industry. We focused on people we believed genuinely understood what we seek to do with CLMBR and people we believed could help us educate others on why climbing is their preferred modality. Investing in our business was very much about joining CLMBR on a mission of health. We’re trying to focus on the quality of movement and let people know there is another option out there.
My advice is to be authentic. Believe in what you’re doing and do something that can help others and the right people will find you.
Beyond the initial headlines, what are your plans to leverage these relationships going forward?
We won’t have any defined protocols but all our investors will be using our machines and sharing their experience authentically with their networks. Climbing is what they do to train or exercise so it will be natural for them to share. Because they are from all sorts of different backgrounds, it will appeal to a lot of different people. Climbing is completely inclusive.
I always think about my mom. She has a knee replacement and a bad hip and this precludes her from many types of exercise. I think about her a lot when I think about who will use our product. How can you address all of humanity in one device that is safe? Climbing. That’s the beauty of exercising in the third dimension.
For more information about CLMBR, go to https://www.clmbr.com/