Evolution Of An Opportunity
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In 2010, the company now known as Fitsistant was Myskicoach.com — the combination of a successful fitness luminary and his innovative online product to keep skiers slope-ready in season and out.
As the first online fitness tool specifically for avid skiiers, MySkiCoach was uniquely positioned for growth. It was founded by Andrew Hooge, a former strength coach for the San Diego Chargers and author of Fit Skiing, a book which opened doors for him to speak nationally about fitness on networks such as CNN.
Myskicoach.com had several major factors in its favor. Book sales to skiers created an affluent pre-existing user base. Also, there was virtually no competition in the skiing fitness niche. But most importantly, Fitskiing.com had a valuable fitness algorithm that could scientifically adapt workouts to users’ ever-changing needs.
Potential for greatness existed with the most important pieces in place: a 99th percentile founder in the space with 99th percentile technology.
However, there was also cause for concern: the website wasn’t hitting revenue targets.
To remedy this, we conducted the following product relaunch plan:
Phase 1: Discover
- Explore the current market and current users
- Define the needs of the most valuable prospective users
- Study examples of successful solutions in related and unrelated industries
- Design a disruptive launch plan, noting its assumptions in priority order
Phase 2: Verify
- Live market test for interest before building the product
- Develop prototype with active paying customers
- Raise Capital Based on the Business Case
After several rounds of live market testing and prototyping, Fitsistant had emerged as a user-inspired and proven solution, raising a seed round days after proving its business case and closing deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.
Discover: Defining Opportunity
Based on Fitskiing.com’s user base, we knew the existing skier market was still under-served. At the same time, we saw potential in expanding the user base beyond just skiers.
Skiing Expansion Sputters
We explored the concept of integrating a solution into premium ski resorts. In a short time, targeted research revealed major speed bumps before this option was seriously pursued.
For instance, numerous resorts use the same comprehensive system for operations management and communicating with their customers. The company that provides this solution is partially owned by the resorts themselves, creating a strong barrier to entry.
Market Expansion Shows Promise
In delving further, it became clear that the same demographic interested in skiing also pursued triathlons, running, cycling, golf and racquet sports. Including these sports effectively increased the initial market size by over 10x.
We found that people who engaged in these sports tended to be affluent, educated professionals and their spouses. Their motivation cut across a broad spectrum; what united a good portion of them was their feelings of fitness failure and its common root causes.
Like most intelligent people, they knew that if you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, you are more likely to be fit. The issue clearly wasn’t lack of knowledge. Yet, almost every person surveyed tended to fall out of their fitness pattern and yo-yo between inactivity and over-exertion ever two to eight weeks.
The two core issues we saw our target audience struggling with were:
- Not having a plan or program that was flexible enough to handle their ever changing schedule and personal progress (or lack thereof).
- Not having any support or accountability infrastructure.
The Birth of Fitsistant
The most important solution to the above problems was already in place in that we had an algorithm that evolved workouts based on progress and personal circumstances. What we presently lacked was an accountability and support infrastructure.
Prior to running internal innovation sessions, we researched standard practices in dozens of industries that dealt with clients experiencing these two core issues. Three proved the most inspirational: smoking cessation, concierge services and public polling.
While this led to numerous improvements and upgrades, two were foundational:
- Fitness Assistants: Going it alone with an algorithm wasn’t going to be enough. Our users needed a fitness CEO to give them guidance and a fitness secretary to help them make sure they could implement the plan.
- 3 Simple Questions: Busy professionals don’t want to spend 5 minutes logging data; we cut the process to under 20 seconds by limiting inputs to 3 simple questions.
In addition to the necessary features, three core aspects of the FitSkiing.com offering appeared to be ripe for redesign:
- Price: People were presently paying around $10 total for fitness apps and about $600/month for biweekly training sessions with an above average physical trainer. We needed to figure out a fair price within that range for something better than both combined.
- Channel: Adding the business to business channel was appealing. We could integrate with pre-existing fitness facilities/trainers or offer our service as the missing “health campus” that large businesses didn’t yet have.
- Brand & Messaging: Most fitness training brands presented themselves as motivational prophets with a heavy dose of machismo; nearly all apps billed themselves as cheap, simple and easy to use. Our product was an intellectual take on servant leadership, and luckily no competitors were presently telling that story.
Preparing To Test: Prioritizing Our Assumptions
In prioritizing our assumptions, we try to define situations that, if untrue, would force us to abandon the venture the fastest. The most important to test, listed in priority order:
- That a meaningful percentage of the marketplace would prefer a “fitness app that talks back” to regular fitness apps.
- That the audience was willing to pay a profitable amount for it.
- That sport specific exercises matter to and are helpful for the consumer.
- That the fitness professional community will be open to partnering with us.
For the next piece in the Fitsistant business case series, click here
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