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Fitnescity : Allows Users To Connect With Personal Trainers

http://www.fitnescity.com/

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We had an interesting chat with Ms. “Leila Zemrani”, Founder and CEO  of the New York – US based start-up “Fitnescity”

Below is the interview we conducted with him:

1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?

We are a peer-to-peer platform that allows users to connect with top personal trainers. Our goal is to open the “gym business” to a whole new world of opportunities:

We bring our users personalized, affordable quality workouts, by connecting them directly with qualified personal trainers, fitness instructors, athletes, and professional dancers in their area.

2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?

The start-up was founded in August 2014 and we are now completing the phase where we tested the model. We are now ready to expand and scale.
The initial scaling phase that we are working on right now is New York.

3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?

We have a uber/airbnb like business model. We connect trainers with users we charge a transaction fee.
For trainers, the value is in helping them decrease their customer acquisition cost, and therefore expand their network of clients. For our users, we bring convenience (ability to book and pay online) and transparency (ability to write and/or read reviews). Most importantly, we allow users to enjoy the benefits of personal training, without the burden of a gym membership.

4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?

We are two founders about 2 years ago through a friend who connected us.

- First Co-founder: MIT Sloan MBA, Mines-Telecom Paris undergrad, 2nd time start-up founder, background in management consulting.
- Second Co-founder: Stanford post-doc, Brown PhD, Computer Science- Data visualization.

5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?

We believe that gyms are charging users way too much: Whether you exercise or not, you are paying for fancy facilities and expensive gym equipment, which you probably don’t even use that much.
We believe that quality personal training should be convenient and affordable.
In other words, what makes us unique is that we are bringing the traditionally high fixed costs of the gym business to a level close to zero.

6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?

We have been able to attract a decent amount of trainers and users to our website. The goal at that stage was to test the model.
We are self-funded, and the next phase for us now will be to gain significant traffic and exposure, before raising a first round of funding.

7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?

Thumstack:
All our trainers are pre-screened. We interview and train with ALL of our trainers. As a result, we have a much higher control over the quality of the trainers present on our platform.
Gyms:
We only offer private and personalized training. We want our users to workout in a healthy and disciplined manner. We also want to reduce the injuries that typically happen when a person is not working out properly.
As mentioned before, we do not ‘lock’ our customers in memberships.

8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

Changing habits is one of the main obstacles that we are constantly trying to overcome.
Whether it is to encourage people to exercise and live healthier.

9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?

The gym business has been following the same business model since its inception. Users are now looking for an on-demand, convenient, quality fitness experience.

10. Why are you going to succeed?

As a team, we are a good mix of business and engineering skills. One of the founders is also passionate about fitness. As a dance instructor herself, she’s also an avid user of fitness products and services.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?

The service will soon allow users to track their progress. This will include the number of classes taken vs. goals, as well as a reminder of what they need to do to achieve their weekly / monthly goals. This will also include fitness data, and recommendations based on previous behavior and results.

Also, based on what we heard from our customers, we are already thinking about expanding to new areas in the future: private lessons in arts (e.g. music, theater.. ) and sciences.

12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?

The idea was born from a personal need. I wanted to be able to get personal training from qualified trainers, and across different disciplines (e.g. strength training and Dance) without having to belong to a gym and pay a monthly membership. On the other, I found it difficult to find a reliable source when it comes to trainers and their qualifications. I would like to be able to read (and trust) the trainer’s profile and reviews, just like I would do on Airbnb before booking a room.

13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?

I have learned that the key is to listen to your customers and act on it.
As a big fitness enthusiast, I am passionate about our company and its mission. Therefore, it is very tempting for me to assume that users will like our services / features as much as I do. Testing the service and listening to customers as they’re talking about their experience, while saying as little as possible (or nothing, if possible) is the key.

14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?

Our biggest challenge over the next 6 months will be to grow the service as fast as possible, while maintaining a very high quality customer experience.

15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?

For our users, Fitnescity brings convenience (ability to book and pay online) and transparency (ability to write and/or read reviews). Most importantly, we allow users to enjoy the benefits of personal training, without having to bear the cost of a gym membership: You only pay when you exercise. Last but not least, the service will soon allow users to track their progress (number of classes taken vs. goals + fitness data) .

16. How did customers / users find out about you?

New customers / users come from social media. This includes Facebook, Twitter, etc. We also have a few people coming from websites such as Yelp.
However, we found friend recommendations to be very powerful, especially when someone invites a friend to a class. We also made these friend invites possible through Facebook, and it therefore gives us even more exposure on the social network.

17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?

Our current customers are busy working professionals in New York. They are predominantly female in their thirties and forties.

Our target customers are the same, although we would like our customer base to have a higher percentage of males.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?

New customers / users come from social media. This includes Facebook, Twitter, etc. We also have a few people coming from websites such as Yelp.
However, we found friend recommendations to be very powerful, especially when someone invites a friend to a class. We also made these friend invites possible through Facebook, and it therefore gives us even more exposure on the social network.

19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?

Users typically like the convenience. They also like the fact that they can “trust” the trainers, when using the Fitnescity platform.

Users also like the possibility of inviting a friend to workout using Fitnescity. It generally makes them more motivated to workout, not to mention that it brings down the cost.
20. How are you going to scale?

We plan on replicating the same model in other major cities of the United States.
In addition to that, we will potentially expand outside of the US, to cover major cities in the world.

21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?

We would like to have trainers update their profiles themselves, as well as track their schedule and revenue on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, all through Fitnescity.

22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?

It is something that we have discussed internally as a team, and this would be the next step after our U.S. expansion. The idea will be to cover major cities in the world.

23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?

We think we can scale quite a lot and fast, as we have very low fixed costs, and we bring value to both the trainers and the customers. We are planning to achieve this by building a solid presence in the New York first. Based on this experience, we’ll expand geographically to cover other cities in the U.S (and potentially outside of the US).

24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?

We are looking for another engineer (developer). We are also constantly looking to expand our list of trainers.
For both roles, candidates can reach us through our website, and/or our social media channels.

Trainers can submit their profiles here http://www.fitnescity.com/trainer-application/

25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?

We are looking to raise a first round of funding very soon, in order to expand our presence in New York.

Potential partners can contact us through our website and / or social media and email accounts.

26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?

Do something you are passionate about. You will be spending a LOT of time on it. At the same time, don’t let that passion prevent you from listening to your customers, and challenging your own ideas.

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