How can health and fitness coaches reach a broader market in order to keep costs down and help more people live healthier lives? Software-as-a-service start-up FitBudd, which is today announcing a $3.4 million seed funding round, thinks it has the answer. Its platform provides a means for coaches and clients to work together at far greater scale than ever before.
FitBudd was born out of the personal experience of Saumya Mittal, CEO of the business, and her fellow founders, Pranav Chaturvedi and Naman Singhal. “I was trying to regain my fitness after having children, but I didn’t get the results I wanted until I started working with a personal trainer,” Mittal recalls. “It made me realise how important it is to have someone who keeps you on your toes and holds you accountable.”
The unusual thing about Mittal’s coach was that he was based in the US, while Mittal herself lived in India. The relationship was conducted entirely online – and Mittal and her co-founders had their eureka moment. “Having a personal coach makes all the difference in terms of getting results, but most people can’t afford this option, or simply don’t have access to it,” she says. “We started talking to coaches about whether we could help them solve the problem.”
FitBudd is the culmination of those conversations. Health and fitness coaches based anywhere in the world can sign up to the platform by paying a monthly subscription fee. It provides them with capabilities such as customer relationship management, payments systems, analytics and video calling, through which they can run their businesses. Suddenly, they can serve a global client base, offering a combination of personal face-to-face sessions conducted over the platform and additional materials such as work-out instructions and nutrition plans that clients can download at their leisure. The platform also links with clients’ own fitness devices so coaches can monitor how they are performing.
FitBudd’s vision is of a sector where coaches are able to take on and manage much larger numbers of clients than ever before, scaling their businesses – and their earnings – far more rapidly. In turn, this should enable them to lower their charges, ensuring that personal coaching becomes much more widely available – Mittal believes coaches using the platform should be able to offer their services at around a fifth of the cost of traditional training.
“We’re using technology to democratise health and fitness coaching,” says Mittal. “We want to help coaches grow their businesses and give more people access to help that can be life-changing.” She points to research suggesting that while people striving for health and fitness targets on their own are largely disappointed, more than 70% of those who engage a personal coach achieve their objectives.
It’s early days for FitBudd, which only launched a year ago, but progress so far is encouraging. The platform has already signed up more than 1,000 coaches in around 20 countries around the world, and revenues are 10 times’ up on the initial months of trading. The aim is to hit $5 million of recurring revenues within the next 18 months.
Today’s seed round should help the business achieve that goal. FitBudd has raised $3.6 million from Accel India, Beenext, Sequoia Capital India and Waveform Ventures, with the cash earmarked for further product development and customer acquisition.
“There is a clear shift in the fitness and wellness industry of ‘solopreneurs’ breaking away from institutions and building their own digital and hybrid businesses,” says Manasi Shah, a vice president at Accel. “FitBudd is accelerating the success of these solopreneurs while providing personalisation at scale for end users.”
Mittal is keen to add to the platform’s feature set soon. She hopes to launch multi-person connectivity so that coaches can offer group classes. And FitBudd is also looking at contextual automation technologies that will help coaches manage their clients more effectively – monitoring client activity and notifying the coach if someone is falling behind, for example, in order to trigger a contact.
“Our most important objective of all is to make a dent in the deteriorating health trends we see in so many countries worldwide,” adds Mittal. “We know health and wellness coaches can make all the difference in helping people to reverse those trends, so it’s critical that more people have access to them.”