To state the obvious, FitTech is starting to become a crowded marketplace in Australia. Though the possibilities are endless when it comes to creating valuable wearable technology, for the most part Australian entrepreneurs have been focusing on developing two-sided marketplace applications that help connect users to gyms, trainers and classes. FitUsIn, Classium, Classhopper, FillMyClass, My Class Fit and AnyClass are all examples of local startups trying to tackle that problem.
From the perspective of a personal trainer or fitness professional, one of the biggest challenges aside from attracting new clients to the experience they’re selling, is managing the “business” side of the business and being able to make what is traditionally a per-hour style of operation into something scalable.
Sydney based PT Essentials, founded by Matt Harris in partnership with BlueChilli Group, is aiming to do just that with its solution that has undergone continual development since it first came to fruition in 2012. The mobile solution was specifically designed for personal trainers and fitness professionals to help them run and manage their daily activities in their business and provide a higher level of service in managing their clients.
The roots of the idea came about when Harris left his army career and went to study a personal training course. He told Startup Daily that during that period of time, everyone talking about all the problems they experienced in that industry, especially around managing clientele. Listening to that, he set out to proactively find a solution that would aid him in his soon-to-be career, and was unable to find something that ticked every one of the boxes in terms of functionality. Harris then decided to go out and create his own system.
BlueChilli came on board as a technology partner and investor in 2013. Last year, PT Essentials received the NSW Innovations Grant which gave the company $15,000 in matched funding capital alongside $15,000 from private investors, as well as a technology partnership / investment from BlueChilli. Last week, PT Essentials received an official AVOB (Australian Defence Force Veteran Owned Business) accreditation.
Harris is the first to admit that the company has had by ‘startup’ standards, an extremely long R&D and BETA process before launching its software to market. However, when speaking to him, it became quite understandable that his background in the army plays a significant role in having this mindset. He told Startup Daily that he wanted to focus on the build of the product first because “in the army you don’t get second chances”.
The startup has begun the switch from product development to sales, marketing and users. Currently, it has about 500 users who are all actively paying for one of a number of scaled packages to use the service.
“The industry is full of part time and full time trainers,” says Harris. “A lot of people do personal training on the side and all of that so it was important for us to have packages that were for those as well as a full time operator. I don’t really believe in free trials, I know when I do it myself I don’t really value them accordingly so our [Kickstarter package is our version of a] free trial, which has been slightly monetised so that people use it and try it and give us feedback possible because that’s the fastest way we’re going to grow”.
PT Essentials focuses on three main aspects / pain points that are important to those in the fitness space – CRM, OH&S and distribution. It allows the creation of exercise and workout databases, taking trainers’ IP from inside their heads and building it into something more concrete and tangible such as work out schedules, specific workouts, etc. The platform allows for better client communication and lead generation, allowing trainers to market to as well as send clients RSVPs and reminders to help minimise no-shows. Perhaps most importantly, it allows users to scale their operations outside of just fitting in eight or nine clients a day. The platform allows trainers to create and send online programs and workouts to their own clients complete with instructions of exercises so that the hard work can continue when they are not personally training with them. This allows the trainers using the system to create an additional income stream for their business.
This particular part of PT Essentials concept has been proven to work, with trainers like Michelle Bridges, Commando Steve and Zac Smith among many others already employing this strategy in their own operations.
At the moment, trainers are only able to create workouts that are like ‘explainer cards’, but Harris says as the platform develops there are going to be all types of possibilities that arise out of that part of the business, such as being able to upload video workouts and other content related IP that users want to get in front of clients that could potentially be located anywhere in the world. The other feature that is important to note is the way PT Essentials delivers personal workout and achievement data to the user that can be passed onto their clients.
“In the gyms a lot of [workout data] is kept on paper and that’s the best way of showing value to your client. It’s one thing to get fitter or look better but a client doesn’t actually value that or see your value as a trainer until you say ‘this is why you got this way, and you got this way because of me’,” says Harris.
“So you need to be able to show and demonstrate your value and being able to send your client a complete workout and progress report is how we think is the easiest way to do that. All of this is done through white labelling, so all these emails as well as any trainer to client communication shows that trainer’s logo and other branded assets”.
In terms of addressable market size for a product like PT Essentials, there is approximately 50,000 self-employed personal trainers operating businesses at any one time in Australia. The industry which is renowned for having an extremely high attrition rate, also has a high number of new graduates that enter the space each year. Once you begin to scale a solution like this outside of Australia and into international markets, there is at least 900,000 self employed personal trainers, according to Harris.
It’s worth noting that PT Essentials has a lot of competition offering similar solutions. Companies like PT Manager Pro, PT Minder, PT Transact, Positive Flo, Mind Body and Fit Clients are all worthy adversaries with considerable traction and are also highly scalable startups themselves. As such, core things like the platform’s UX, UI, pricing structure, brand awareness and the strategy of focusing on converting individual sole-traders, will begin to play a major role in PT Essentials being able to successfully launch into places like the United States, United Kingdom and even Asia.