BurnTech Interviews Fitmo App Founder, The PT In Your Pocket

Burntech editor Michael Homestead interviews Dave Roeloffs, the man behind Fitmo. Fitmo is the “PT in your pocket” iOS application which bridges the human world of personal training and the fitness app technological revolution. 

In the first of our new series of expert interviews with the pioneers of fitness technology, we talk with Dave Roeloffs, the founder of the leading fitness app Fitmo. Fitmo has emerged as a leader in the hugely competitive world of fitness apps, has already been recognised as one of the Netherlands top 50 start-ups, and acts as a personal trainer in your pocket. What’s especially impressive about this app is its market-leading customer retention rate – 40% Vs 2% (after 30 days) and how it bridges the gap between tech and humans. Many of us go to the gym and even the most experienced amongst us know that sometimes we need some extra guidance – which is precisely where this app comes in. You don;t always want to pay top dollar to have a pT mirror your every move, but this app lets you interact with a trainer remotely, getting tips and program set-up help. We wanted to learn a bit more about the back-story to Fitmo, what inspired its creation and what the company has in store for 2016 and beyond.

Our editor in chief, Michael Homestead, talked with the company to learn a bit more about the app and the people behind it.

MH: Where did the idea for Fitmo come from? What need are you overcoming? 

Dave: Most people struggle to stay in shape and when it comes to health and fitness because the majority of us are not internally motivated and we lack the knowledge when it comes to achieving our health goals. Where to start? Who’s opinion to trust? If only those people had access to a personal trainer, however very few can afford that level of support. Well, now they can…

MH: This is definitely true, a casual visit to any gym highlights a lot of ‘lost sheep’ – folks who have demonstrated the motivation needed to get there, but their application once in the gym is so lacking. How many folks are really in market to spend hundreds of £/$’s a month on a PT… clearly a sub-set, but this app feels perfectly positioned to bridge the gap. Lets talk about the beginning of the Fitmo journey
MH: Do you have any cool stories from the beginning of your journey? 

Dave Roeloffs – the founder of Fitmo – was on a sabbatical in Sydney after the exit of his previous company. A single guy, partying hard, never gave his health a moment’s thought, until he moved into an apartment with a friend who was extremely focussed on his health and went running every single morning, 6am sharp. He asked Dave: “Are you joining me for a run tomorrow?” Dave’s reply would typically be something along the lines of: “Are you kidding, no way, I won’t even be in by that time.” Dave explains: “He kept asking every day, sometimes multiple times per day, until after 10 days or so, I gave in to stop the harassment. I bought a pair of running shoes and joined him the next morning, 6 am-ish. I remember that run so vividly. Sydney is an amazing place. Through the botanical gardens, around the Opera House and over the harbour bridge, the sun coming up and all these good looking, healthy people in their workout gear. It was as if I had stepped into some kind of parallel universe… I looked like a complete idiot, couldn’t even run 3k, but I LOVED it. Not just the experience, but what it did with me afterwards, the positive energy. I was intrigued with the physiological aspects around behaviour change and set out to create a platform where everyone and anyone could find a similar friend to give them the necessary nudge. In short: A kick-up the butt from Down Under, that’s how Fitmo came about.”

MH: Fasinating insight into the beginning of the company, and the seeds that lead to such endeavors. Would you say Dave is the companies typical user? In fact, Who is your typical user? 

We don’t have one typical user. Our coach marketplace is quite diverse and therefore we can cater to a variety of clients and their health and/or fitness goals. We have coaches specializing in everything from building serious muscle, to rock climbing to IronMan triathlons. We also have coaches helping clients who want to focus on their health and nutrition, and need a coach to guide them in making healthier coaches from often them and their families.

Moreover, our members range in age, and as well experience. Some clients come to Fitmo to get inspiration and are currently stuck in a fitness rut while other clients are really starting their health and fitness journey from the beginning and need help to getting started.

MH: I love the versatility that this instantly injects into Fitmo as a product. There’s immediately no reason at all to be pigeon holed into one training sub-set, such as runners or lifters. This clearly must lead to a lot of interesting use cases, most likely wiht the extremes of the ranges standing out –

MH: What are some interesting statistics and uses cases? 

Dave:The 30 day retention rate of an average health app is roughly 2% versus 39% with a Fitmo coach.

This means that of 100 health app-users, roughly 98% will have dropped off within the first month, whereas Fitmo will have nearly 40% engaged and happy users, thus making it 20 times more successful. Why? It’s the human connection. The sense of accountability and the level of personalisation.

MH: This makes sense, when you sign-up to Fitmo you suddenly have a human PT to answer to, and not just some algorithm that you ca fob off. An algorithm won;t kick your a** out of bed on a Friday morning, but the thought of answering to your PT may do. This feels pretty unique in the space to me. Lets talk about the wide array of alternative fitness apps and how you aim to out-compete them.

MH: Which apps do you feel that you compete the most against? How are you better?

That’s an interesting question. To start, I’d say there are a number of health and fitness apps out there that cater to a number of goals however, most do not have a REAL coach on the other side of the app helping their users and at an affordable price. That’s where Fitmo is different. Our clients work with a real coach, that they’ve hand-picked themselves from a curated marketplace, who is there for them every step of the journey. Although algorithms are powerful, technology cannot replace a real human being 100%. That being said, we love technology, and have built tools in the app that help our coaches analyze data from a number of wearables such as Jawbone, or the Apple Watch and can make the experience as customizable as possible. Our secret sauce is taking the the best qualities of health apps and wearable technology and combining that with the irreplaceable aspects of a real human coach!

MH: Makes a heck of a lot of sense. We love wearable tech here, naturally as we’re focussed on it, but it has a long way to go before it could ver claim to beat a human – especially at kicking your butt in the gym. We have high hopes for sensor laden smart tops etc, but they’re not there yet. How is this translating into real world success stories?

MH: Is there a customer experience, use case or success story that you are most proud of?

We’re proud of all our users. We think that anyone putting themselves out there to reach a health or fitness goal is amazing, and it makes us proud that we can facilitate this journey. We’ve had clients who refer to themselves as couch potatoes who have since ran marathons and triathlons, to client’s who have lost over 40 lbs. One of our coaches is a breast cancer survivor and now helps women who are in need of a role model to help them through tough times. Fitmo is much more than just a fitness app. We bring like minded people together, people who share similar passions, and as a result we see new friendships emerge every single day.

MH: How can BurnTech readers keep in touch with your new features, products or services? Are you active on Facebook, Twitter, Insta?

Instagram, @fitmocoach

Facebook, facebook.com/Fitmo

Twitter: twitter.com/Fitmo_tweets

Blog: blog.fitmo.com

You can also learn more about what we do in this Fox news video and in this piece (in Dutch) about our app and how tech can help you be more healthy.

MH: Where do you see fitness apps and fitness technology going in general? 

Dave: I think in the past decade most apps have been designed by analytical driven men / geeks, who love data and mining through it in an attempt to find new correlations, leading to new insights. The quantified-self movement is becoming more mainstream, however, most people couldn’t care less. I think app makers are starting to realize that something is missing and that their apps are not delivering on their promise to help change behaviour. It’s all about bragtistics (a made up word: the ability to brag about your tracked fitness statistics with your peers) for the self-motivated and not enough about the people who really need help to break their unhealthy habits. As a result I think apps will start to become more ‘humanised’ and with that I mean that you will start to see more apps offer the ability to connect with a human specialist to make meaning of this exponentially growing health data, of which we have merely scratched the surface, and to offer emotional support, which can not be replaced with push notifications and gentle taps on our wrists through our Apple watches.

MH: That’s awesome insight, Dave. I couldn’t agree more. Many of the first ave of fitness apps seemed to be much more interested in appealing to the whole 1% of Insta/Twitter/FB wanna-be celebrity fitness-crew folks, who live and breathe social sharing in a pretty unhealthy way. The whole idea and need for humanising the experience is clearly apparent, and apps need to appeal to the 99% who do not want to share pictures of their every meal, or talk about the ‘beast mode leg workout’ that they just did/are about to do.

Clearly the guys at Fitmo are approaching this problem from an entirely new angle, and we love how they’re connecting the old world (if you like) of personal training with the new world of cutting edge app-tech. I have always believed that this is precisely where technology adds the most value, and therefore we expect big things from Fitmo in 2016. Lets keep in touch!