Fitness apps and wearables may be good for your health but they’re also good for business. The global market for digital health was worth £23 billion in 2014 and, according to Monitor Deloitte’s Digital Health in the UK, is expected to nearly double (to £43 billion) by 2018. The report also reveals it’s the mHealth sector, including consumer fitness apps, that’s leading the growth. The mHealth market is predicted to grow 35% in the UK, and 49% globally from 2014 to 2018.
Consumers are increasingly turning to technology to track their fitness and increase motivation. And research shows that millennials, especially women, are driving the demand for fitness apps. It’s no wonder forward-thinking fitness startups continue to innovate, using the latest fit tech (gadgets, wearables, apps) to get people moving.
It’s not just consumers who stand to benefit though. Develop a strong following for your fitness app and it can lead to all kinds of success. FitBit recently went public and was valued at over $6 billion, Runtastic was snapped up by Adidas, and Under Armour mapped out its digital fitness future by spending over $700 million on fitness apps including MapMyFitness, Endomondo, and MyFitness Pal.
So what’s ahead in the world of fitness technology? Here are eight innovative startups using apps to reinvent fitness:
Fitocracy – The social fitness network
Fitocracy is a fitness social network that helps users reach their fitness goals through the power of community and coaching.
Created by two self-confessed fitness geeks, Brian Wang and Richard Talens, Fitocracy is on a mission to make fitness more fun. In August 2010, the pair hit on the idea of turning fitness into a game with an app that lets users track their workouts, earn points, unlock achievements, and access expert coaches. In 2011, Fitocracy was accepted into Dave McClure’s 500 Startups accelerator programme and two rounds of funding followed.
Since Brian and nutritional coach Richard joined forces, Fitocracy has grown to a team of nine and the app has over 2 million active users. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, “The Austrian Oak”, partnered with the app to create his own weight-lifting challenge. Brian recently announced that Fitocracy has been sold to an unnamed buyer who will take the venture to the next level.
— Brian Wang (@brianmwang) 24 February 2016
- USP: Gamification of fitness plus support from its community of Fitocrats
- Voted App of the Year 2014 by Men’s Journal, Mashable’s Top Innovation in Health and Fitness Winner
- 2 million users
8fit – At-home workouts and meal plans app
8fit is a fitness app and digital personal trainer that provides personalised meal plans and workouts so you can get in shape at home.
8fit Founder and CEO Pablo Villalba started with the goal of “building a better gym in your living room” and just one month after launching (2014), raised a $200K seed round led by Vitamina K. You can read more about how he did it, here.
Villalba, the former co-founder of Redbooth (previously Teambox), drove more growth in 2015 from a $2.5 million round led by Balderton Capital’s Mark Evans and support from Vitamina K. The 8fit app remains free and they monetize through their subscription-based Pro version. In just 2 years, 8fit has grown to 25 team members and the app has over 1 million users. CEO @micho loves to visualise results:
— Pablo Villalba (@micho) 22 April 2016
- USP: Personalised nutrition plans and at-home workouts
- Science-backed programmes
- Over 1 million users
Yogaia – Live, interactive online yoga
Yogaia is the world’s first live online yoga studio, offering live instruction for yoga, pilates, core and barre classes in your home.
Finnish fitness startup Yogaia was founded, in 2013, by Mikko Petäjä who soft-launched the app the following year. The home exercise platform gives users unlimited access to live classes and recordings, charging monthly subscriptions that undercut typical gym membership and yoga class fees.
Yogaia has seen two rounds of investment including a $3 million seed from Nokia Growth Partners, Sanoma Ventures, Point Nine Capital and Inventure Oy. Initially operating from studios in London, Helsinki and Hong Kong; Yogaia is expanding into the UK, Germany, US, and Australia markets. They’re also focussed on improving the mobile experience on the Yogaia iOS and Android apps.
— Yogaia (@yogaiaofficial) 11 April 2016
- Innovation: The world’s first online interactive yoga studio
- Voted in the top 15 in Apple’s app store last year, recommended by the Sunday Times Magazine as the Best Online Yoga Supplier
- 50,000 users in more than 50 countries
Fitssi – The social fitness app
Fitssi is a social fitness app that helps you find compatible gym buddies and fitness partners based on location, activity, level, and experience.
Created by personal trainer Chris Sweeney and tech startup entrepreneur Lee McPherson, Fitssi’s vision is for a world of active, more sociable people brought together by a passion for fitness and sport. The app works on the premise that buddying up with a fitness partner can make your workouts twice as effective and helps to increase motivation. It matches like-minded users and syncs directly to the calendar app on your phone.
Fitssi has gathered a loyal following in the UK, since launching the app in 2015, and plans to continue its growth in the US. CEO Emily Stephens has been brought in to manage this expansion.
— Fitssi (@fitssi) 4 March 2016
- USP: A one stop shop for fitness motivation
- Bagged $45K from 1 round of investment
Noodum – Gamified fitness apps
Noodum’s Wokamon app combines a GPS-enabled pedometer with a virtual pet to gamify exercise. Wokamon can also sync data from a user’s existing fitness wristbands and apps, and the virtual pet gives users another reason to stay engaged with their tracker.
Keen to get people excited about exercise, Mars Zhu and Hazim Abdul Hamid co-founded tech startup Noodum in 2013. They secured an $18,000 seed investment from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Innospace Incubator and have grown to a team of six. Mars manages the tech side of the business while Hazim, a designer and illustrator, leads the idea generation and design.
— Wokamon (@Wokamon) 1 September 2015
- “An app giving virtual life to real-world activity” – Mars Zhu, co-founder of Noodum
- Available on iOS, Android and Apple Watch
- Funded by $18,000 seed investment
SlamdunQ – Sports apps for wearable devices
SlamdunQ is a startup that develops apps for wearable devices in sports, healthcare and fashion. Their apps help budding and professional sports players improve their performance by recording and analysing movement data.
India has the fastest growing startup ecosystem in the world, with YourStory research revealing over $38 million was invested in the first ten days of 2016. It’s a great time to be a startup in India and SlamdunQ is ahead of the game. Founded in 2014, by CEO Madhuvanthi Ananth, Sakhee Mody and Venkat R, SlamdunQ is based in the centre of India’s tech industry, Bangalore.
After gaining traction with their first app SlamdunQ Cricket (aimed at bowlers), the team launched SlamdunQ Golf to help golfers improve their swing. Last year, SlamdunQ won the Google Launchpad contest and they’ll be pitching at the Government of India’s newly launched Startup India initiative in 2016.
— Slamdunq (@slamdunqtweets) 3 March 2016
- USP: Improve your game with wearable technology
- Winner at Google Launchpad Week 2015
Funky Bots – Body motion gaming
Funky Bots is on a mission to get us moving using technology. Who said fitness can’t be fun? Their body motion and gaming apps promote fitness through dance, martial arts and creative play.
Founded in 2014, Funky Bots is the brainchild of Belgian urban dance group Cie 13 and Rosa Mei Huang. Their products help kids of all ages to express their creativity through movement and develop healthy patterns for fitness. The apps offer gaming alternatives to the pricey Wii and Xbox.
To date, three of their apps (Funky Bots, 7 Minute Chi and BoomKLAKers) have been chosen by Apple as Best New App. And, the team went on to create Funky Dance and Taichi Temple, the first motion sensor apps for street dance and Tai Chi.
Funky Bots won the Alcatel OneTouch Innovation Accelerator and Technogym Wellness Accelerator programmes. Now they’re on a roll. The fitness startup has signed a partnership with Intel and is developing Atomic Bands™, the first motion gaming wristbands using the new Curie chip.
— ALCATEL Accelerator (@ALCATEL_Innov) 5 November 2015
Funky Bots highlights
- Goal: Turn passive entertainment into active engagement
- Apple named BoomKLAKers Best New App in 108 countries, Funky Bots named #1 Best New Kids App in the US, Canada, China, Mexico and Australia.
- Received a six figure investment commitment from a venture fund
Oneset – ‘Vine for fitness’
Oneset is based on the idea that people are inspired by visuals. It allows fitness fans to watch and share 15-second fitness videos and share before-and-after pics and selfies.
Oneset joined Velocity in 2015, benefitting from collaboration with its diverse teams. More success followed when they completed FounderFuel’s accelerator programme and the app’s creators, husband and wife team Amad and Heather Abdullah, pitched on an episode of Dragons’ Den. Check out their pitch in the video above!
The fitness startup’s future is looking bright thanks to a fourth investment from Maple Leaf Angels. In an interview with Velocity, Oneset’s Co-founder Amad Abdallah revealed his clear vision for the app’s future – to become the primary platform for fitness videos.
— Dragons’ Den (@cbcdragon) 31 March 2016
The future of fit tech
The fitness industry is evolving and has seen some major technology developments in the past five years. The possibilities for innovation in fitness technology seem endless. Even Ex-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has left the helm of the social media giant to build his own fitness startup. If you’re feeling motivated by all these sparks of innovation I’ll leave you with some wise words from the 2016 Fitness Tech Summit…
— FitnessTech Summit (@CESFitnessTec) 6 January 2016