How One Startup Plans to Whip Busy Millennials Into Shape: An Interview With the Founder of BurnAlong

Daniel Freedman is one of the four co-founders of BurnAlong, a startup that came out of stealth mode last month.

I first met Daniel two years ago when interviewing the leadership team of Apploi. Daniel was in charge of the company’s strategy and business development. We eventually recommended Apploi to members of our premium investing service, Startup Investor.

Apploi was based in NYC, but Daniel was based right here in Baltimore, where I live. So I was able to interview him in person. He left Apploi last year to start his own company.

And he’s agreed to share how BurnAlong will disrupt the fitness industry.

Oh, yes, lest I forget…

When I first interviewed Daniel, he let slip that he was an avid tennis player. We arranged to play. The showdown was epic. We cursed… threw our rackets to the ground… played for three hours in the high heat of the summer. Every now and then, we even had a decent exchange of shots.

Late last summer, I became a bit hobbled and we stopped playing. He got out of shape, then couldn’t find the time to get back into shape. The answer to his predicament ended up being…

BurnAlong.


Andy: What exactly does BurnAlong do?

Daniel: We provide an online video platform anybody can use to exercise at home. You can pick your favorite instructor to lead the session. You pick the friends you want to work out with. And you also pick the time. You can see and hear your instructor and friends on screen. We’re making home exercise a social experience.

ei_burnalong-workout

The instructor is on-demand. At the bottom of the screen are three people doing the same workout live with each other but at home. Daniel is the out-of-shape guy on the far left.

Andy: And why the big push on creating a social experience? Isn’t exercising a pain? Why share the misery?

Daniel: As long as people feel miserable while exercising, they won’t commit to it long term. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but we wanted to make all the hard work and sweat people put into getting into shape fun.

Andy: And that somehow means doing it alongside another grunting person?

Daniel: Not just any person, Andy, but a friend. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article on how millennials ended the running boom. They hated solitary. They wanted social.

Andy: I go to a gym. Whenever I see a person talking on their cellphone while on the stationary bicycle or elliptical, I can guarantee you one thing. They’re getting a lousy workout. If you want social, go to a bar. If you want to get fit, go to a gym and be serious.

Daniel: That’s a rather narrow view, even for you, Andy. I don’t think you mean it.

Andy: And why not?

Daniel: When we play tennis, you talk, I talk, it’s social. And after a couple of sets, you’re breathing hard, sweating, seemingly tired. There’s always a puddle forming at your feet. Are you saying you didn’t get any workout because we talked?

Andy: I can’t believe you’re bringing this up, but okay. First of all, I only talked in-between games, never during games. Second of all, I sweat easily. It’s no indication of how hard I’ve worked out. Third of all, if I were challenged more by my opponent, I suspect I’d be too tired to strike up any kind of conversation.

Daniel: Now who’s dealing the low blows? I know exactly why you ran so fast after all the balls I hit into the corners. It’s because you saw me across the net. That’s social! And that’s a big reason why friends like to work out with each other. They can encourage each other as well as insult each other. Either way, you’re being held accountable – a good thing, no?

Andy: Okay, okay, I suppose there is something to what you say. But what’s stopping people from working out with friends at their local gym? Why do they need your platform?

Daniel: Easier said than done. People are busy. Especially young people who are working hard in their careers and raising a family at the same time. Life gets in the way. My wife always complained about how she wanted to work out but didn’t have any free time until she put the kids to bed. Then it’s 9 p.m… Nobody wants to go to the gym with her at that time… and her favorite gym classes are over.

Andy: Ah, now I see. This was your wife’s idea…

Daniel: We were all in the same boat. My co-founder and his wife, me and mine. We aren’t the only ones. It’s a big problem for a lot of millennials.

Andy: And so you decided to provide a solution…

Daniel: Exactly. We surveyed more than 500 people, not only millennials but also people in the fitness industry, to see how they felt about the problem.

Andy: And…?

Daniel: Gyms were frustrated. More than 70% of members quit within a year. And we found out that most of their members – like 82% – worked out at home in addition to their gym visits.

Andy: But let me guess. Those home workout sessions were boring…

Daniel: The workout wasn’t with their favorite instructors from the gym they go to. It wasn’t with their friends. It simply didn’t engage them much.

Andy: Seems like you’re hitting all the main pain points.

Daniel: That’s our aim. Give them the flexibility and convenience they need that gyms can’t give.

Andy: And how do the gyms feel about you supplanting them?

Daniel: No, it’s not like that. We’re not replacing the gyms. We’re bridging the gap, so to speak, between the gym or offline experience and the online one.

Andy: Go on…

Daniel: The gyms are our partners. They provide the instructors. Our platform allows their instructors to enter the home of their gym members. They think it will lower the attrition rate by keeping their members committed to working out while also strengthening the bond between their instructors and members.

Andy: How many gyms have you signed up?

Daniel: Eight so far, with many more in the pipeline. We’re getting several requests every week from gyms to join.

Andy: And, to be clear, they don’t pay you anything?

Daniel: That’s right. Gyms are free.

Andy: So you make your money by charging people who want to work out…

Daniel: Yes, by one class at a time. Or by month. Or the best deal, which is for an entire year.

Andy: Got it. How are the sign-ups going so far?

Daniel: Really good. I don’t want to get into specific numbers. It’s still very early for us. We’re still getting amazing feedback from our beta users.

Andy: I bet you have more gals than guys signing up…

Daniel: You’re right. About one-third men, two-thirds women. How did you know?

Andy: From what you said earlier about offering a social experience. I just think women would crave that more than guys.

Daniel: With yourself primarily in mind, I presume… fair enough. Two of our four co-founders are women. We think we can offer both men and women a plethora of fun home workouts.

Andy: Is that your vision?

Daniel: Our vision is to eventually have local gyms across the country represented on our platform.

Andy: It sounds like a nice way to close this conversation. Where can people find you?

Daniel: At www.burnalong.com. We invite all your readers to check us out and, if they like what they see, to join us. (Editor’s note: Early Investing readers can access the beta version using sign-up code INVEST12. It’s limited to the first 200 people. If you’re too late, contact Daniel at DanielF@burnalong.com.)

Andy: How about me?

Daniel: You included. Of course, we’d have to charge you a little extra, you being you.

Andy: Perfectly understandable.

Editor’s note: BurnAlong has almost finished its pre-seed fundraising round targeting angel investors. We’ll be keeping an eye on this interesting company… and we’ll let you know if it does a crowdfunding raise down the road.

Invest early and well,

Andy Gordon
Founder, Early Investing