Photo credit: Fiit
Fitness is hot. Instagram is literally flooded with workout influencers with washboard abs flexing themselves into semi-fame and healthy credit scores. But these bodies don’t come cheap. For most people, obtaining that physique requires pricy sessions with personal trainers or hundreds of pounds invested in gym memberships – often at small independent studios. “Boutique gyms are incredible at providing a truly motivating experience but they come at a cost,” says Daniel Shellard. “One class alone can cost upto £30, even more.” That is what he’s aiming to change as the co-founder and CEO of the fitness tech app Fiit, essentially a Netflix of fitness with all workouts available via videos on phones and smart TVs. “We want to bring that experience into [homes] at a fraction of the cost – the best trainers and workouts available to everyone,” he explains.
Of course, Fiit is hardly alone in trying to upend the health sector. A slew of entrepreneurs – including Thor actor Chris Hemsworth – are innovating and launching their own services in this industry. That being said, Shellard is particularly well-placed to succeed. After all, this isn’t his first rodeo.
His journey began in 2005 when he got a job as a senior industry analyst at Google, which helped prepare him for his future entrepreneurial endeavours. “Google was the perfect start to my career,” Shellard remembers. “I got to see the tail end of the startup phase and the beginnings of it being the fully-fledged multinational it is today. I was surrounded by like-minded people who actively encouraged entrepreneurialism – this is where I met my co-founders of Qubit.”
He’s talking about the startup behind a data platform making it easier for online retailers to complete sales. Launched in 2010, his time at Qubit saw him help scale the startup through four funding rounds, including a $40m series C in 2016. ”I learnt three big lessons from my time at Qubit,” Shellard says. “First – how to build and motivate world-class teams. Second – how to test and iterate fast. And third – the importance of building a great product. Because no amount of marketing can help if you don’t have the right team or the right product.”
But things changed soon after the massive round. The reason was that he’d had come up with a new idea which would eventually lead him to launching Fiit. “Fiit originated following a brainstorm with fellow co-founders Sammi [Adhami] and Ian [McCaig],” Shellard explains. “We looked into the biggest trends in fitness – social media influencers, boutique studios, connected equipment and wearables – and it continued growing from there.”
Having always been very passionate about fitness, he realised this was his opportunity to turn his passion into a business. The only problem was that it would clash with his job at Qubit. “I knew that if I saw Qubit through to an exit, I would miss the opportunity to build a company in an area that I am truly passionate about,” he explains.
Having left Qubit in the very capable hands of his fellow co-founders, Shellard and his new team set out to learn everything they could about the new sector. “We took a hundred fitness classes, trialled every fitness app we could get our hands on and got really close to our market by speaking to trainers and potential customers,” he recalls. “This helped us to formulate our thoughts into our very first prototype.”
Bootstrapping the project initially, they then set out to create their minimal viable product. “We used an agency to build the initial product and this helped us raise our first round,” he says.
This in turn helped them raise a £2.4m seed round in December 2017. “It was validating to see that investors bought into our vision and the problems we’d set out to solve,” he says. Moreover, the round also saw them seek both the investment and support from lead investor Connect Ventures which was an early Citymapper backer. VC firms Westminster Growth Capital, Rooks Nest Ventures and JamJar Investments also contributed to the capital injection. “It helped us build and launch the first iteration of the product as well as build our studio where all Fiit classes are filmed,” Shellard continues. “Content is a central part of our app so it was essential for production to be in-house from day one. It also helped us when recruiting the trainer and ambassador talent that we needed to scale.”
And it’s safe to say Fiit has made good use of the money. “We’re the highest rated fitness app in the App Store but there is still a long way to go on our mission to keep everybody moving,” acknowledges Shellard. “To help us get there, we’ll be launching lots of social features in 2019 which will make the experience even more motivating and addictive for our users. We’re also launching an Android and laptop version which we know thousands of people have been waiting for.”
It seems his and Fiit’s future is shaping up nicely.