Wello, a startup that aims to make fitness more personal, accessible, and affordable by connecting clients with trainers over live 2-way video, was one of the 14 startups that pitched at Wednesday’s Rock Health Demo Day. This week’s Wello launched a new feature, group workouts, which was covered by the Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and GigaOM, among others, and allows you to workout with friends anywhere with an internet connection. We recently sat down with Co-CEO and Co-founder Leslie Silverglide to ask her about Wello’s start and progress since.
How did you meet your co-founder Ann?
Ann and I met the first week of school at Stanford Business School. We first just became friends, largely because we were both intensively competitive, so we partnered up for a few things and learned that we worked really well together and had a lot of fun doing it. So over the course of our first year we discovered that we were both ex-athletes, loved to work out, so we would work a lot together. And one of the things we did was this Insanity work, which wasn’t successful for us for a variety of reasons. It’s a 63-day program, that you do every day, and there are about 10 different DVDs that you rotate through. A friend begged us to do it with her, ’cause she was feeling out of shape and really wanted the accountability of us being there with her, so there were 5 of us that said we would do it with her and we were all people that were relatively fit, but it really didn’t work for any of us. There were different reasons for each of us, sometimes it gave you a feature you didn’t want or was just too hard for someone. The other frustrating point was that we knew people were buying this off an informercial, someone who really was inspired to make a change in their life, and they go invest $200 bucks in this DVD, it shows up in the mail, they do it the first time, it’s too hard, it hurts them, it’s not tailored to them, and then they get frustrated and lose momentum to change.
So how was live video the natural next step?
We were thinking that there has to be something that combines accountability but also that convenient and private aspect. So Ann and I decided to dive in and see what we could do with live video. So we spent the second half of our last year of business school really working on the business plan, doing a ton of testing and trying to see where the market was. The biggest question for us was – does this actually work? We see that exercise is a huge market. There is a pronounced need on both sides of the equation. There’s all these service providers that don’t have enough business and then their all these users that don’t have a good fitness solution for them.
How did you test to see if worked?
Well the first thing we did was wanted to see if it worked for us and what the experience was actually like. So we met a few trainers and asked them to train us over Skype to see if this is something that has legs. And the first session we did we were just blown away. This trainer who had never trained over video just got on and immediately started stretching and immediately got us into this high intensity interval workout, and the next thing we knew it was Ann and I in a living room, drenched in sweat, and it was the best workout that either of us had had in such a long time, and the two of us just kind of looked at each other and were like, this is it. There’s a huge opportunity here. That was so fun, we were motivated, we got great corrections that were specific to us. So that’s when we really started running with the idea for Wello. ‘
In assessing the fitness marketplace, what did you learn?
What we learned is that for trainers — there are over 250,00 certified fitness professionals in the United States alone — most trainers can’t fill 40 hours in their week. They are lucky if they fill half, and struggle, and that’s one of the reason personal training fees are so high. It can be challenging for them to have a sustainable business or work hours that they like. They struggle to market themselves and find it a hassle to handle scheduling, billing, and we saw that as something we could take off their plate. So it was easy to make a compelling case for us to get them to come and try Wello.
How do you vet your trainers on Wello?
So we built a system where you apply on our website, we ask for your education, what kind of certifications you hold, what your work experiences is, references, and we review each of those and if it looks like you will be a good fit and meet our minimum criteria which is having a top-level certification to be a personal trainer. There are over 100 certifications to be a personal trainer, but only about 10 are credible, these come through ACE, NASM, etc. You need to have a certain amount of experience or a BA or BS in a fitness related field.
After you vet a trainer, then what?
We have a pretty extensive training process that helps trainers learn how to train virtually over video, teaches you about Wello, how to start/end a session, logistics, etc. We then do a live interview with them to make sure they are up to date on their training and make sure they are comfortable and excited going forward. After that, they finish completing their profile which is kind of like Facebook, it tells you all the activities you are going to offer, what you specialize in, you have a bio, introductory video, etc. At that point, you are able to do your first Wello session. Every first Wello training session that a trainer does is with one of us, a member of the Wello staff.
How do you match trainers with clients?
We ask clients a few simple questions, such as their workout goals, desired workout time, and fitness activity interest. Based on this information, we are able to match clients with the right trainer for them. Clients are able to view each trainer’s profile, which includes reviews from previous clients, and then book the one that they like the best. Most Wello Clients try-out a trainer and then book a package with that trainer to get into a regular routine.
What are your goals for the future of Wello?
Our most immediate goal is to get the word out about Wello so people know we exist. We already have tons of clients that workout regularly with their Wello trainer and are experiencing huge success. Clients are loosing weight, hitting their fitness goals and having fun in the process. We just launched live group workouts which lets 3-5 people in different locations around the world to workout together with a Wello Trainer. Imagine working out with your mom and sister or best friends that are across the country.
Longterm, our goal is to be the online marketplace for health and wellness services that can be conducted over live, interactive video.