#146: Jon Gregory, Founder & CEO of Vitruvian

Today, I’m joined by Jon Gregory, founder & CEO of Vitruvian, a connected strength company.

Maker of an adaptive resistance training machine called Trainer+, the platform uses AI-assisted weight loading and a content library of 200+ exercises to deliver an effective strength workout at home. Born in Australia, Vitruvian expanded to the US and EU in 2022.

In this episode, Jon explains how his background in physics and experience as a high-frequency trader helped him start the company. We also discuss Jon’s vision for building a transformative fitness technology platform, and he shares his view on the economic and operational challenges facing the industry.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Vitruvian went from Jon’s backyard shed to receiving millions of dollars in funding
  • Jon’s mindset and strategies for appealing to the broadest possible range of users
  • How Vitruvian leverages memberships to expand its market size and keep hardware costs low

Links & Resources

Jon’s Links

Episode Transcript

This is a machine-generated transcript. Please excuse any errors.

[00:00:00] Jon:
Vitruvian is a hardware device that is about the size of a doormat. It’s a piece of hardware that arrives into your home in a box. You roll it out, you plug it in, you turn it on, and you’re training.

You can do a few kilos of lightweight repetitions on any sort of strength move you want to do, all the way up to over 400 pounds worth of squats, deadlifts, or bench presses.

We’ve built the most convenient, effective, and efficient ways to train, and we’re thrilled to bring them to the world.

[00:00:38] Joe:
Welcome back to the Fitt Insider podcast. I’m your host Joe Vennare.

Today I’m joined by Jon Gregory, Founder and CEO of Vitruvian, a connected strength company. In this episode Jon explains how his background in physics, and experience as a high-frequency trader let him start the company. We discuss Jon’s vision to build a fitness technology platform that transforms resistance training, and we talk about the economic and operational challenges facing the industry.

Let’s get into it.

Hi, Jon. Welcome to Fitt Insider. Thanks for joining us.

[00:01:03] Jon:
Hi, Joe. Great to meet you. Thanks for inviting me on.

[00:01:07] Joe:
Yeah, likewise. I’m excited to chat today.

I’m looking forward to learning more about everything that you’re working on, but maybe to kick things off, can you introduce yourself and tell us about Vitruvian?

[00:01:18] Jon:
Sure. My name’s Jon Gregory. I’m the founder of Vitruvian, which is a connected strength product and service offering. We’ve been running for three and a half years now off the back of a decade or more of thinking and planning, and prototypes proofs of concepts.

So that’s me, and that’s the tribute.

[00:01:42] Joe:

I want to talk about the 10 years of prototyping. That’s quite a while thinking about this problem and starting to work on it. In its current form what is the product platform, how long has it been in market, and how’s that going?

[00:02:00] Jon:
Yeah, Vitruvian is a hardware device that is about the size of a doormat, although a fair bit more sophisticated than a doormat. It’s a piece of hardware that arrives into your home in a box. You roll it out, you plug it in, you turn it on, and you’re training.

You can do a few kilos of lightweight repetitions on any sort of strength move you want to do, all the way up to over 400 pounds worth of squats, or deadlifts, or bench presses.

You can pack an awful of workout and training into a small, elegant, form factor device you can put anywhere in your house. You don’t have to affix it to the wall. You don’t build a room for it. You can put it anywhere in your house, in front of your tv, just where you have room, in your garage, and work out.

And if you want, then when you’re finished, you can roll it away, put it under the couch, put it under your bed. yeah, we think we’ve built simply the most convenient, effective, and efficient ways to trade. And we’re thrilled to to the world. we’re on our second generation product now, first generation product we launched in the, in the height of the pandemic. just cause we were desperate to get product to people. right now ramp production in our second generation product, which, I’m.

[00:03:30] Joe:
Yeah, it’s this idea. When you think about the smart strength category, this idea of like, how do we take and make weight lifting accessible in a home where it’s not. You know, stacks of thousands of pounds of weight or big bulky squat racks, or even in the, you know, more basic sense. Like the, I forget what it was called, but it was like that, the one weight stack that had all the different pieces of equipment around it, you could do like a leg press or the corals or the bench press all from like that central piece of equipment.

Like that’s what used to be the home kind of strength training center. and then it was like a Boflex and then it was like some other things. so you said. 10 years or, a long period of time developing this. when did you start thinking about the idea, how did it, you know, make that evolution from, Hey, I know this is something that is interesting to me and maybe I’m tinkering with, to a company and then, you know, raising funding for that and so on.If you could take us through that timeline.

[00:04:26] Jon:
Yeah. Yeah, sure. So, I mean, I, I grew up in Australia I’ve I took a degree in applied physics, from a university here. And, but then spent a, my first career in quantitative trading of all things, doing what ended up being high frequency, statistical arbitrage. I worked for banks and hedge funds, and then I started my own trading company.

Through the, through the GFC and, and beyond, and it was a great time to be trading. And, you know, we had, we had a lot of trading room that we built of was a, was a, just a set of weights we’d was, and that was sort of 2008. And it was the Genesis of the idea that here we are doing, you know, cutting edge, Trading high frequency, you know, co-located machines and, and high frequency algorithms.

And just behind us, we’re pushing metal around. It just, it seemed, it seemed in Congress. It seemed stupid. It seemed like in the 21st century, we should be doing something. We should be able to apply technology to resistance training to make it more effective, adaptive. full of data, full of insights.

This is long before this is before mobile. this. is before like, before social, before, you know, before all the technologies that we take for granted now, and it started as an idea and I thought it would be possible. I thought I could figure it out. So again, when the markets were quiet, I was, I was getting back on my physics tools, trying to you.

Piece together the, the the fundamentals of, of how you’d do this. and then post trading, 2010 onwards. I’d done well enough outta my trading career that I could, I could spend time just doing what else I thought was interesting. And VIT Tribune kept coming up or, or the, the, idea of this smart piece of hardware that I could put in my home that was full of data and adaptive.

And, and it just seemed like a good idea. It seemed like I working on it, I bought bits and pieces. I put together in my shed and actually did work and I actually could do it. and. So I did it once and then I thought oh, I’ll do it again. I’ll you I’ll get, I’ll get the next one. And it got better and it got better and it got better. and I’m like, wow, to the point where in 2018, I’m like, I think really we really have something here I think. And it started getting, well, I guess I proved to myself that it was possible. And then I could figure a bunch of it out. and then, started using it and, thought not just only is, is it possible? and I think, I think we can do this. I started finding it was actually super beneficial as well. And super, you know, maybe you can train more effectively.

And that was like a, I think we made like full blown discoveries back in 2019 of just how effective resistance training can be. If you do it, if you throw technology added to make the experience adaptive and progressive. yeah, so that was, A lot of the, how we got the, the company to the founding stage. And then, and through that time was the rise of, of social and fitness influencers, which, you know, their UBI now. And we sort of don’t imagine a time when they never existed, but it wasn’t that long ago when none of this ecosystem existed at all.

But then, you know, so 20 15, 20 16, I’m. What’s this Instagram thing. you know, and I, I’m an old guy, so I was a bit late, late in the party for download. And there’s all these amazing people who are just super credible. really know what they’re doing in, in and fitness and, have big followings and growing followings But didn’t have much to do with that following, you know, they were like maybe selling drinks or selling bikinis or something like that and I thought, well maybe, maybe with the application of some hardware, We could build an ecosystem where, you know, amazing, fitness influences and coaches and, credible people in the industry can have a platform to reach people in the home.

So that was like the. Oh, that should work. It was kind of the aha moment of, yeah, I think that should work and year I think I could do it and that was sort of 16. and I and I think it would be good. enough that I think people would like it and that was like enough to go. we should have a crack. Um and so the the prototypes got better and better to the point of at late 2018, I showed it to a local friend. Who’s a venture investor and a, an angel investor.

And. He said, right, well he’s hundred grand. So, I thought, oh, I didn’t think it was that good. but he gave me a hundred. I put in hundred, and away we went the company and got running and I then over the next little while the capital journey was, you know, became an angel round of around, a million dollars, which I put in about 600 myself. In 19 slash 20, it was like dribbling in bits of money. And then we did a seed round in 2020 at some of the depths of the pandemic for a about two and half million. And then we did a pre a round in April or may. Of about eight and half million. And we’ve just series a round now, million.

And that’s got to where we now, which is, I think that’s its, but a second generation product that’s in market and, being very well received and we’re solving problems for customers. And we just can’t wait to do more of that. Yeah.

[00:10:19] Joe:
Yeah, it’s pretty incredible to hear, you know, going from just looking at that stack of weights. Kinda in the office when you’re not trading. and thinking about, Hey, how can we apply technology? That’s, you know, I’ve heard a lot of stories about how, you know, people think about bringing technology to different aspects of fitness.

And I, I kind of, I haven’t heard the one, like sitting at the, the trading desk, looking at the weights in the back of the room and thinking about, you know, applying their, their physics background to, re-engineer this, so definitely, a unique story in that respect.

[00:10:52] Jon:
It’s not the sort of, it’s not the sort of career advice I give to my give to my children. Let me tell you, it’s just like, , it’s not a career path you can follow, but it’s, it’s only been, it’s been exciting and thrilling for me, to be involved every day on, on cutting edge things and. Things that are difficult and challenging to me.

And let me try and be my best. I don’t think of in, we.

[00:11:20] Joe:
Talked about. The technology piece, bringing that to it and then the data, and then also this idea of maybe like a trainer, coach marketplace. so maybe we can talk about each one of those, I guess the first question being, different products kind of in this category, you know, electrical motors, magnets, some combination of both, what’s like actually powering it. and. I guess different than existing options that are on the market.

[00:11:50] Jon:
I mean, we use electromagnetism, which is, which is what basically everyone uses, in who, who is trying to do, Resistance. so we have a particular take on it, which is for various reasons, like technology we’ve chosen, but more or less will trying to do the same things with their own particular. if that helps, really what it is fundamentally is. the application of technology disrupting yet another, way that humans do things. and that’s why it’s, it’s so exciting to be involved in, it because technology disrupts everything. and if you, when you throw the, the kitchen sink at it, you can just, you can end up building just so much value, for customers.

Like, I mean, take my iPhone, for example, It’s It’s just. an amazing pile of value that enables things that you can do now that who would’ve ever thought possible you of is focusing in, is focusing on, on not being too on, on a broad and general application of technology from, How we put tension on the cables to how we connect to the machine, to how we connect that machine to the user, to how we connect to the, to the cloud to record and present data, and how we build community through technology. It’s we just Take the ecosystem or take, take the environment and throw technology at it wherever we can. and that, and you end up building a bucket of value, which is, so deep and so rich that almost any consumer can find their own path, of value within that proposition.

So a bit of a ramble, but, Vitruvian is not just a piece of hardware. It’s not just software. it’s not just algorithms. It’s a full blown, technological assault on how resistance training is done. and the results are sometimes surprising. But always full of value for customers, so that they can just more conveniently than they ever have before. more than, with, with more insight, with more, compulsion than before. So, and these are just great things to be throwing at customers. so Does that answer your

[00:14:28] Joe:
No. I think that perspective is, is helpful in thinking about how you’re approaching it from this broad perspective and not saying like, oh, it’s this piece of hardware, or it’s, what’s powering the hardware. It’s this comprehensive kind of platform or ecosystem that you’re applying to resistance training, which, you know, for the most part had no technology applied to it until recent years.

So when you take that a step further, you talk about the, the data piece and you talk about the software piece.

You know, I think for the kind of average person who goes to the gym or maybe has a set of dumbbells at their house, they don’t necessarily understand. Progressive overload. They don’t understand how to stress the muscles.

They don’t understand, you know, maybe when to go heavier, when to go lighter, how to even when to know, to, to do that. so how does that all factor into the, the data piece and the software piece that you, you mentioned being part of this broader kind of platform.

[00:15:24] Jon:
Yeah, like this is a big project. Don’t, don’t get me wrong. Like VI Tribune plans to be, fitness and strength, fitness and strength, technology and technology So we, we plan, you know, over the long to delivering the best technology we can come up with. Wherever, people want train, whether that be in the gym or the home or the, or in the studio or, or one-on-one coach. so we start with that kind of mindset of we’re building a technology company that, that improves and brings technology through this domain. and we don’t get to, although, although we lead with a, with a product, which is an at home product, we have a much bigger vision for, What we’re actually doing here. so, we, and we do that so that we can appeal to the broadest range of, users, which you have to do. If you want. To build a mass market product product, and a global company, you have to think very, very broadly because every single person who approaches Vitruvian technology approaches that their own unique set of, experiences, knowledge and understanding.

So you, we have to build, you know, daily a an environment which lets people enter the ecosystem and get what they want out of it. needs to be able to understand where they’re coming from and give them what they want. so that they’re able. To keep progressing on their journey and maybe, you know, prompt them and, and promote them and, and encourage them on that journey as well. So, you know, that’s tricky and it’s a, it’s a big project. so someone like yourself is obviously very well trained and knows what he’s doing. You need to be able to get in, and, work out how you want to and and be able. You know, maybe, maybe use the latest technology to progress and to, load the than you’ve ever felt before.

And really, put your muscles attention in a way that you’ve never experienced before so that you doesn’t have a clue. but they just know that they need to do resistance training, cuz maybe they’re they’re my age. Maybe they’re they’re in their forties and they just need to do something for their, their general health and wellbeing to stop the, you know, the muscle wastage, which happens as you get older.

So for them we need to find a pathway which is, classes and programming that, lets them find their own journey into the, into getting the most out of it for them. So. it has to be incredibly personalized. and it’s a, it’s a big job and I think we’re doing quite a good job of it now, and it’ll only better in, in months and years, focus on the individual, and give them the experience that, that we can and the best results that we can through technology.

And I don’t see how that can lose.

[00:18:25] Joe:
When it comes to. Different individualized kind of programming and what people are seeing and accessing from a coach or class perspective. How does the kind of content piece dovetail into the platform? Is that a subscription? Is that a varied offering based on what you are subscribing to? Can you just kinda lay that out?

[00:18:45] Jon:
Yeah, so we, it, it’s simple at the moment we charge, 39 a month, us dollar, subscription for, all you can eat, classes, programming, single workouts, build your own workout, build a workout and share it with others. and all the community aspects that we we’re starting to build into the company now, And current app, future apps, TV app, is just, 39 a month, connects your machine into the ecosystem and then any number of people can use it, and can use the fully functioning, software and content, which is more or less industry standard.

I would say. You know, the, the industry participants that are listening will, will, will know what I’m saying in that. these value propositions are expensive to put together, and they’re difficult to put together. and they’re very valuable when you, when you do it. and. One of the core ways that that makes the whole thing work is the ability to charge a membership fee because, if we’re just a hardware company, we’d have to charge a lot more for the equipment to make it a viable business. and we would shrink our market size for that and buy that. so charging a membership fee allows us to get. an amazing value proposition into the hands of customers and about the cheapest possible way to do it and make and build a viable business at the same time. So that’s how we do, memberships.

And that’s how we do. That’s how we think about memberships as well. we just want cram as much value into it as possible, and more or less customers understand that and, and are happy to pay. Yeah.

[00:20:29] Joe:
Absolutely. It’s, it’s very much necessary for the overall just kind of stability and viability of the company. and also the value proposition to the consumer. They, they, you know what they’re getting out of it over the, the kind of lifetime of use. another piece of that, that you mentioned. That I thought was interesting was that, VERION being a fitness technology company and that having aspirations to kind of be everywhere that, you know, people access, exercise, or work out.

So whether that’s commercial or residential and you are kind of starting with this at home piece, both just given what you had developed and kind of where the market was, and then expanding from there. I think that. An interesting kind of perspective. Not that ultimately a lot of the at home companies don’t go into commercial or, you know, hospitality or whatever it might be, but they, there was a period of time where the kind of industry, most of the, in some of the bigger brands were kind of talking about, you know, We’re only going to work out at home and we’re going to disrupt the gym and this is gonna be the end of the gym and people aren’t gonna work out in gyms anymore. And you were kind of saying like, Hey, no, we’re gonna be there. We want to develop technology and revolutionize this everywhere. Do you, th you talk about how you think about that and maybe I know that might be in the future, but potentially what it looks like.

[00:21:52] Jon:
Yeah. I mean from day one, we have, we decided to be a company that is not, trying.

To disrupt what I think is a great industry of, of passionate people who care about others and want others to, you know, want their, their people to, to progress and, and live their best lives. Like, that that does not need disrupting.

So we, we clearly wanted to start a company that embeds in industry, and embeds with, great trainers rather than trying. So doing that, the most of the effort is in, if you want do, resistance training technology, you have to do it. You have to do hardware. There’s only so far, you can get with body weight exercises and, and straps and, and, and, you know, mechanical bits and pieces. You have to, you have to do hardware. so the way we’ve developed our hardware is a way, that is, Able to be, without too much effort, repurposed and put into different use cases and different environments.

So the core technology of how we put tension on a cable, is what we’ve spent most of our time and money developing. Then we package that all up in, in a very convenient box that can run into your but we can very easily package that, package that up in another way, which bolts onto a machine and turns every piece of equipment in your, into, into a adaptive piece of exercise, equipment, hardware itself.

That we’re, that the home hardware itself is good enough to go in a commercial setting as well. And it’s really thrilling to see that we’re. Almost by accident. We we’re solving problems for gyms as well as we go around, safety and convenience, form factor, which, which enables gyms to put more equipment in the same space, gets rid of heavy weight plates, which, is a much safer thing in a, in a busy gym.

He gets rid of something, which I hadn’t really even considered until recently, which is the third of when someone drops a weight plate. which some of us enjoy when we go to the gym. Right. That’s kind of, it’s a, it’s hardcore. It sounds great. But if you’re on the third floor of a building, the guys underneath, you don’t think that’s very cool. so thet technology gets rid of that as a, as a problem for gyms about where they’re able to site their equipment. And commercial operations are, They’re longer conversations and we’re in the midst of a bunch of conversations at the moment, in talking to gyms, we just feel that we’ve got something to offer and I’m pretty sure they’ll agree.

When we get through to them, we one on our, the company that led our seed round, this company called evolution wellness. They own a chain of gyms in Southeast Asia. and they’re kinda like a test case of. How we integrate into the gym environment and we’re starting a roll out kinda as of now through their,

[00:25:04] Joe:
And in terms of, distribution now, is it, are you shipping worldwide? Are you kinda limited at all by either logistics, supply chain manufacturing, or how has that worked? Both navigating COVID and then continuing to scale the, the kind of next gen products.

[00:25:20] Jon:
Yeah, it’s almost killed us on a daily basis. How hard it’s been out there. Just moving stuff around the world, finding parts. it’s been hard in every single company in this space. What I’m, somehow we’ve, but somehow we’ve done it, through just not giving up we’ve sold in 40 countries or more now.

Deliberately wanting to be global from day one so that we can reach as many people as we can, and we can build a global community. and that’s cause that’s part of the valley proposition that you knowing you can be training with, you know, spend in Norway and, and in Sweden and you know, Joe in the us and, and Jon in Australia, you know, that’s part of the, that’s part of the appeal that you’re a, you’re a part of a global community of people who.

Enjoy, working out in training. So I just look forward to doing that more and more in the coming months and years really embedding this community. We’ve deliberate. That’s all globally. It’s it was a very hard thing to do. And maybe in hindsight, that was a dumb thing to do, but the result is, Yeah, I’m proud of what, what we’ve managed to achieve really difficult times. Really very difficult

[00:26:52] Joe:
Progress. And I think. Maybe as we get towards the end of the conversation, looking ahead a little bit, you mentioned, you know, having raised the series a around this year, looking at getting the gen two product out there, shipping, when you think about.

Continuing towards that mission of building that global community and helping people achieve their kind of health and fitness goals. what is next kind of benchmarks that you talk about or think about whether it’s talking to the team or even thinking about, Hey, these are the things that we need to accomplish.

Even over the, maybe back half of the year, that puts us in a place that we feel, you know, very solid going forward.

[00:27:32] Jon:
Yes. So we have a, we have quarterly plans and we do them two quarters. so we have a pretty clear knowing what we’re doing for this next three months. And then the next six months. And at the same time, you just have to be very aware of what’s going on in the wider market and stay adaptable. Cause none of us know, actually let’s be honest. I was surprised as anyone to see how, how pone got, just completely wiped out in the public markets. Cause I think they have an amazing valley proposition. and then they still do. so that surprised me, but that’s affected every single all of us, to some degree and I better

Six to industry, will there, will there be consolidation? Will there be, you know, well, some people just exit, will new players come up. I’m not sure we just have to. So we have our three and six months plans to. improve business efficiencies, focus on margin, to deliver the best product and service that we can and continue to build the, the community features, and continue to professionalize the entire offering.

That’s that’s what. Is in our power to do, and I’m full confidence that we, as, as a lean team will be able to do that. and that will just go straight to benefiting members, as to what’s, you know, then we, then we just have to stay adaptable and, and try and, Stay in the game because it’s still a great game.

There’s, there’s still so much value to given to customers around the world here, like, like technology to resist training. and we’re not, we’re not giving up on anytime soon. I can’t tell how it’s, but we’re. I would not want be any other company than prot Trivion right now, as a, as a founder And a CEO, we’re not too big that we’re stuck in, in very difficult, cost and product architecture problems.

We’re not too small. And the fact that it’s gonna be just tough to raise at the moment, and we’re capitalized. we’re in market with a great product and a great value proposition. and we’re careful and we are. Aware of what’s going on. So I don’t want be any other company than prov right now.

And I think the, world is still our, our oyster, and we still have a lot of customers to get out there and reach, and I plan to do that. that’s how I’d answer what we’re doing over the next three and six months will. Stick to our plans and may will throw ‘em out the window. If stances change. None of us knew how quickly the, private capital markets gonna, we’re gonna swing.

It’s called everyone by surprise. We’re adapting to it as fast as we can. and ultimately we’ll be a better company for it, but, yeah. Let’s find

[00:30:31] Joe:
Yeah, maybe one more question down that path. Before we get you outta here is maybe your most recent round came together before this was more imminent, but given both pelotons kind of, as you mentioned it, Poor performance over the, the last year plus, but more recently since the start of the year and also the pressures from inflation to recession to broader economic kind of headwinds.

How much did that factor into this last round versus maybe even a year or six months before where it was, you know, the peak of that kind of workout from home connected fitness, gold rush to, you know, where there. No, not enough money to go around, you know, and so then that shift to, Hey, now we’re kind of pumping the brakes as it relates to not only this industry, but pretty much everything.

[00:31:27] Jon:
Well, in lots of ways we missed that big upground or that big, because we’re, you know, we’re about as far away from Silicon valley as we could possibly be. And, and the us in general, in, in Western Australia, We never really participated in, in all that craziness. We kept working on that technology.

We kept raising what we needed to. And so we haven’t had a massive upground. we just turned out, you know, and through the course of last year, I was like, I felt like a bit of a loser that I, that I wasn’t, you know, these companies around me are raising hundreds of millions of dollars. What’s wrong with me.

What’s wrong with the Tribu. as it turns out, I’m actually pretty pleased that we. We stayed sensible. didn’t get caught up in that, in that hype. And because that’s left us just in a, in a much better position now, to stick to our knit and, be best company we can and build the best value proposition that we can and, and be here in the long term, which there’s just no doubt in my mind that we’ll do.

[00:32:29] Joe:

With that you mentioned being in a great spot, not wanting to be just any other company, and you couldn’t imagine doing anything else. So in wrapping up, for folks that are interested in learning more, want check out what you’re working on, or follow along, where would you point them?

[00:32:45] Jon:
You shold go to our website, vitruvianform.com. You should download our app, either in the Google Play store or the App Store. You should reach out; you can find me on LinkedIn. You’ll find my email and phone number somewhere. I’m happy to talk. I love being involved in this industry. I’ll talk to anyone who wants to talk. I’m thrilled to talk to you today, Joe.

So, yeah, reach out. We’re just sitting here and we can’t wait to engage with you wherever you come from.

[00:33:19] Joe:
Thanks for making time today, Jon. I’m super excited to share the conversation. I hope everybody does reach out, and you get some good feedback and outreach from this.

[00:33:28] Jon:
Yeah, it was a pleasure talking with you, Joe. thanks for having me on your show. You’re a super credible guy yourself, and I enjoy listening to your podcast and seeing the material that you post.

Thanks for letting us be a part of your story as well. I really appreciate that.

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