#20: Rishi Mandal, CEO of Future

On this week’s show, Joe Vennare is joined by Rishi Mandal, the CEO of Future Research — a digital personal training service that connects users with human coaches to create custom workout plans. To date, Future has raised $11.5M from Kleiner Perkins, Courtside Ventures, and Khosla Ventures among others.

In today’s episode, Rishi talked about the power of high-touch personal coaching, Future’s commitment to retention, and creating a constellation of experts in your life.

Check out an overview of the conversation below or listen to the entire episode for more.

What separates Future from other fitness apps? 

RM: We help busy people live healthy lives by connecting them, one-to-one, with a world-class coach who then trains them remotely using our app.

We send you an Apple Watch. So even if your coach is 100 or 1,000 miles away from you, they tell you what to do every week in detail, and our app will guide you. And your coach is connected to you 24/7 via text message.

Future is a remote coach, it’s not pre-established workout plans with someone to answer questions. It’s an extremely high-touch service. It’s someone who talks to you every single day, who’s reminding you to get workouts in, following up with feedback, and just generally checking in and there for you.

What’s the big vision for Future? 

RM:  We started with the idea that there are five things you do on a daily basis that end up having a huge impact on how long you live and the quality of those years.

And those five things are how you move, how you eat, how you sleep, how you deal with stress or mental health, and for a lot of people, whether or not you take your medication.

So the vision for the company is to build a constellation of experts around you. And fitness is a really great starting point.

How important is the coaching relationship? 

RM:  On average, our coaches are trading four text messages every single day with their clients. And it’s about 50/50 traffic. So they’re sending two, receiving two, every single day. And that means we’re building these meaningful two-way relationships with our customers.

And at first, they’re only talking about fitness, but very quickly the conversation evolves — 80% of our customers end up proactively asking their coach for help with their diet. 50% volunteer to their coach, “Hey, I’m not sleeping great. Can you help me with that?” And 40% tell us, disclose to us that they’re feeling stressed out.

While people talk to their doctor about health one, or two, or maybe three times a year, our clients talk to their Future coach 1,500 times a year.

We create this closeness of contact that becomes a front door to questions about health more broadly.

Is Future inaccessible? 

RM:  The primary challenge is that it’s really expensive to buy an expert’s time. If you want to go and spend an hour with a world-class trainer or coach, it can easily cost you $100 an hour, which is an expensive price.

And if you want to see that person three times a week, over the course of one year that’s going to run you something like $15,000. The average American household doesn’t spend $15,000 a year on housing, transportation, food, healthcare, or utilities. Nothing.

So getting a fitness coach or personal chef to keep you accountable is economically unfeasible for 99% of people. Future is virtualizing that relationship, using technology to bridge the gap.

Currently, Future costs $150/month. Of course, the goal for any company is, over time, to become more efficient. And then we can decide if we want to lower the price point or expand margin.

But we want to pick a price point that allowed us to actually deliver an incredible service. You get what you pay for, so $20/month would be an unremarkable coach. We’re building a service that gives you an incredible expert in your life.

How do you retain clients? 

RM:  I can say this with confidence, we have the best retention of any fitness product I’ve ever seen.

And I have a disappointingly simple answer for you… We put a real person in your life, they push you, they keep you accountable, they keep you on track. And on the margins, you see better and better adherence, results, and then satisfaction.

What’s the role of community? 

RM:  Community is powerful. But we think it’s important to have a mix of intimacy and community.

We see Future fulfilling intimacy — a precious commodity in this day and age. It’s really hard to come by. Somebody, let’s say around your health, who actually knows you and cares and gets to know you.

The interesting thing to know about Future is we actually don’t care where or how you work out. Many of our customers go to boutique fitness classes, the gym, or workout with other people in the real world.

We build intimacy to compliment that community.

**Note: Rishi’s answers have been edited for brevity and cohesion. 

About Rishi Mandal:

Rishi is the co-founder and CEO of Future, which is backed by Kleiner Perkins and Founders Fund. Future is an online personal training experience that pairs clients 1:1 with their own world-class coach. Rishi was previously the CEO of Sosh (acquired by Postmates) and a product leader at Google. Prior to tech, Rishi was an astrophysics researcher at NASA and Stanford University.

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