#7: Khalil Zahar, Co-founder and CEO of FightCamp

In today’s show, Joe Vennare spoke with Khalil Zahar, co-founder and CEO of FightCamp, the company bringing interactive boxing workouts into the home.

Joe and Khalil discuss:

  • The evolving definition of wellness
  • The disruption taking place in the fitness industry
  • How FightCamp plans to own the boxing vertical
  • What it takes to stand out in the connected fitness category

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

What is FightCamp?

KZ: FightCamp is an interactive home boxing gym. We’re trying to reproduce the experience you would get at a traditional boxing gym and put it in people’s homes.

It comes with everything you need to start boxing, including freestanding bag prep, gloves, workout mat, and the special sauce is our two motion sensors which go on your wrists. These recognize the type of punch you throw and measure the speed of your punches.

You follow along with classes built by some of the best boxing trainers in the country. There are levels to it, so you start with the beginner classes to develop your technique, then move to intermediate, and then to advanced. All of this is coming with other pieces of content related to boxing culture. 

What led you to this concept?

KZ: We started with a completely different focus, which was developing the technology piece of the motion trackers to create a tool aimed at serious athletes. 

We basically created an advanced version of Fitbit specifically made for boxers to monitor performance on both the conditioning and the tactical side. We penetrated the market pretty quickly, then we discovered how the ecosystem worked. 

Most people who take boxing, MMA, Muay Thai, and most martial arts, don’t ever fight. For every real fighter, there’s 99 people doing it for conditioning because it’s a good workout. We kind of got dragged into the fitness angle almost by default by just focusing on the top level of the sport. So, we used the initial technology and then launched the content layer on top of it to create FightCamp.

Has the pivot created more opportunities?

KZ: We’re able to target the more casual exerciser who look at boxing as a way to stay fit, and see their home as the place where they’ll get their workout in.

People are increasingly having a harder time hitting the gym but don’t want to give up on their fitness routine. In the past, people would just get older and stop exercising, but now they still want to continue on a regular basis.

There’s been a cultural shift. Previously home fitness in itself was more geared towards those who were almost too ashamed to hit the gym. Now, the consumers aren’t necessarily out of shape, but rather it’s the same type you’d see going to the gym.

How do you reach consumers? 

KZ: The best-case scenario is when someone gets to try it in person, which is why we just opened our first retail location. Something special happens when someone puts the trackers on and starts punching—they see the whole interactive layer starting to change and their eyes light up.

The second is using video to demonstrate what’s happening, which is really an art form because people’s attention span nowadays is so short. We’re focusing mostly on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat as our paid social acquisition channels and it’s challenging to grab attention and show what the experience is like in 10 seconds.

How is the content developed?

KZ: We just invested into our headquarters which is a production studio next to a 30-people office space. It’s custom made for us so we can film anything we want at any time. We can film classes there and can transform the studio for interviews or even sports science content. 

We’re growing the team on the content side as well as the engineering side, because you can’t really develop these things in silos. The content has to be fully integrated with the engineering team because it lives on an app, and if it’s interactive, then it’s even more complex. 

How do you see the company evolving?

KZ: Compared to a lot of fitness products out there, we’re focused on owning our space rather than trying to win at every possible workout we can. The reason why people come to FightCamp is because they want to box and we’re the main source of a quality, connected boxing workout from home.

If anything, we want to cement our position within the martial arts market more than anything else. Boxing in itself has a lot more to it than just the heavy bag. There’s different equipment, workout types, and challenge concepts to explore within this ecosystem before we even think of going elsewhere.

How do you think about competition?

KZ: While there is competition, there’s also a disparity in the product offerings in terms of inherent value to people. The product that makes you work out the most and gives you the best results, will be the product that wins. 

Our approach to this is first making sure we have a good workout, then it’s about making it so engaging that it almost feels empty to not be on the platform. That’s when you start having a level of value where you could go into a class, but you’d rather do it in our ecosystem because it’s better. 

Maybe the lessons are better, or it’s more engaging because of the tracking, or it’s just more fun to compete against others. But once it starts to feel like you’re missing out because you’re not on the platform, then you’re really tapping into something with exponential value.

What’s next for FightCamp?

KZ: For one, we’re completely changing the look and feel of our branding. Everything is going to be transformed across the board, from our ad creatives all the way to the app and website. And now, being in our own studio, we’ll be able to do a lot of content that was too difficult to do previously. 

There are three or four features that will take the experience to a new level. These are gamification type features for live version of the class, which will separate us from other products out there. We’ll continue to test these things and double down on what works. 

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

About Khalil Zahar:

An engineer by profession, Khalil Zahar was completing his master thesis in Microelectromechanical Systems when he discovered his passion for boxing. Training with some of the best boxing coaches in the region, Zahar realized that quantifying his progress in the ring was a near impossibility. He saw the need for an interactive device that would provide users real-time stats and accurate feedback on each of their punches, and it was then that the idea of FightCamp was born.

Zahar has since grown FightCamp from a tracking system loved by MMA and the UFC’s biggest stars into an at-home fitness experience that enables everyone, no matter where they are on their boxing journey, to enjoy the mental and physical effects of the sport.

In addition to creating FightCamp and its parent company, Hykso, Zahar is also a mentor at the Founder Institute, where he was a top graduate and was selected as the International Startup Festival’s Best On-Stage Pitch. Zahar is an alumnus of Y Combinator, a prestigious Silicon Valley startup incubator that accepts less than 1% of the hundreds of applicants that apply to its program.

With FightCamp, Khalil Zahar has grown the venture into an expansive and nurturing community and has made boxing an accessible and convenient workout for everyone.

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