In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Luke Beard, CEO and design lead for Any Distance, a social activity tracking platform that gamifies and inspires movement. Luke shares how his pandemic-born mental health walks led to a community-based app with 3D and AR route visualization and move-to-earn mechanics.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at Any Distance?
Luke Beard: Any Distance builds digital and physical experiences to motivate people to be active. We want to improve human wellness through the idea that “Any Distance Counts.”
Any Distance is about motivation and celebration, not competition and comparison. To enable that, we have built a creative and story-driven way to share your activities with a photo or video utilizing the most interesting technologies the iPhone offers.
For now, we sync your activities from your favorite service like Garmin, Wahoo, or anything that connects to Apple Health to generate beautiful posts perfectly optimized for your social networks.
Using the data, the app visualizes your routes in 3D and AR (augmented reality), plus your heart rate and splits. You’re even able to customize which stats you want to display and share.
An important note: Any Distance is built on pillars of safety and privacy. No maps are shared with your posts, and all location data is on an opt-in basis. We have a commitment to only store data where absolutely necessary and use the privacy-driven frameworks on Apple HealthKit as the backbone of the app.
Gamifying activity, we motivate and inspire users through our unique Collectibles platform, a move-to-earn marketplace. For example, achievements can be unlocked by walking to a coffee shop instead of driving. After banking workouts, digital collectibles can be redeemed for physical items like the Any Distance Active Club shirts (we have sent over 400 around the world, and counting!), invites for events, and partnerships with brands that both we and our community love.
Soon, we’re also launching our own activity tracking experience for iPhone and Apple Watch — a well-designed, privacy-first, and brand-new alternative to the stuffy market of activity tracking products.
How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?
LB: Inclusivity is an important aspect of our story. For us, it’s not about being the best able-bodied athlete but about doing your best and finding ways to bring activity into your overall mental and physical wellness.
Like many, the pandemic led to a personal journey of how to cope with the abrupt shift we saw the world take. I was anxious (verging on depression) and self-soothing through less-than-helpful means.
The meme of “going for a stupid little walk for my stupid little mental health” was constantly in my feed. Inspired, I simply started walking two hours a day. I listened to a ton of podcasts and started to feel more steady almost immediately. Walking led to running, and running led to activity tracking.
A blending of worlds, my core passion is photography so I would always try to snap a photo during any of my activities. As I started to share more about this, it became apparent that available options from other apps and platforms were simply boring, lacked creativity, or were impersonal.
I started designing my own posts based on my data and sharing them. It was incredibly motivating. Different from everything else I’d been seeing, the templates I had shared had no maps, only an abstract route line.
I was constantly asked: “what app is this?!?” As it turned out, I found many were looking for more in their exercise experience, especially women who felt unsafe sharing their activities and those who felt unmotivated by the apps on the market at the time.
It was around then I met Dan Kuntz, my technical co-founder, and shared some designs of what an app like this might look like on Twitter. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The tweet hit 100K+ impressions, and we decided to build a beta based on those very designs.
We launched a beta to 1.5K+ people in less than two months and launched publicly shortly after to a response of 5K+ downloads. To this day, I share a lot about the process on Twitter.
How did you turn your idea into a company?
LB: For the first year, we balanced Any Distance with our full-time jobs. It became clear through organic growth, glowing reviews, inbound interest from investors, and Apple featuring us as App of the Day in 100+ countries that we had something special to build.
We had been steadily adding users organically with no spend on marketing or paid ads — all while syncing hundreds of thousands of activities, issuing tens of thousands of achievement medals, and seeing thousands of people share their stories.
The feedback from our users was clear:
“I’m more active because I love the way the app feels and works.”
“I feel safe sharing my activities.”
“The medals are so fun, will you do more?”
“Can I track my activities in Any Distance?”
“I just don’t trust most apps with my activity data.”
In early 2022, we decided to commit full-time to Any Distance and raised a pre-seed round to focus on the vision that had naturally revealed itself in the past year. We closed $1.5M in five weeks from a fantastic group of angels and funds, including Fitt Insider.
We saw strong signals from our community that we had built a product they wanted to invest in, so, shortly before the raise, we launched Super Distance, our paid membership that unlocks a host of creative features and benefits.
We’ve brought together an incredibly talented and agile team that is allowing us to ship at a really exciting pace. Most importantly, we’re having a lot of fun doing it.
How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?
LB: The global app fitness market was worth a reported $1.1B in 2021 and is forecasted to hit $4.8B by 2030. From a pure revenue perspective, there is a lot of addressable market yet to be captured by our direct competitors. Strava, for example, generated $167M in revenue in 2021.
We have clear signals from our own community feedback on what is lacking from the current generation of apps and the wellness market that has now, mostly, passed through a global pandemic.
I believe our approach of not only building a great digital experience, but a lifestyle brand too, is really exciting.
Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?
LB: Our community and first cohort of customers tend to lean toward the social media-first generations that have disposable time and income. Ultimately, we do want Any Distance to feel like an option for everyone.
For example, we were very intentional to include wheelchair activities very early on, and our upcoming activity tracking options will include options like “Dog Walk,” “Stroller Running,” and more to cater to those who are active in any way.
Our growth has been completely organic as our community inherently shares our product with our name on it. It was a great place to start.
Future growth plans include many collaborations, partnerships, ASO (App Store optimizations), content strategies, and ambassador experiments.
My goal is to grow by the right means, not any means. With the hindsight of the recent market changes, we are committed to building a sustainable and fiscally sensible company.
Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?
LB: As mentioned, our activity tracking experience is coming soon, and we have so many fun plans for this part of the app. This will bring Any Distance fully inline as a new option for those who use existing activity trackers and will give us lots of opportunities for a true PMF (product market fit) stage.
Testing partnerships and commercialization ideas are fully underway with many more in the queue for the rest of the year. There are lots of ideas to play with here, and if you want to hear more about those, drop me a line at email@example.com.
We also just hosted our first event for our hometown community in Atlanta (that required users to earn the invite in our Collectibles by syncing an activity), and it was a strong signal for our community efforts. More of those physical experiences of the brand are on the way.
Early next year, we will start to explore the digital social experience—again—with a big focus on privacy and safety. This will dovetail nicely into much bigger ideas around a worldwide gamification touchpoint that I’m really excited about.
Editor’s Note: Fitt Insider is an investor in Any Distance. We invest in health, fitness, and wellness companies. Learn more, and get in touch, here.
If you’re interested in having your company featured in our Startup Q&A series, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.