In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Patrick Hitchins, co-founder and CEO of FitRankings, an enterprise SaaS platform syncing consumer health data to brands’ digital ecosystems. Patrick explains how unlocking wearable data enables community-building, as well as the company’s work across apparel, corporate wellness, and the US military.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at FitRankings?
Patrick Hitchins: There are hundreds of consumer-focused apps and wearables on the market. And there are thousands of businesses and organizations that want to leverage the connected fitness and health space but can’t justify hiring an entire engineering team, product managers, and support team to leverage the space.
As an enterprise SaaS platform for connected fitness and health, FitRankings fills this gap. The platform provides universal API connections to wearables and apps (Garmin, Apple, Suunto, etc.), with turnkey software tools and analytics to create immersive challenges, activity-based messaging, and white-label communities within a company’s existing digital ecosystem.
Our commercial solution is used by active lifestyle brands and organizations like Under Armour, HOKA, Merrell, Tough Mudder, Gatorade, USA Triathlon, and USA Cycling.
FitRankingsGOV, a government-focused solution with enhanced cybersecurity controls, has been adopted by the US Air Force, US Space Force, and US DoD.
We also work with leading academic institutions like the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and completed a study with Harvard Medical School and Mass General to study the effects of digital fitness communities on burnout, well-being, and community connection.
How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?
PH: I was on the founding team at FloSports from 2007–2014, heading up revenue and working with brands and organizations including Under Armour, Nike, adidas, Brooks, and Saucony.
Our customers wanted to have a way to connect to the wearables/apps and create their own communities around personal data. There was no elegant solution — some deep-pocketed companies would simply buy these apps, and others would “rent” by paying for a sponsored challenge. In either case, these companies were having to pick one app, when, in reality, their consumer used a variety of apps and wearables.
I realized there was an opening for a company that could provide a universal connection to wearables/apps with turnkey software tools stacked on top, no acquisition or engineering team required. More revelatory, even with all the innovation in digital software and hardware, virtually no companies focused exclusively on the enterprise.
As we embarked on creating FitRankings’ MVP, I got to know the MapMyFitness team in Austin, including its co-founder Kevin Callahan, who encouraged us and shared many insights.
As it took shape, I was also able to integrate some of my degree in sports psychology to inform our early product development around gamification, positive behavior modification, and creating community connections.
How did you turn your idea into a company?
PH: FitRankings is a bootstrapped company and has been profitable throughout its existence. Starting by selling the concept with countless PowerPoint decks, our growth has been slow and purposeful, all while being obsessive about the customer experience.
A blessing and curse, the use cases across industries and customers have multiplied quickly. For example, H-E-B Grocery, the largest employer in Texas, has been a customer since 2016 and utilizes FitRankings to create an engaging corporate wellness program for 120K employees.
On the consumer side, FitRankings worked with Tough Mudder to launch a series of programming that helped generate over $1M in revenue. Then you have brands like HOKA, Merrell, and Under Armour that use FitRankings to create campaigns and loyalty programs.
Of special note, FitRankings helped the US Space Force become the first military branch to move away from an annual fitness test.
Fortunately, despite the broad applications of FitRankings technology, we haven’t had to build any one-off customizations for customers. The tools we have created really allow the customers to create their own customizations and use the technology for their specific needs.
How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?
PH: The fact that most US adults have a health app or wearable leads us to believe that most businesses, especially those in the active lifestyle market, need to consider finding ways to leverage connected fitness and health as part of their long-term strategy. We encounter many brands whose only “digital community” is their Instagram page.
These companies want to find ways to create and own their community, free of the noise found in social media, within their own digital ecosystem. FitRankings provides the tools to enable that.
We are in the early stages of this market, and we are helping educate customers on the untapped potential. Is there a future world in which companies have a connected fitness manager creating community, engagement, and loyalty programs around fitness data? We believe we’re laying the framework for the possibility.
Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?
PH: The core customer is active lifestyle organizations that want to leverage the connected fitness landscape.
As previously mentioned, we cover a lot of industries, from well-known lifestyle brands like Under Armour to national governing bodies like USA Cycling to governmental institutions like the US Space Force. We are acquiring these customers through word of mouth, earned media, and some direct sales outreach.
As a bootstrapped company, we have invested the majority of our revenues back into developing and improving the product, and we will continue to obsess on the customer and improve the product above all else. We firmly believe that taking care of the customer will take care of everything else.
Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?
PH: We culminated an intensive 10-month product cycle in August which introduced a new front-end and a back-end that will support scaling our product to significantly more customers.
The new product has resulted in much more efficiency and will allow us to actually lower our pricing while providing greater functionality. We also launched FitRankingsGOV in September, separating it from our commercial solution.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
PH: I love Fitt Insider and appreciate the community you have created; thank you for your work! With your breadth of coverage, I know many of our prospective customers will be reading this, so I want to say don’t be shy in reaching out.
FitRankings takes pride in understanding each customers’ goals and comes up with a plan tailored to meet them. We typically provide a free 45-minute consultation, understanding the customer and sharing lessons we’ve learned. Despite the range of customers and industries we serve, we’ve discovered many principles that are shared and can help our prospective customers, even if they don’t end up using our solution.
Upping the ante: I will personally speak to any person that reaches out and mentions this article. Plus, I’ll buy them a breakfast taco if they ever make it to Austin.
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