In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Eric Brownrout, co-founder & CEO of Perform, a run coaching platform making professional training more accessible. Eric explains the whitespace between costly 1:1 training and cheap generic plans, and how making the coaching experience more efficient led to partnerships with professional runners like Olympian Meb Keflezighi.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at Perform?
Eric Brownrout: At Perform, we’re using technology to democratize access to high-quality coaching and training for runners.
Every runner who signs up for Perform is matched with their own personal running coach and gets access to our smart training app. Their coach builds them a personalized training program in the app and supports them through their entire running journey with feedback, accountability, and motivation.
As runners train and progress through their workouts, their plans continue to adapt based on their fitness and results. Our program starts at just $39/mo. and offers a new solution for runners that exists in the gap between cheap, generic plans and more costly, boutique coaching.
This is made possible through our unique coaching model. We hire and train our own talented staff of coaches, including professional and former professional runners. Our proprietary athlete management system improves coaching efficiency by streamlining training plan updates and athlete communication, which turns Perform coaches into super-coaches.
By improving the efficiency of our own talent, we’re able to make high-quality coaching more affordable to the everyday runner.
How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?
EB: Today, aspiring or current runners have two primary options when looking for expertise to achieve their goals.
First, they can find and hire a personal coach and get bespoke programming and feedback, but it’s niche and cost prohibitive. On the other end of the spectrum, runners can use cheap or free training plans, but they’re generic and can lead to mixed results.
So, there are no great solutions for runners that offer true personalization without breaking the bank.
That’s what Perform aims to fix because, on a personal level, I’ve seen firsthand how having someone on my team can make a huge difference in building a habit and reaching my goals.
Studies show that committing to someone, checking in with them, and following up with them can improve the odds of success by 95%. For me, it was my brother, an avid runner who supported and coached me through my first marathon from scratch, and I couldn’t have done it without him.
So, what if every runner around the world could have access to that expert in their corner? To high-quality, personalized training? To 1:1 feedback, accountability, and motivation? That prospect is what excites us.
Our founding team combines a passion for endurance sports with extensive software development experience. On the running side, we’ve run a combined 40+ marathons, and our chief running officer Leonard Adler is a running industry veteran, with experience coaching runners, producing races, and building one of the largest free running communities in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, Christian Mathiesen (CTO) and I have been building consumer products together for over six years after first working together at LinkedIn in 2015.
How did you turn your idea into a company?
EB: Perform started as a passion project (perform.fm) in 2019. The project grew organically to tens of thousands of users, and we quit our jobs to focus on Perform full-time. In the first few months, we talked to thousands of athletes, and we identified an opportunity to provide affordable, professional instruction for runners.
We put up a landing page to validate demand before we actually built anything new for runners. The landing page included proposed features and value props. Shortly after going live, our first sign-ups started flowing in. We interviewed these users to learn about their needs, and they became our first customers.
Our initial MVP was an email-based experience. Though simple, it met our customers’ needs at a basic level. As we onboarded more customers, Perform began to evolve naturally based on their feedback.
Now, just eight months after launch, we’ve grown Perform into a multi-platform product for our customers and coaches. We’ve launched a smart training app for runners on both iOS and Android, and we’ve built in-house coaching software for our staff of 20+ coaches. In that time, we’ve more than doubled our customer base each month (on average), and the product has proven incredibly sticky, with 93% blended 30-day retention.
Most recently, we partnered with Olympian Meb Keflezighi and announced $1.2M in pre-seed funding with participation from defy.vc, the CPO of Calm, the former CPO of Uber, a co-founder of Fitbod, and more.
How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?
EB: We’re focused on the 75M runners in the US alone to start. We believe that we can help grow the market for coaching just by following our value proposition. In the long run, we believe our technology can power personalized fitness experiences in additional endurance sports such as cycling, swimming, and triathlon.
Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?
EB: Our customers range from new runners looking for help getting started to experienced runners looking to improve their performance or complete a new distance.
We’re currently training runners in distances from 5Ks to ultramarathons. For most of our customers, the common thread is that Perform is their first exposure to running coaching — which is exciting.
We are reaching customers like them through social media, search, and word of mouth. Looking ahead, we’re excited to partner with endurance event organizers to provide additional revenue streams and improve their runner relationships, retention, and engagement leading up to their events.
Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?
EB: We’ve been focused on scaling our 1:1 coaching, but the technology we are building to empower our coaches will also allow us to offer an even more affordable training solution for runners. Keep an eye out for more on this in the next few months!
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
If you’d like to talk about roles, partnerships, or anything running, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in having your company featured in our Startup Q&A series, send an email to email@example.com.