In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Erling Magnus Solheim, co-founder & CEO of PlayPulse, creator of a gamified exercise bike. Erling discusses the whitespace for exercise gaming experiences that are both effective and entertaining, and how the community aspect drives rapid adoption.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at PlayPulse?
Erling Magnus Solheim: PlayPulse merges the fun of gaming with the satisfaction of a good workout. Our first product, PlayPulse ONE, is an exercise bike with game controllers and original video games where pedaling controls your in-game movement.
Based on scientific evidence and thousands of user tests, we’ve developed a genuine gaming experience that is more fun when played as a workout.
From the hardware to the software to the games, we’ve stuck to our principles of creating an exercise gaming experience that is truly different.
How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?
EMS: Triggered by a relatable realization—wanting to play video games rather than do a cardio workout—my co-founders Kristoffer [Hagen] and Stian [Weie] wrote their master’s thesis in computer science on how they could be combined, ideating on an early prototype in 2015.
In his early PhD work from 2015–2017, Kristoffer researched all of the existing solutions in the market. What he found was that they all lacked in the areas of gaming or workout — either the workout wasn’t effective or the games were too boring.
How did you turn your idea into a company?
EMS: First, while very much bootstrapped, we conducted massive R&D and user testing efforts to perfect the product.
We then raised capital on the promise of the product alone, enabling us to hire a small but super solid team to finalize the product and start some early commercial efforts like opening for sales on PlayPulse.com.
For our company, the next stage is to ship product in early 2023, which is on schedule and just around the corner.
How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?
EMS: From a qualitative perspective, it’s simple. We believe most people don’t like hardcore workouts, but the majority want to be more physically active. At the same time, most people like gaming.
This means there is a huge blue-ocean opportunity for companies that can actually help people achieve their goals by doing what they already love. For us, it’s an addressable market of millions of people creating a multi-billion-dollar opportunity.
Viewing it more quantitatively by proxy data, virtual fitness is expected to reach $60B by 2027, while gaming will hit $321B by 2026.
In the coming five to 10 years, we’ll create revenue streams from users in the digital world and the at-home fitness market.
Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?
EMS: Our pre-orders are from people that are desperate for something that actually resonates with them and motivates them to be active. We see super-strong feedback from the likes of families with teenagers and also couples who want something fun to get them moving.
Reaching more potential users, we’ve been adding organic content while pushing some ads live. But, our strongest driver will be community-driven growth. PlayPulse is more fun when played with friends—and we know how strong the social component is—so referrals from people working out/playing together will be key.
Allowing people to test the experience firsthand is also crucial to understanding and appreciating it, so retail is likely to become an important component, too.
Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?
EMS: We’ll be shipping PlayPulse ONE to pre-order customers by April 2023 and ensuring the experience lives up to our ambitions. This is what matters.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
EMS: We’re now opening our latest financing round to the community via CrowdCube. To get involved, read our blog post about it!
Related reading from Fitt Insider:
PlayPulse Secures $2M for Its Gamified Fitness Bike
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