Startup Q&A: Superset Co-founder Taylor Pemberton

Superset

Startup Q&A is an interview series showcasing early-stage health, fitness, and wellness companies.

In this Q&A, Superset CEO and co-founder Taylor Pemberton joined us to talk about his turn-key platform for fitness and nutrition creators. Taylor discusses the rise of the creator economy while detailing the missing tech and marketing tools that Superset* can provide to help creators monetize their businesses.

Can you tell us about what you’re working on at Superset?

Taylor Pemberton: Superset is a platform that allows online fitness and nutrition creators to create and sell one-off programs, monthly memberships, and classes/events through their own standalone app and digital experience.

Our mission is focused on helping creators attain economic empowerment by scaling to hundreds or thousands of customers. Unlike other platforms and marketplaces, creators using Superset retain full independence over their brand, products, content, prices, and community.

Our one-to-many tools help power creator-owned businesses and digital products earning millions of dollars per year.

How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?

TP: This story goes way back for me. As a kid, I grew up in a sports-centric household, so a lot of my youth was spent in practice doing drills for upcoming games or tournaments.

Even with a sports upbringing, I always had this burning passion for technology and computers. I was particularly excited by what I could learn or achieve through early versions of the web and internet.

Much of my teenage social life was essentially formed by early digital communities — rogue spaces like chat rooms and forums, online video games, and some of the first social media platforms. I remember being super curious about creative software and web design tools. I was eager to participate, so I started practicing my skills by creating and sharing photoshop templates, editing and posting photography, and engaging in discussion boards.

I continued playing competitive sports through high school and received a dual athletic and portfolio scholarship to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design. After ending my time as an athlete to take a design career more seriously, it was a big shift for me.

I recall going to the gym for the first time and feeling simultaneously lost and excited by the idea that I could work out whenever and however I wanted. Without a team or “community” in place, I felt free, but I also lacked guidance. I discovered a strong sense of “gymtimidation” when it came to working out or trying new things in the gym.

I started looking for workouts where I knew best, the internet. I would print off random blog posts and copy exercises into a notebook to bring with me to the gym. Then, when YouTube started rising in popularity, I noticed that brands were attempting to bring their fitness DVDs online.

Going directly online as a content creator was still an extremely novel concept at the time, which led to individual coaches and personalities making their debut as early “fitness creators.”

How did you turn your idea into a company?

TP: Prior to Superset, I ran my own brand and product design studio here in NYC. One year, we ended up working with a prominent FAANG company on a new education app. The challenge was designing a mobile-first learning experience that didn’t feel like homework.

We came up with a product framework that provided just enough flexibility for course creators while giving consumers a fun, bite-sized learning experience that was easy to complete on their own. I was a huge fan of how this self-guided, asynchronous format could extend so well into other categories. Digital fitness was at the top of my list.

Instagram had just launched video and carousel posts, which gave rise to this generational-leap for online fitness creators. For the first time, fitness creators could use their phones to record, post content, and build huge audiences on their own.

While I didn’t yet have a grand vision for unlocking monetization for indie creators, I still felt very strongly that there had to be a better way to bring video-based, mobile-first workouts to the gym.

I started scraping exercise videos off Instagram and eventually hacked together the first prototypes of Superset. I tested these prototypes at the gym, shared them with friends, and started to demo it to fitness professionals in my network.

I moved back to NYC in 2018 and reconnected with Peter Coles (my now co-founder), who at the time, was doing physical therapy for his hip. The PT clinic he was working with had given him a black-and-white print out with hard-to-read rehab exercises. If you’ve ever received one of these workout PDFs or printouts, you know how difficult or uninspiring it can feel to perform workouts on your own.

Even though it feels like things have already shifted all online, many fitness and nutrition creators still offer PDFs or clunky web interfaces to deliver group programming. Influencers, on the other hand, are in an equally tough spot — they have to choose between spending their sacred entrepreneurial time doing paid brand deals and sponsored content for others, or hunkering down and learning new skills for how to build their own digital business from scratch.

Peter and I spent a few months talking through various approaches to bring bite-sized digital workouts to market. We were able to narrow in on the platform-first approach to empower creators with tools to deliver a world-class experience all on their own.

How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?

TP: As far as market size, if you just look at the virtual fitness and nutrition verticals, we are looking at an $80 billion market by 2027.

The majority of creators and businesses still haven’t launched or figured out their online offerings. This has allowed monolithic brands like Peloton, Tonal, Nike, and Apple Fitness to grab a ton of the landscape as other folks spin their wheels. However, as this market matures, both the long-tail indie creators and the famous personalities working under big brands will want more ownership over their businesses.

Growth-wise, fitness and nutrition is somewhat diverse, so we don’t expect this to be a winner-take-all-market. We’ll capture our section of the market by building the best team and tools for creators and then innovate outwards.

We have great relationships with health and wellness entrepreneurs who are effectively defining the future of this space, some of whom earn over $100K per month running their own digital communities. It’s been a pleasure to build products and features to help some of the savviest creators and community-builders.

Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?

TP: As a platform, we love and welcome creators who are experts in one or two areas but recognize that elevating or consolidating their content and customer experience is a requirement for retention and growth.

As a team, we provide leadership to creators who have built big audiences on their own but are looking for a tech and marketing team to guide them through a successful, repeatable launch.

In terms of acquisition, growing a company is always tricky. In the early days, you have to experiment with all sorts of different growth tactics. Currently, our customer acquisition is mainly through warm referrals and other touchpoints, such as landing pages and on-page interventions, clever funnel hacks, and cross-channel sales outreach.

Similar to the early days of direct-to-consumer ecommerce, there is still a lot of ego and money being spent on expensive one-off app or website builds. However, we have conversations with creators and businesses daily that see value in a full-stack team and turn-key platform as a better investment in growing their business.

Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?

TP: Everything we do relies on building the right team, so a big focus of ours is hiring. We design and build everything in-house, and we’re hiring a founding engineer!

We’ve recently spun up a program called Superset+, which we believe is the agency-platform model of the future. S+ is a white-glove service providing creators with structure and expertise on launch marketing, product design, go-to-market strategy, funnel optimization, and more.

And we’re constantly pushing updates to Superset to improve the creator and consumer experience, so stay tuned for more updates!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers?

TP: I know this is said a lot in the creator economy, but in nearly every category out there, digital content creators really are the future. Long gone are the days of celebrities and influencers gate-kept by large-scale media outlets.

Each year, more and more people are coming online, building enormous audiences with the phone they have in their hand. The number of people turning to online fitness and nutrition is a big slice of that pie has been dramatically accelerated by COVID-19, and we’re still at the very beginning of this platform shift. We’re pumped to be part of this transformation.

 

If you’re interested in having your company featured in our Startup Q&A series, send an email to team@fitt.co.

*Fitt Insider is an investor in Superset. We invest in early-stage health, fitness, and wellness companies. Learn more and get in touch here.