Startup Q&A is an interview series showcasing early-stage health, fitness, and wellness companies.
In this Q&A, Ryan Hanna introduced us to Sworkit, a digital fitness platform finding success in employer- and health plan-sponsored wellness programs. Founded in 2012 and serving users in 120 countries, Ryan explains the recent pivot in their business model and how Sworkit’s adaptable workout planning improves exercise adherence for populations that need it the most.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at Sworkit?
Ryan Hanna: Sworkit is a digital fitness platform that provides at-home and on-the-go workouts and personalized fitness plans to consumers, employers, health plans, and schools in over 120 countries. With a custom combination of 1,000+ strength, cardio, yoga, and stretching exercises, we can give you a custom workout in any of our 13 languages, anytime and anywhere.
Most companies in the digital fitness space address personalization by recording dozens of fixed workouts, curating them, and storing them in the cloud hoping that they’ve recorded one that fits your immediate needs. Sworkit takes a different approach to personalized digital fitness.
By recording over a thousand individual exercises, we’ve made it possible to give you the exact workout you need at the precise moment you need it. So, if you tell us you’ve got 17 minutes to work out, have a bad shoulder, and need to not disturb your neighbors in the apartment below, we’ve got the perfect workout for you.
For individuals, Sworkit offers unparalleled customization, ensuring that members of all ages can find the perfect workout. We make the most accurate recommendations possible, giving each member more control, more choice, and even access 1:1 trainer advice.
For employers, Sworkit offers a diverse fitness benefit perfect for a hybrid or remote workforce. It’s accessible to a broader population of their employees, providing a large variety of content, including corporate fitness challenges and management engagement insights to drive engagement.
For all health seekers, programs need to be personalized, and we ensure adherence by making exercise meet our members where they are, not the other way around.
How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?
RH: Coincidence had it that while I was an officer in the US Army Reserves, [Sworkit CEO] Greg Coleman was an officer in the Air Force National Guard.
We were both figuring out how to keep fitness in our lives despite our professional and personal commitments, and our paths crossed, along with our third co-founder, Ben Young, in 2012. Interestingly, we both began our entrepreneurial paths building fitness apps in the early days of the iPhone.
Admittedly, I was intimidated by the gym at that time in my life. Like many people, my experience in high school and even college gyms hadn’t prepared me for a world where personal fitness was approachable and inviting. I built Sworkit to empower myself and the 73% of adults and kids who don’t get enough physical activity.
Our motive from the start has been to make fitness more flexible, less intimidating, and more adaptable to the real lives of busy people. By including kids, adults, and even older adult workouts, we are well into a mission to make the world a significantly healthier place through long-lasting, multi-generational impact.
How did you turn your idea into a company?
RH: Sworkit is not a brand-new product, as we’ve been a top-rated consumer solution since 2012. However, in 2020, the growing demand for consumer-focused and enterprise-ready solutions in the workplace and schools has shifted our business focus to employers and schools.
With this shift toward a B2B2C focus, we’ve tapped into new distribution channels through employers, wellness companies, schools, and health plans worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the prioritization of physical and mental health programs in these workplaces.
As a result, we’ve been able to gain our first 50 B2B customers in just 18 months by helping employers see that they don’t need to settle for the outdated and clunky options traditionally offered through health plans, especially in an era of hybrid work and working from home.
How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?
RH: As Fitt Insider readers know, physical inactivity is responsible for 11% of annual US healthcare expenditures. That’s $117B per year. Fortunately, studies have shown that increasing employees’ physical activity can reduce the average cost of healthcare for a single employee by an average of $1,437 per year.
Increasingly, employers and health plans are looking to consolidate benefits and wellness offerings. Thus, we are seeing the most growth through strategic “bundle” partnerships.
For example, Sworkit partner Virgin Pulse is leaning heavily into their VP+ program, which lets companies mix and match from consumer-ready solutions like Foodsmart, Whil, Sworkit, and more. In the Netherlands, health insurer Anderzorg is now bundling Sworkit and Headspace for their members as an add-on purchase.
Finally, when it comes to health plans getting into this consolidation, we’ve been able to partner with Solera Health, who connects health plan participants to the best-fit consumer solutions like Sworkit, Headspace, and Weight Watchers to address health conditions within musculoskeletal health, mental wellness, and weight management, to name a few.
With these current partnerships, and more to come, we expect our B2B revenue to overtake our consumer revenue within two years, which will be an incredible milestone for our business.
Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?
RH: Sworkit is perfect for anyone who wants to be more fit but needs a fitness routine that adapts to their ever-changing life, not the other way around. Sworkit benefits individuals of every age. As evidence, on the younger end, over 15,000 schools have signed up for Sworkit through our Sworkit Youth Initiative.
For adults, we have delivered over 100 million workouts, with thousands of members over 60 years old who have completed more than 100 workouts each.
We see our highest retention among men and women between the ages of 38 and 68, and many of them tell a similar story: They were very active in their 20s, and then life got in the way of making fitness a priority. They find that Sworkit makes it much easier for them to get back to a consistent habit of working out or stretching at least four to seven times per week.
Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?
RH: In the first wave of the evolution of Sworkit, we were able to build one of the best and most comprehensive fitness platforms on the market. We spent a lot of time building that platform, reaching over 30 million consumers and employees.
Our second and current wave will continue to deliver efficient distribution through employers and health plans worldwide as we increasingly focus on “exercise as medicine.” We’re focusing on providing additional coaching programs for injury prevention, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and aging-in-place with a fitness-centric approach.
This second wave of distribution through employers and health plans is where partnerships will be critical, and the focus of our efforts will be over the next three to 12 months.
From a product perspective, we are constantly focused on increasing employee and, ultimately, consumer engagement. We’ll also be continuously adding new content and challenge types for teams while releasing a “Move More, Hurt Less” collection to offer individuals a safe way to get back to meaningful fitness after rehab.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
RH: We are currently looking for additional strategic partners who are already selling to large employers and health plans but are looking for a best-in-class fitness offering to bundle with — creating a more comprehensive lifestyle wellness program.
If you’re an enterprise health benefits provider, health system, or anyone involved in helping people live healthier lives at scale, we’d love to connect. Feel free to reach out 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.