DC might not be Silicon Valley, but that doesn’t mean it’s totally lacking in tech company potential. That point was demonstrated on February 19, when local entrepreneurs Ben Young and Gregory Coleman brought their exercise app, Sworkit, onto ABC’s Shark Tank.
Related: Watch the Shark Tank episode here.
Young, Sworkit’s CEO, and Coleman, Sworkit’s COO, began by explaining the basic functions of the app to the Sharks–five investors across various industries that have the opportunity to support the companies pitched on the show. The app allows users to select the type of workout (strength, cardio, full-body, etc.) and the amount of time they want to spend exercising before they are guided through a series of timed exercises. The app integrates with MyFitnessPal, Apple HealthKit, and Google Fit, so users can track their fitness across devices, as well as Spotify, so users can workout to a music playlist of their choosing.
Though their original ask was for $1.5 million in return for eight percent of their company, when billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban offered $1.5 million for 10 percent plus $1.5 million of any unsold ad inventory, the Sworkit team was quick to accept the offer. Now with Cuban’s investment, the attention Sworkit has gained since the show aired, and plans to roll out a paid, subscription version of the app in coming months, things are only looking up for Young and his team.
Washingtonian: There are a lot of fitness apps on the market. What sets Sworkit apart?
Young: Sworkit creates exercise playlists or “sworkouts.” It’s like the Spotify of workout apps: Spotify has something for everyone no matter what you are looking for. If you come to a workout move you don’t like, you can skip that move as easy as skipping a song and still get a full workout. Our goal is to use our platform to continually publish both new exercise moves and new playlists using those moves. Video workouts used to be static classes–now it’s time for them to be adaptive, based on your individual goals, location, injuries, and even available equipment.
What inspired the app?
The inspiration for this app came from a busy time in our lives when making it to the gym seemed impossible. Our erratic schedules also made it difficult to adhere to the various video-based exercise programs on the market. At first we tried building an app to increase motivation and change behavior, but that was really hard to pull off. Instead of focusing on behavior change and trying to force ourselves to change our schedules to make it to the gym, go for that run, or finish that recorded video routine, why not try to eliminate the actual excuses and make something that adapts to our schedules? Now, if I am at my desk, I can get up for five minutes and get in a really great stretch. If I’m in a hotel, I can do strength training without having to leave my room. If I’m in a gym, I can get a cardio program just as difficult as the class I just missed due to that meeting. It is a no brainer. No gym, no excuse.
What did it feel like to pitch and defend your work on television?
It honestly was exhilarating. We prepared a 16-page document with every possible question we could conceive of and grouped them into categories. We then decided which of the two of us would answer certain types of questions. For example, I was the lead on all product questions, future vision, and use of proceeds, where Greg was the lead on all financial, business development, and operations based questions.
How successful was the app prior to Shark Tank?
Before the show, Sworkit had been downloaded over 14 million times and growing at an average of 51,280 downloads per day to be precise (from January 1 to February 18) prior to the show. We were also in the Top 10 of the Health & Fitness category [in the app store].
What makes Mark Cuban a good fit with your brand as an investor?
Connected, tech-oriented billionaire in the sports industry pretty much sums it up. Also, he’s done this before and his ability to mentor us through challenges that we haven’t even considered but will inevitably face makes him a great long-term partner.
Now with an $1.5 million investment, what are your plans to grow and develop Sworkit?
We plan make some key hires that will allow us to go after our mission head on with a bit more speed and finality. We’re focused on increasing the number of workouts each user completes with the app in order to change more lives and stay on top of our category.