Today we have selected Hugo Braam to take his interview. He is CEO & Co-Founder of Virtuagym.
First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?
Considering everything, right now, we are doing quite well. We were in a tough place when the pandemic hit Europe, as we were closing a multi-million Euro bank loan for further hypergrowth when we went into the first lockdown. Just overnight, the bank told us the world had changed, and the loan was not going to happen anymore.
We had already been hiring additional staff and had a limited cash runway which – combined with the large uncertainty that the pandemic brought upon our business – meant we had to make the tough decision to let go of some of our workforces.
Some of those people had been hired less than a month before. To this day, this has been the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my professional career. Meanwhile, I found it quite endearing to see how understanding these people were – they understood that these extraordinary circumstances forced us to protect the business’s continuity.
However, looking back, the impact of COVID-19 on Virtuagym has been quite ambiguous. On the one hand, we lost the loan, and the lockdowns severely hit our customers in the fitness industry. On the other hand, the pandemic has helped drive digital transformation in fitness, which increased demand for our remote health and fitness coaching solutions in both the fitness industry and corporate wellness markets, where we are active.
Now that we’re seeing a strong recovery in the fitness market and the ongoing trend of employers investing in employee health and wellness, I am feeling more confident than ever before about the future for our business.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?
Virtuagym was founded by my brother Paul and myself in 2008 after we had the joint vision of creating new technologies to support people to live healthier, more active lives. I have always been an avid gym-goer and had a keen interest in technology, so the idea of enhancing people’s very traditional gym experiences was very appealing to me – and remains so today. My career had previously started in quite a different area – I was a lawyer in intellectual property law!
We originally launched Virtuagym as a consumer app for web and mobile. Still, then in 2013, we decided to transform it into one of the first B2B SaaS solutions in health and fitness coaching. From there, it has grown into the all-in-one solution for clubs and trainers that it is today, used by over 9,000 fitness businesses and corporate health providers and more than 18 million consumers globally, with an industry-leading coaching and engagement platform and intuitive tools for booking and management.
The corporate health market is a relatively new domain, but we’re seeing strong growth there, with great brands already using Virtuagym to keep their employees fit and energized.
How does your company innovate?
The ability to stay innovative is essential for Virtuagym to achieve its mission of making the world a healthier and happier place through technology. It has been a part of our DNA ever since Virtuagym’s inception in 2008, underpinning our development from a B2C at-home fitness game to the leading B2B management, coaching, and engagement tool that we are today. Indeed, we are constantly looking for ways to enhance our solutions and services and stay at the forefront of the industry.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we adapted to the needs of fitness businesses by launching the world’s first all-in-one turnkey digital membership solution, Virtuagym PRO+, which has enabled operators to generate revenue while being closed and upon reopening. The comprehensive experience offers 1000+ pre-selected workout videos, 200+ virtual trainer workouts, a rich meditation, and mindfulness content library, and periodically hosted challenges and content groups. This same solution also helped drive our success in the corporate wellness market.
For innovation, we constantly listen to our customers’ needs as much as possible. This led us to launch our very own integrated custom Video Workout platform, a new feature that allows our fitness customers to create their workout libraries directly in the Virtuagym portal and make them available for clients in their own customizable club mobile app.
Furthermore, since 2019 Virtuagym has been empowering the corporate wellness industry with an industry-leading corporate wellness solution for holistic employee vitality management, helping organizations create a centralized offering for all their employee wellness initiatives in one central app and web portal.
In the long-term, we want to continue to use this innovation as a driving force towards achieving our target of becoming the number one health and fitness platform for fitness businesses and in the corporate wellness domain, providing the all-in-one solution for business management coaching and engagement.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
The core strength of our Virtuagym offering is the comprehensiveness of our platform. We combine tools for management with industry-leading solutions for coaching and engagement, all within one intuitive platform and white-label mobile app framework. During this period, this offering had allowed gyms and personal trainers to keep servicing their clients when the pandemic had forced them to close their traditional business.
We have many examples where clients could keep their revenue 100% in place due to the ability to provide their coaching services in full digitally. Despite all the hardship, it’s been great to see we could positively impact our customers during these challenging times.
In the corporate health market, we see that remote and flexible working is still very standard and anticipate staying here. While employees love this flexibility and the fact that they can save time each day from not commuting, remote work does come with downsides, including being less active than before and having less engagement with colleagues.
As such, we see great potential in providing companies with a tool that drives engagement and daily activity while helping to reduce stress with meditation and mindfulness content.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
What distinguishes Virtuagym from its competition is that we are the most comprehensive solution in the market. We offer tools for exercise and nutrition coaching, progress tracking, wearable integrations, community tools, and gamification with challenges and virtual rewards. This combines with a fully integrated suite of management tools for scheduling appointments, memberships, and billing.
The most exciting thing about the industry we work in is the variety of companies looking to digitally innovate and improve how customers engage with their fitness and health. The competition is diversifying, with multiple stakeholders seeking new ways to stay ahead of the game and more focus on the end-user. For Virtuagym, we will continue to focus on creating and developing industry-leading technology solutions that empower business and health professionals to help people create a sustainable lifestyle change.
Your final thoughts
We have seen how fitness technology has provided support to fitness businesses during this difficult period, from improving processes to providing new ways of engagement outside of the four walls of their facilities.
Ultimately, fitness technology has made a vital contribution towards enabling more holistic health services, and I believe its role within the industry is here to stay. It will continue to remove the barriers that were previously preventing people from engaging with their health. I am excited that we are only at the beginning of the innovation and its impact on fitness and health.
- Spokesperson: Hugo Braam
- Company: Virtuagym
- Website link: https://virtuagym.com/