In 2006 two women from Los Angeles decided to bring something that they saw in their hometown to New York City. They experienced a sense of connection through indoor cycling. The lights were low, candles were lit, and the instructor was shouting out positive affirmations. And they were doing it all this around 30 other sweaty strangers. This is how SoulCycle came to be. SoulCycle brought in a new era of high ticket studios which only focused on one specific activity.
This become so popular that startups emerged to sell memberships to all the unique boutique gyms around town.
Once the market proved that they would spend $34 a class, the going monthly rate of a regular gym, the knockoffs came. Where SoulCycle was not objectively competitive, FlyWheel emerged to satisfy that human urge. Flywheel would use a power metric called Torq. By displaying everyone’s Torq output on the leaderboard if you could compete with everyone in class — removing all doubt that you, in fact, were the fastest in the class.
Both FlyWheel and SoulCycle were limited in how many people they could serve. Although the Stationary bike is an unusually small piece of equipment Compared to a treadmill or a set of weights, you were still limited by how many you can fit in a room. And the more people you have working out in one place the hotter it’ll get, making the experience only that much worse.
The big questions remained, “Do people come to these classes for the personalized instruction or for the community?” And “can we bring the community online?” John Foley attempted to bring the cycling studio experience to the masses by combining the fancy spin bike with world class instructors, but all at the comfort of your home. No need to deal with traffic to make that 6pm class anymore. No more set schedule. You just do an On Demand ride, or ride along with a live on. That company became Peloton.
Once Peloton proved that people are ok with 1) a remote community, 2) paying upfront for equipment (~$1995), and 3) streaming classes, other boutiques began coming “online.”
The Hydrow, which promises to bring the soul-enriching exercise of rowing outdoors into your home. The price would be ~$2,200 and ~$40 per month.
Then we have the Tonal. It is the first-ever adaptive digital strength training system, powered by digital weights, with interactive workouts built in. It’s like having a personal trainer and a full gym, in the convenience of your home. One system, the size of a flat-screen TV, replaces every piece of equipment in a weight room.
There is even a smart Mirror called…Mirror. When off, it’s a full-length mirror. When on, see yourself, your instructor and your classmates in a sleek, interactive display, complete with embedded camera and speakers. All you need is the space of a yoga mat for a high-energy workout in any room in your home!
Seems like the other theme for all these “at home” boutiques are 1) consolidation of gym equipment and 2) personalized fitness at scale.
There also seems to be a first mover advantage for each piece of equipment. Flywheel decided to begin offering an in-home alternative to their studio classes. Not sure why it took so long. Perhaps to maintain the in-studio exclusivity. But by looking at the bike, it’s hard no to think to yourself that it’s just a Peloton ripoff. They saw that the “at home” model works, so let’s just copy it.
- Figure out what is the minimal pieces of equipment (hardware) a person needs to purchase to do 90% of exercises. Peloton currently offers the spin bike and a treadmill.
- Figure out a way to deliver a seamless and personalized experience, no matter which piece of equipment you’re on.
- Begin offering all different classes leveraging your equipment. Peloton offers yoga, bootcamp, running, walking, stretching, meditation, and spin.
In conclusion, there are two themes that emerge in this post — first to market by discovering the unknown need and becoming a trojan horse. Once you sneak in as hardware, you can deploy more and more software to fit your customer’s needs.