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Over the past year, the pandemic changed all of our routines and altered the way we live our lives; the way we work, the way we educate our children, even activities like going to the movies or eating in restaurants, have been completely altered, perhaps forever. Yet, with that disruption comes opportunity, and most spaces have found ways to adapt and change, taking what was once offline and making it virtual to fit the new world we're living in.
The fitness space is an especially good example of this change, as polls have shown that people enjoy working out at home and plan to continue doing so, even when the virus is no longer a threat.
The move from offline to online was something that was already happening even before the pandemic, but the trend was accelerated by COVID, said Jason Goldberg, CEO and Founder of Moxie, a virtual fitness platform that announced a $6.3 million seed+ funding round on Thursday.
"There were trends towards virtual fitness before the pandemic, and the pandemic forced everyone to adopt virtual fitness at a much faster pace. And, the problem that we very quickly saw within that was, how do we provide the best solution on both sides of the marketplace, so both for fitness instructors who are displaced by the pandemic and can no longer go to their previous employer, the physical gym? How do we enable them to go from being a fitness instructors pre-pandemic working for someone else to being fitness entrepreneurs working for themselves during the pandemic?" he said.
"Then, on the consumer side, how do we enable everyone to achieve their own fitness mission and to have a more convenient way to work out and to continue to work out with coaches who care about their well being?"
On the instructor side, Moxie provides them with a complete platform so they can host their classes, publish their schedules, to have payments, both drop-in payments and subscription payments, packages. The classes themselves are hosted live on Moxie on a two-way interactive streaming platform.
Instructors also have control over pricing, with each instructor setting their own prices, whether that for a one time drop-in class statement, a package of classes, or an unlimited subscription. The most popular plan on Moxie right now is the unlimited subscription, which tend to range from 60 to $150 a month, depending on the instructor.
On the consumer side, they are given the choice of joining group classes or private, on-one-one classes with an instructor, though Goldberg says that over 90% of the company's usage is the group classes and that is what the app has been optimized for.
"One of the things we discovered early on was that the reason why people choose group fitness is because of the relationship and the connection they developed with an instructor, and the interactivity of it. People do group fitness because they want the social aspect and the connection they have with their instructor. And so, we set out to build a solution that would enable both the fitness instructor and the consumer to achieve these goals," he told me.
"We felt like if people wanted to do private training, there's been private training apps before COVID. It’s an interesting space but it wasn't the biggest gap in the market that the pandemic created; it was people who really have built their whole routine around their daily fitness exercise, whether it's a yoga class, a pilates class, or an Equinox class and suddenly they couldn't get that fix, and we saw an opportunity to not just provide that but to make it better."
Consumers are also given control over their own privacy: they can decide who gets to see them, either everyone in the class, only the instructor or no one at all. That helps people who may be body conscious, or not confident about working out in front of other people, to get the energy of the group class but without exposing themselves to other people. In addition, Moxie is also designed to facilitate more interaction with clients and instructors.
"Because the relationship started online, everyone expects to use the online messaging and tracking how you're doing and getting feedback in between classes and you don’t necessarily get that when you show up for an in-person gym class."
Moxie currently has several thousand instructors on the platform, with 8,000 classes and 1 million class-minutes completed in March. Over 75% of the Moxie users are female.
The company's new round was led by Resolute Ventures, with participation from Bessemer Ventures, Greycroft Ventures, Gokul Rajaram and additional investors, including Bruce Bell of Square, Manik Gupta of Uber, Jay Parikh of Facebook, and Mark Kingdon, as well as several early stage venture capital funds. Moxie had previously raised a $2.1 million seed round in October 2020, and this new funding brings its total to $8.4 million.
The money will be used to launch the second phase of the company; while the company spent its first year focusing on the core technology platform, this next phase will focus the consumer side, as well as helping instructors not just bring their own clients to Moxie but also build their client base. Specifically, that will come in the form of two new products, one which is being launched in conjunction with the new funding round, and the second which will be launched later this year.
The product launching on Thursday is called Moxie Benefits, and it will provide instructors with access to benefits, such as health insurance, dental and vision plans, and life insurance.
"The one thing that instructors asked us for again and again over the course of this year was healthcare," Goldberg said, noting that a number of instructors were considering going back and teaching at a physical gym, but only because they could get health benefits if they taught a certain amount of classes per week or month.
"We just felt like it's the right thing to do for the instructors. We want instructors to feel like Moxie is an empowerment engine for them, that we help them build their businesses and we also help them get the things you need to make themselves and their families feel safe and secure."
Moxie Benefits is being launched in partnership with Stride Health, a startup focused on connecting individuals with health plans under the Affordable Care Act. Stride has previously partnered with companies like Uber, DoorDash, Lyft; Moxie is its first partner in the fitness space.
"Stride is a great first partner because they're the leader in the space for the gig economy, with their work with Uber and DoorDash with Lyft. They've been working on this for three or four years for those large companies and grown with them. So, they really have this down as a process. Because of that, they’ve also pre-negotiated a wide range of special offers and discounts that are available to their partners based on pooling together how many gig workers are accessing the Stride platform," Goldberg explained.
The second product, which the company plans to debut later this spring, is Moxie Teams, which will enable groups of instructors to join together to form small businesses on the platform. It will also allow consumers to choose from a wider range of classes and coaches under a single subscription.
The idea for this product came about when the team saw instructors building their own businesses on the Moxie platform, inviting other instructors to teach on their accounts.
"We spent time talking to them, interviewing them, and what we learned is really what they want to do is build the gym of the future right on Moxie. That includes several instructors, all working under the same brand. Oftentimes they're in different cities, in different states, different parts of the world, but they're all under the same brand, and they can charge a single subscription for classes with a team. It allows us to provide a wide variety of classes as well," said Goldberg.
"Today on Moxie, each account is basically one instructor; with Team, you can have a yoga perform, a Pilates person, an extension training person. You can get really specialized as well, with martial arts, Taekwondo, Tai Chi, whatever it might be, and someone else is doing group meditations, all under on the one offering. Essentially, you're creating your own virtual gym that way. And that you'll be able to do teams."
These new product will help Moxie achieve it's ultimate vision, which is to be what it calls an "empowerment platform" where any instructor can teach, anyone can join the platform, and instructors can build their own businesses and build their own brands.
"We endeavor, over the next five to 10 years, to be the platform that builds the gyms of the future. Whether those are online, offline or a hybrid of both, we want to be the technology that empowers that."
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