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Startup Spotlight: Perform
All Things Venture #069
Hola Everyone - Summer is finally here, and Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner. I hope that everyone is finding the time to spend it with the people they love and to unplug for a bit. Today’s article is covering a startup focused on building in a category I care deeply about, fitness. A lot of the best lessons and moments in my life are tied to my experiences playing sports and maintaing a healthy lifestyle. I think about fitness and sports as interchangable, and while I was lucky enough to enjoy playing sports competitively and taking my fitness seriously for 20+ years. I recognize that that’s not the path that most people take. That being said, I do genuinely believe that fitness is extremely important and that everyone is better off finding a way to squeeze a 30 minute workout in 3 times a week. Because of that beliefe, I always love getting to meet founders who are directing their time, energy, and effort toward helping other people maximize or improve their fitness. The startup we’re meeting today is called Perform, and their claim to fame is they’re aiming to be
The most personalized running program, ever.
I had the chance to catch up with Eric Brownrout, one of Perform’s co-founders and chat about his journey to starting Perform, how experimentation plays a role in their business, and his views on the future of fitness. For anyone interested in leading consumer trends and fitness, this one is for you. As always, let’s dive right in.
Eric! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Perform?
Yeah for sure thanks for having me today, Dez. I’m a Co-founder at Perform and Perform helps runners reach their goals through human coaching and a data driven mobile app. My own journey with running started five years ago when I was in a mental and physical rut. I took to running as a way to try to break that rut and I fell in love. I’m sort of the neurotic type who really dives into my hobbies, so I went headfirst into running. I researched all the forums, the books, the methodologies. There’s a lot of conflicting opinions, there's a lot to navigate, and ultimately my running journey was a lot of trial and error.
Unfortunately in the process, I actually injured myself during my first marathon, and I haven't been able to run the same since. Through that experience though I figured, you know there's got to be a better way out there to get started, so I teamed up with my co-founders Christian and Leonard who've run 40 plus marathons together and now we're on the mission at Perform to help personalize fitness for every runner in the world.
How does Perform achieve that mission of personalizing fitness for people?
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think it's a combination of both the human element of our business and the data side. So, on the human side, you know, you can match with your own coach who you're actually talking with. They’re learning about your background, learning about your motivations your timelines your goals, your injuries and so forth. So ultimately that's a highly, you know one on one, personal relationship. But they [your coach] benefit from the data side from us being able to analyze a huge, huge data set of runs to help extract insights and takeaways that can help optimize your training as well, so it's this combination of data and, ultimately, a human touch that we think brings personalization to the masses.
Could you walk us through how you see the fitness landscape playing out and whether there's direct competitors to Perform or adjacent solutions that are taking either the personalization aspect that you guys have or the data driven aspect that you guys have?
Yeah for sure, so in terms of the landscape, I think what we get really excited about is the proliferation of data, like when you look around you've got more wearables than ever before. You know it’s wild when you think about it, my mom's got an Apple Watch and is now learning about her heart rate and her sleep, and with all this data I think it's going to create some new opportunities for cool technical solutions to improve our fitness. Today we can really surface graphs and charts and numbers, but beyond that, a lot of our focus is how do we actually make this information actionable. So that's why we think it is a really exciting space right now in fitness to help lead that wave, and in terms of other players right now - I think there's some folks doing some really cool things. If you look at companies like Noom, you could look at Future, I think they're doing a great job helping combine both the data driven approach, and you know personalization at scale with a human element. I think that's what the future of fitness looks like. It's not one to many it's actually going to be a one to one. It’s highly personal, so we're excited to help more and more runners and ultimately endurance athletes, you know get that personal touch and help them reach their goals.
You mentioned that part of your journey with Perform is you becoming a runner and heavily indexing into it. Is Perform meant for the casual jogger that goes on a jog once a week, the person who primarily uses running as a way for them to stay in shape, or the person who's trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon?
Yeah, Perform is for all of them, ultimately, I think every runner can benefit from an expert in your corner with a more data driven approach to running. And so, part of our responsibility is to personalize the experience depending on what you're looking for. Our coaches, some of them, you know are ultra-marathon runners. You know, nuts, who go and run 100 miles on any given day. Some coaches specialized specifically in couch to 5K runners and taking those first steps, even if that's walk running to get started. And so, ultimately, we want to help all of those runners. I think the gap in the market right now is that, runners today, you see the more serious runners are the ones who are seeking coaching, seeking personalization, if you asked a more casual runner,
“Hey do you have a coach?” they say,
“A coach? What are you talking about? I don't need a coach, I’m not a very serious runner.”
We think that's a missed opportunity. We think that those runners would benefit, just as much, if not more from having a coach. So for us, makeing coaching and personalization more accessible to those runners is a big part of our focus.
Yeah, and you know switching tracks a little bit to the process of building Perform as a startup. Every startup has a challenge of increasing their LTV and decreasing their customer acquisition costs. How do you think about both of those levers as a leader within your organization?
I think on the LTV side, what we ultimately are concerning ourselves with is building a great product experience, building an app that people want to come back to, a place where people want to check in. Are runners engaging with their coach? Are they following their plan? Are they hitting their marks? If they’re not, how do we also help guide them back? It's hard to build a new habit. It's hard to start something new, so even folks who come in and they have best intentions, it’s really easy to get busy at work and fall off. So how do we also help you know, not only for the star students, but the folks who want to build the habit, the folks who have that intention, how do we help get them engaged and stay engaged? Those are some of our True North metrics, and I think if we do a good job with that, LTVtakes care of itself.
On the CAC side as an early stage founder it’s hard. When you're not at scale it's hard to know if these channels you’re exploring are sustainable. It’s really volatile. One week you’re like wow we've got incredible CAC and the next week it blows up and what changed? Like nothing, nothing changed. And so we assess our channels to see if it it's directional, but were also always experimenting. We're trying new channels, we’re going out to races in person, you know hitting the ground. We're also doing, of course, paid acquisition and referrals. So we're basically trying out a lot of different channels to see if we can get some signal, but ultimately we’re not overly worried about unit economics right now. We care more about what are the lessons we can learn today, how do they extrapolate across different channels, and how do we set ourselves up as we get further along to then create long term growth channels.
I love what you just mentioned about how you're experimenting day in and day out, could you share more of how you're embedding experimentation into Perform’s culture as a business?
Yeah, definitely so my background is in Product Management. I started at LinkedIn, and I did Product Management at Digit as well as. I benefitted from LinkedIn because it's one of the most data driven OG tech companies out there, and Christian one of our co-founders worked with me there as well. Experimentation is a big part of our DNA and our culture and so anytime we're building something new, a lot of times at this stage it can be a lot of intuition, but we also ask ourselves, “What's the hypothesis? What are we trying to learn? What does success look like?” And that way when we actually go and ship whatever we’ve built, we can go back and hold ourselves accountable. That’s a big part at this stage, because I think what we don't want to get tripped up on is you know, where we go so slow because there's too much tracking and there's too much overhead and operations. We want to try to find that right balance between being data driven and hypothesis driven, but also allowing ourselves to move pretty quickly and not have to spend too much time on the tooling and that kind of thing as well.
Do you have an example at Perform where you guys have built that kind of data driven feedback loop?
Yeah, one of the early experiments we ran was figuring out how to actually do checkout for new runners.
You can do a survey, it could be automatic, you could do more of a Superhuman approach. We were brainstorming around the different approaches we wanted to take, so we ended up implementing an A/B testing platform there. We ran some early experiments about the different ways we could get users in the door and found ultimately that the white glove approach was highest performing. You know, right from Day 1 in this personalized program someone new is talking to a human day one, they’re answering your questions, assuaging any concerns, and really tailoring what Perform can do for you. It sets the tone for the rest of the experience, and that was one example of doing an early experiment.
Do you have any advice for founders who are thinking about starting something?
I think I've always wanted to start a company, and even when I first met one of my co-founders Christian from a young age, we knew we wanted to do this - but it's so easy to put it off. It’s so easy to kick it down the road, to say it's not the right time. So, I think that the number one thing for founders/aspiring founders is just start. Just get started, whatever that is. If you’re technical start coding. If you’re non-technical, there's so many platforms out there today to get a website up, get a landing page up, get an MVP up, just start building and start talking to customers, that’s the number one thing.
I think other advice for entrepreneurs, that I’ve found for me personally to work is, being really in tune with your comfort zone and getting outside of it. Like I mentioned before, my comfort zone is in building and designing new products. It’s really safe there for me. That’s where I want to spend my time, it’s my safe place, but usually when something’s uncomfortable – that’s a good thing, that can mean it matters. So I’ve had to be mindful about, how do I force myself to get out of my comfort zone, how do I force myself to take on other responsibilities that maybe don’t go to the top of my list. Getting outside of your comfort zone is a good thing for your growth as a founder, but it’s also a sign that those things matter.
That’s it for this week everyone!!! Have a great rest of the week!!! And if you are A) interested in trying Pefrom or B) looking for your next job at a startup holla @ ya boy
+ don’t forget to have a great weekend!!