When your gym membership expires, you will inevitably have the same inner conversation you have every year. First, you tell yourself you can exercise from home and save money, and then you tell yourself that you are paying for the gym’s environment and you reinstate your membership. Granted the gym’s ambiance can be very motivating, with FORTË, you can bring the feel of the gym to your TV and mobile devices. The subscription service providing on demand boutique fitness classes immerses you into a gym’s class and makes you feel a part of the workout. The service is significantly cheaper than boutique classes and you can save yourself from having to travel just to get to the gym. If you want to start taking your home workouts more seriously check out FORTË.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and founder Lauren Foundos about the company and how so many people are benefitting from the classes.
Tell us about the product or service.
FORTË has revolutionized the fitness industry by providing access to avant-garde boutique studio classes coached by leading fitness experts worldwide. Both a technology and subscription based streaming platform, FORTË installs hardware and software into boutique studios, which enable the classes to be seamlessly streamed live to FORTË’s platform. A FORTË subscription gives you access to this ultra-curated, cutting-edge, fully immersive, social, data-driven, interactive, real-time, unedited, and unparalleled fitness experience with unlimited content and classes from the most elite boutique studios and coaches worldwide. FORTË’s subscribers have the opportunity to experience their favorite classes live or through their on-demand library whether at home or at the gym. Now you have an opportunity to train with the best from wherever, whenever.
How is it different?
We are currently the only player in the fitness streaming space bringing the increasingly popular boutique studio experience directly to the masses by partnering with well-established brands and brilliant content creators. We have built hardware and software that is hardwired into our partner studios, which gives them the ability to seamlessly live broadcast daily. Our partners’ fitness classes have been mobbed for years; and with our technology, they can now reach far beyond the confines of their studios walls. The places are real, the trainers are real, it’s relevant, the participants are real, and the footage is raw and unedited. The majority of content on the market is choreographed, not live, not interactive, and produced. If you ‘reserve a spot’ for an upcoming live class, the coach will also cheer you on at home, making it a social and interactive experience. We are a technology company, so you can expect to see things move very quickly making this a much more two-way interactive experience. It’s going to be that unspoken camaraderie of a studio that turns your spotty workout routine into your daily ritual.
We are targeting anyone that works out and has a mobile device (smartphone, iPad or TV). Today, people have an increased awareness of their personal health and overall wellness. Health club revenue is expected to grow at an annualized rate of approximately 2.5% to $30.3 billion, including 3.2% growth in 2016 alone (source: IBIS).
IHRSA reports that of the 54.1 million people that had a membership to a health club, 42% of them were also members of a boutique fitness studio (source: IHRSA). We are targeting the people that do not live in close proximity to a studio, have time to attend class, or do not have the resources for the studios high price tag per session.
Our product reaches beyond the health club walls to the at-home fitness market. The fitness DVD industry generated $297.2m in sales in 2015 (source: Business Insider). We hope to acquire users within that market, in addition to our gym goers, and regular in-studio attendees as a great alternative when they can’t make it to the studio.
What is the business model?
FORTË is a tech company (b2b), and a subscription based fitness streaming platform (b2c).
For users, FORTË subscriptions will either run users $39 monthly or $288 for an annual subscription. The cost of one in-studio boutique fitness class is approximately $35 per session, making this subscription price a great value.
For studios, we revenue share with our partners. We are carefully selecting our partners because we do not want to inundate our users with content, at the same time ensuring they continue to be exposed to the latest cutting-edge trends, studios, and coaches. Studios pay for the hardware and software, and from there we revenue share the user subscriptions based upon minutes watched per month.
Right now a boutique studio is confined to the 30 people or so that can attend their class, but with streaming the entire world can be their audience. In order to stream live they just go online in our calendar, schedule a class for let’s say next Monday at 6pm, and the camera’s know to turn on and off during that time, and that’s it. After a class is live, it then goes into our on-demand database for continued consumption.
What inspired the business?
Working out has been instrumental in helping me stay focused and grounded.
My earliest memories are all about playing sports, and being active. I would have spent every minute outside if my parents would have allowed me to, but fortunately they strongly advised me to focus on school (which I’m thankful for today). I wanted to be a professional hockey player like Pierre Turgeon from the NY Islanders as a child. I managed to play enough street hockey with my garage door, and became a two-time all-American field hockey player and went on to play Division 1 at the University of Maryland for the nation’s top ranked program.
I spent ten years working on Wall Street, but I had to be at work so early that working out in the morning became increasingly more difficult so I started taking my clients to work out with me prior to our evening events. That was the catalyst for the FORTË concept.
I was self-motivated and steered clear of studios; but once I began dabbling, I was immediately hooked by the energy and unspoken camaraderie within the room. As I began to build friendships within the fitness industry, I started to realize that what seemed so obvious wasn’t being done. Studios wanted to offer ‘streaming services,’ but it’s costly, and streaming is not their strength (it’s a whole different business). After rounding up a handful of excited studios and building my incredibly talented team of technical partners, the journey began.
How do you plan on competing with some other established offerings that are better funded?
First of all, I love a good competition, but I also believe there is room for more than one player in this space. We do not have any direct competition streaming the actual boutique studio classes in a bundled subscription. Due to the sheer size of some of our partners, I strongly believe that we do not need enormous amounts of capital to reach the user growth that we are targeting for 2017. Our fitness streaming competitors have existed for years. We are delivering different content, and in a new way that I believe people will soon wonder how they lived without it. Our users are going to join these ever-so-quickly growing boutique studio communities that already have figured out the ‘secret sauce,’ and built cult-like followings. Our users already know and love these brands that we’ve partnered with.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
In the next six months I’d like to hit our aggressive user growth targets, close another round of funding, and be operating outside of the United States.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Don’t start a Startup, you’ll never sleep again! I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I came from an intense and stressful trading floor environment; but when that market closed, it was closed. Owning your own company, is a much different beast. That being said, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It has been the most exciting 2.5 years of my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Mayor Michael Bloomberg because he’s an incredible businessman and New Yorker.
Why did you launch in New York?
We launched in New York City because that is where our founding partners reside, but also because of the countless boutique studios in this city as well as many of the most notable players in the space. We are already operating out of the west coast from Salt Lake City, Utah (Centered City Yoga: a Dana Baptiste Studio), and have aggressive expansion plans beyond NY and the United States. We can very easily build, ship, and deploy hardware anywhere in the world and have them streaming to our platform within no time.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Forgione and Sushi Seki