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One Man’s Health Scare Has Become Smart Fit Method

December 16, 2021 — Sport Techie, https://www.sporttechie.com/one-mans-health-scare-has-become-smartfit-a-personalized-fitness-regimen-based-on-ai-and-the-ideal-that-lifes-too-short-to-train-wrong,

World’s shortest elevator pitch: “We utilize artificial intelligence to activate the perfect workout each and every time for our members, saving them time in a regular gym facility.”

Company: Smart Fit Method

Location: Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California

Year founded: 2020

Website/App: https://www.smartfitmethod.com/
https://apps.apple.com/us/app/smart-fit-method/id1537076178
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.smartfitmethod.app&hl=en_US&gl=US

Funding round to date: “Self-funded.”

Who are your investors? “I did the first round of funding for the company for $1 million.”

Are you looking for more investment? “We will be looking to expand into new investors, but we plan to open the first five locations self-funded to demonstrate our model.”

Tell us about yourself, CEO & Founder Rob Darnbrough: “I grew up in Canada, and, by the time I was 21, I had five companies. As I moved into the financial planning world in my early 20s, I went on to develop and build Canada’s largest and most successful independent succession planning firm, where we helped family businesses develop and design exit strategies for their companies. After over 20 years in that business, I was able to generate a self-managing company. Rather than sell the company to a third party, what I chose to do was to bring in my team because what I wanted to do is protect them and protect the promises we made to our clients. In 2013, I stepped away from that business and began on the journey of retirement. Over that period of time, I really focused heavily on my fitness, got back to my roots. I was a competitive cyclist in Canada growing up. Went through that journey over the next four or five years until I did a genetic test at Health Nucleus. I was told I was extremely fit, had good body composition, number of factors working in my favor, but was I aware I had an aneurysm in my aorta? I had developed it from overtraining. I was your typical gym rat, your typical person who did a lot of cardiovascular work, spent a lot of time in the gym, not realizing that type of working out was causing inflammation in my body, and that inflammation was targeting one specific area and expanding my aorta. I was told to go speak to a couple of cardiologists, and both cardiologists told me if I see a hill to turn around. In other words: not to workout anymore. After about four months of being depressed and upset with not being able to workout, I started to investigate if there were better technologies available today that would allow a person to train without creating that level of inflammation. I contacted a good friend of mine at Vasper Systems and asked him if I could use their machine. This machine was developed by NASA to address atrophy and astronauts. They said to me, ‘Hard-pressed to tell you whether you can or not, but you can go see the interventional cardiologist who wrote the paper on this.’ I saw the interventional cardiologist, started training on it, and I was able to get my fitness back, get my cardiovascular system back, increase my VO2 max by 15% and not put any additional stress or strain on my aorta or aneurysm. As that gave me the results I was looking for, I started to investigate other machines that could potentially provide these values and benefits to people, while allowing them to expose themselves to the benefits of high-intensity interval training, but do it in a way that is safe. After having all of this equipment at my home, and my son and my good friend and business partner here in San Diego Jodee Burris seeing the benefits I was getting from it, they [both] said, ‘Why don’t we make this available to everyone?’ That’s how we started the Smart Fit Method.”

 

SmartFit believes three 20-minute workouts a week inside their facility is the 'minimum effective dose' for a person's physical fitness and equates to 5 to 7 hours in a regular gym setting.

SmartFit believes three 20-minute workouts a week inside their facility is the ‘minimum effective dose’ for a person’s physical fitness and equates to 5 to 7 hours in a regular gym setting.

 

Who are your co-founders/partners? “I’m in business with and passing this opportunity on to my son, Connor, to help him develop his entrepreneurial skills. He’s currently the COO of our California operations and our main headquarters. Connor has covered all of his requirements from a standpoint of developing as a trainer and also developing his business acumen. I’m working with him to assist him on growing that, and he’s working toward becoming an owner. Jodee Burris is a personal trainer on the island of Hawaii for the last 11 years, with specialties in group fitness and assisting people through high-intensity workouts. She’s also one of the co-founders of Smart Fit and developed it into its present state.”

How does your service work? “What we provide is the minimum effective dose of exercise for each and every client in three 20-minute workouts a week. What that does is it replicates doing five to seven hours in a traditional gym setting. Using and tapping into the technology that is available within our equipment and the unique method we have developed through data research and sports science, we’re able to generate the results in the body necessary to make changes from a standpoint of both physical and composition.”

What problem is your company solving? “The minimum effective dose recommended for exercise is 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week, plus two strength training sessions. The average person spends an hour and 15 minutes doing a strength training session. We can assume that means the average amount of time recommended for an individual to stay healthy and fit is five hours a week. The biggest challenge is that after 25, we gain responsibilities such as jobs, mortgages, children, etc. That makes those five hours much more difficult. So, the question is: How can we meet minimum requirements of cardiovascular and strength training necessary but do it in a busy world where we allow people to take advantage of technology? What we solve is that exact problem: We can get you the appropriate stimulus necessary to stay fit and healthy and improve your overall conditioning in just three 20-minute workouts a week by using highly efficient, technological AI that adapts the resistance perfectly to each individual to give them the appropriate dose.”

Now that the first SmartFit has succeeded in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, in North County San Diego, its grand plan is to open new facilities every seven miles up the California coast and eventually in Hawaii.

Now that the first SmartFit has succeeded in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, in North County San Diego, its grand plan is to open new facilities every seven miles up the California coast and eventually in Hawaii.

 

What does your product cost and who is your target customer? “The product is $349 a month to work out of the facility, unless you’ve achieved the benefits of a six-week challenge where you’ve lost 3% body fat in the first six weeks. You can then reduce your membership to $299 a month. The target market is twofold. One is the individual who COVID has taken a good shot at, they’ve gained 20-plus pounds during COVID. While they may have been an athlete in the past, they’ve now become a de-conditioned Baby Boomer and they’re looking for a safe way to get back into the gym and get the benefits of exercise. This person is generally between 45-70. The other client we see a lot is the person who is interested in the biohacking community. Is there a better way for me to achieve the things I want to achieve through technology and save time? That person genuinely would be a younger person who’s interested in the benefits of biohacking.”

How are you marketing your product? “We market our product through several different channels. We, of course, write lots of articles and are asked quite often to make entries into national magazines, giving us national recognition of the work we’re doing. We also have a local connection. We use local media, local news and local outlets. In addition, we have a social media platform. So Instagram, Facebook, Google Ads. And then, like all businesses that are successful, our biggest source of growth is referrals from satisfied clients.”

How do you scale, and what is your targeted level of growth? “Our ability to scale is that we were able to develop our own apps and our own internal systems through SharePoint. We built an app for our clients where they can see all of their results. They can see how much stronger they’ve got in their chest press and row; they can see how much their VO2 max has increased their cardiovascular system improvement. They can see whether they have reduced their visceral fat or their subterraneous fat, or have they gained lean muscle mass. How is their bone density? All of that information. Because our systems are completely quantifiable and because we can measure it, we know we can improve it. We’re able to provide all of that information to our clients through their app. Our coaches in the gym also have their own proprietary app that tells them all the information they need to know about that client to make sure that client’s experience here is unique. For instance, when you enter all of your settings and everything is set up on the machine, the AI remembers all your positions. You come in, and you just do a 20-minute workout. You’re not coming in and trying to get set up, trying to find out where you need to be. We make sure all of that’s done. We systemize the predictable, so we can humanize the unpredictable. That makes us scalable, to quote Isadore Sharp from the Four Seasons. Then, what we’ve done is we built out a model: we first achieve breakeven, and once we get to a point where a facility is able to double its breakeven, we open a new location. We are currently opening our second location after opening the first one seven months ago. We’re currently at double the breakeven number on that location, revenue-wise. Now, we’re opening our second location. We have a third location targeted to open in April. Our plan is to have five locations in Southern California, all seven miles apart, because we know that those individuals who succeed the most in a gym are those who come from within a seven-mile radius of the facility they work out in. We’re going to open up the California coastline, every seven miles. We’re also going to open up in the Hawaiian Islands, eight locations. Our goal is to have, over the next five years, 30 locations throughout the California region and eight locations on the Hawaiian Islands. One of the benefits of that is all of our data is transferable from machine to machine. If you come into one of our city facilities, you put your name in there, that machine moves into your exact positioning. It has all of your previous workouts. It knows what you’ve done in the past and it knows how hard to generate the resistance to give you the right workout regardless of where you go.”

Who are your competitors, and what makes you different? “Our biggest competitors will be the group fitness industry that targets people on a high-intensity workout. Your CrossFit, Orangetheory, F45. What differentiates us from them is we’re not group fitness. We’re personalized fitness. We use AI, not metal weights or treadmills or rowing machines. Everything in here is quantifiable. You know right away whether you’re getting stronger, fitter, leaner, healthier when you work with us. You also know if you’re overtraining. Very quickly, what we can do is measure the impact on your body from the workouts we’re providing you with. Our goal is to get the minimum effective dose, no more and no less. What we know is all benefits from exercise actually come in recovery. They don’t actually come in the stimulus. The stimulus is a stress on the hormone system. We need a little bit of stress, but we don’t need too much stress. So, we’re safer, and we’re more accountable than those others and more personalized because we provide personalized fitness and training. We’re more measurable.”

What’s the unfair advantage that separates your company? “Our proprietary method gives us an unfair advantage in the marketplace. It provides us with the ability to really make sure that client is getting the perfect workout every single time. Because all of the predictable elements of our systems are dealt with, our clients are able to get the attention of the trainer, who can be very focused on them. Our people make a big difference as well.”

What milestone have you recently hit or will soon hit? “In our first three months of our first location (Cardiff-by-the-Sea), we hit breakeven. At seven months, we were able to double our breakeven marker and open our second location (Kauai, Hawaii). We’ll be opening a third location shortly in Del Mar (California).”

In what ways have you adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic? “You’re able to book in our facility up to 14 days in advance. And unlike a group fitness type of environment, you’re pre-scheduling your workouts when you feel like working out. We’re not suggesting you have to come in here and work out at 6 a.m. or 8 p.m. What we did to address COVID is we reduced our algorithm to 50% capacity within the facility to make sure each client is safely distanced from the other clients when they’re working out. They’re not laying on a mat two inches away from somebody, they’re actually working out on their machine. Because they work on one machine each time they come in, and only that one machine, we can sanitize that machine between workouts and protect the client.”

Darnbrough plans on passing SmartFit down to his son Connor, who is currently COO of the company's California operations.

Darnbrough plans on passing SmartFit down to his son Connor, who is currently COO of the company’s California operations.

 

Beyond the pandemic, what obstacles has your company had to overcome? “It’s getting people back into the gym after coming through COVID. Getting people back into the community, getting them back into being comfortable coming in and working out and being able to help them do it in a way that prevents them from getting injured. PT clinics in the United States are running at an all-time high, and the reason is that traditional high-intensity workouts that people have come back into are now filling the PT clinics. There are a lot of injuries that are occurring. One of the things we have to do is be really diligent in our training and making sure our settings are correct and protecting our clients from injury.”

What are the values that are core to your brand? “Our core values come from a few of the most important books we’ve read over the years. The first one is ‘The Go-Giver.’ Our philosophy is we want to create more value in each life we touch. We want to create more value for that person than they feel they’re compensating us for. They’re going to come in the door and the value they’re getting in here feels like it far exceeds the $300 or $350 per month they’re paying. The way we get compensated as an organization is by touching more lives. That’s a core value for us. Second thing, following Issy Sharp, is we systemize the predictable. We don’t do the same thing twice without creating a template. By doing that, things move smoother and faster, and that allows us to be more in touch with our clients. There’s a famous quote that Frank Sinatra didn’t tune pianos. The piano was already tuned. He stepped on stage to perform. We want to make sure our trainers are fully focused on that. The third one comes from Jocko Willink and it’s: extreme ownership, regardless of the situation. We try to own the situation. Whether it be good or bad, we want to own it and learn from it. We don’t think of good situations and bad situations. We try to focus on it being a learning opportunity to make us better.”

What does success ultimately look like for your company? “If we follow our Go-Giver philosophy, which is that we want to create more value in each life that we touch then that person feels we’re compensating for, then the way we get compensated is by touching more lives. We would like to touch a billion lives with our technology.”

When a SmartFit client enters for a workout, the AI on a machine remembers all of their previous positions and results.

When a SmartFit client enters for a workout, the AI on a machine remembers all of their previous positions and results.

What should investors or customers know about you—the person, your life experiences—that shows they can believe in you? “I’ve been a highly successful entrepreneur and successful competitive athlete. I’ve gone through my own tragedies from following the traditional methods that have been promoted for over 60 years in the fitness industry. Like most industries, when technology is introduced–and introduced correctly–it can improve and make our lives matter. This is something that we’re trying to bring to the community and help people better understand.”

Can Smart Fit Method work as an at-home platform? “It does have to be in-person at the current time, because what it does is it utilizes and takes advantage of the world’s best technology. These machines are quite large. They do require a facility. I think the most important thing about technology, whether it be the development of Watson or development of any other technologies in artificial intelligence, it’s the human connection of the professional to the technology that is going to assess the client with the best outcome.”

Do you have a favorite quote about leadership? “You want to build every business with the idea to become self-managing in the future. If you want to do that, you need to systemize the predictable, so you can humanize the unpredictable. That’s from Issy Sharp, the founder of Four Seasons.”

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