Meet the Johns Hopkins undergrads who want to change your gym experience - Baltimore


Jan. 14, 2015 9:28 am

Meet the Johns Hopkins undergrads who want to change your gym experience

ShapeU, a 2015 AccelerateBaltimore cohort member, organizes workout groups with a personal trainer. The founder, a college sophomore, is already on his third company.

The ShapeU team.

(Courtesy photo)

Even when the motivation finally arrives to go, gyms can be isolating.

A host of machines often feature people wearing headphones, and at many gyms no one is around to evaluate whether you’re working out properly. Plus, they’re expensive.

Many workout enthusiasts look to change the perception of the typical gym in order to get people in the door. For the team of Johns Hopkins undergrads behind ShapeU, however, it’s about changing the experience.

"Small groups of people encourage you to do more than you can on your own."
ShapeU CEO Seal-Bin Han

Using data analytics that account for fitness goals, availability and other factors, ShapeU’s software platform organizes people who want to go to the gym into small groups.

“Small groups of people encourage you to do more than you can on your own,” said ShapeU CEO Seal-Bin Han, a JHU sophomore majoring in electrical and computer engineering.

Once organized into groups, they’re paired with a personal trainer who leads workout sessions once a week. Splitting the trainer’s time lowers the cost of the session to under $10 per person. During the week, the personal trainer also provides a fitness analysis to each member that provides a look at how their workouts are progressing, and check-up on indicators like blood pressure and Body Mass Index (BMI).

“All of these value-adds hopefully would be better than what you experience at your gym,” Han said.

Their work is already spreading quickly on the Johns Hopkins campus. ShapeU has a partnership with the Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center, has formed six workout groups and has partnerships with 13 personal trainers, Han said.

They’re also working with the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Weight Management Center to integrate more strategies to help people who are overweight. The partnership gets to the heart of the issue the company is trying to address: cardiovascular disease, which remains the leading cause of death in the U.S.

“It’s entirely preventable in a lot of cases, but people are still dying from it more than cancer,” Han said.


"We're all 19. We're all college undergrads. I think that goes to show how much energy the team has."
ShapeU CEO Seal-Bin Han

The concept and work the group has put in earned ShapeU a spot in the 2015 AccelerateBaltimore cohort. The startup will receive $25,000, space at the Emerging Technology Centers’ Highlandtown campus and access to a network of mentors and other connectors over the next 13 weeks. They were also selected as Social Innovation Lab cohort members in the fall.

“We’ve already built a product,” he said. “It already generates revenue.”

Han, who also helped to found the World Youth Initiative and the data analytics firm Tier5, believes the ShapeU platform’s scheduling and evaluation capabilities can be integrated into pre-existing gyms beyond campus.

The company has kept it lean so far, benefiting from having a small team who are all able to code, and willing to do the work in addition to being full-time students. Upon meeting the other AccelerateBaltimore members, however, Han did notice one difference from the other startup teams.

“Of the people in the room, we were the youngest ones,” he said. “We’re all 19. We’re all college undergrads. I think that goes to show how much energy the team has.”

You must appreciate accurate, relevant and productive community journalism.  Support this sort of work from professional reporters with seasoned editors.  Become a member for $12 per month -30-
Already a member? Sign in here


5 questions with Jolene Gurevich, a Venture for America alumna working with University of Maryland startups

Baltimore’s CoapTech was picked for this California-based medtech accelerator

How do you create a job that doesn’t exist?



Building a data acquisition system? Don’t make this mistake

Baltimore, MD 21201

14 West

Junior Database Administrator

Apply Now

This JHU team is developing tools to assess newborn health

Medical education startup Osmosis raises $4M Series A

SmartLogic is making a dev investment to help a Baltimore startup scale



How SmartLogic accelerated these startups’ product growth trajectories


14 West

Senior Java Software Engineer

Apply Now
Baltimore, MD 21201

14 West

Senior Data Engineer

Apply Now
Baltimore, MD


Product Designer

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Baltimore

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!