When it comes to exercise, Daniel Freedman knows the stats. Only about 21 percent of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise in a week. Only 15 percent of Americans have gym memberships.
Everyone has their own reasons why it’s hard to work out. But in collecting feedback from 500 people before launching his company, the cofounder of Owings Mills-based startup BurnAlong heard a general belief that many people recognize the need to exercise.
“For everyone there was this theme of, exercise is really important. Health is really important. But life was just getting in the way of doing it,” said Freedman, who previously worked for a pair of startups as well as in journalism and policy.
Addressing that issue is at the heart of the startup’s fitness platform. The idea of working out at home isn’t new, but BurnAlong seeks to introduce familiar faces to the process to keep the interaction and motivation that are the benefits of in-person classes.
Through video, the platform allows users to take classes from instructors that they already know through partnerships with gyms and studios. The classes can be offered either live or recorded. The idea is to offer the kinds of classes people want in the place where they’re most comfortable. It offers a variety of classes, including yoga, barre and tai chi.
And your friends can join the instructor on the screen. Through a multi-person feature, up to five people can link up for a class live. Being able to set up anywhere is also key to the model.
“It could be a friend that lives down street. It could be a friend on other side of the country,” Freedman said.
The platform is currently available via tablet and web app, and Freedman said a mobile version is nearing launch.
The platform debuted in a closed beta in the fall, and is now opened up to the public. The startup partners directly with gyms or fitness studios, and is offered on a subscription-based model. For gyms, Freedman said there is also a motivation to stay connected with members who may be watching classes from other people if they work out at home. Individuals can also sign up, so it could also introduce new members.
“We think online and offline bridge each other,” Freedman said.
Freedman and cofounder Mike Kott, formerly of PayPal/Bill Me Later, lived with their families in Baltimore but commuted to other cities for previous jobs.
“We both wanted to build a company here in Baltimore,” Freedman said.
The company started working with gyms in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic, but Freedman said requests have been coming in from other areas since the platform opened up to the public. Since launching, the company has raised about $1 million. A $100,000 infusion came from TEDCO’s Seed Investment Fund.
After growing to four full-time and three part-time employees, the startup is entering another period of growth, as Freedman expects four new hires in the coming weeks. The company recently moved into offices in Foundry Row in Owings Mills, where design and dev firm Foundry19 also recently opened up shop.