All good startups originate from the itch… also known as unsolved problems. Maybe I heard that somewhere before. I don’t know, but it seems appropriate. If you have an entrepreneurial bone in your body, those little itches drive you nuts. You make lists of the itches you can’t seem to scratch. Yeah, sounds kind of ADD. I know. Eventually, one rises above all others and you decide come hell or high water, you will find a way. So, what was the itch that spawned Fitli?
Go back to around 2008 in the heart of the Silicon Valley; Sunnyvale, California. By now, everybody (and by everybody, I mean everybody in the Valley; because when you live there, you’re in a bubble (you don’t realize it though) and nothing else and nobody else matters (but that’s another story). Yelp and Amazon had already gotten us addicted to reviews. The approach to buying anything was becoming very simple. Check reviews. Buy Now. Unfortunately, this was NOT the case for most services (other than food related) and particularly so for Fitness and Wellness services.
There it is. I wanted to find a Personal Trainer; not a kid in a big gym, but an experienced, well respected, personal trainer in a private studio. That desire turned into the itch of all itches. Surprised? Well, sure. Today it’s not like that anymore. Ten years is a long time. Things change. Other people have the same itch. It starts to get scratched. But, back in the day, it went like this. Search Yelp for Personal Trainer. No results or minimal reviews. Ok, search Google for Personal Trainer. Minimal results, no filtering, and no reviews. So, then what? I called the ones I could find, but in the end, saw a studio driving down the street and popped in. I got lucky and found a great studio.
So, I found a trainer. Home free, right? POP! (That’s me popping your bubble). I thought I was good. The itch didn’t get solved, but it wasn’t bothering me anymore. Before I knew it, a brand-new itch starts… right on top of the old one. (Ugh. I have a mosquito bite and it’s actually starting to itch). Anyway, the next challenge was related to the hectic lifestyle we all lived there in the Valley; specifically, unpredictable work hours. Trying to get to an appointment with my personal trainer at a reasonable time (like before 8pm) could be a challenge. Result was lots of rescheduling. Sometimes it was me; sometimes it was him trying to accommodate the other workaholics. Jump online and change it you say? NO. This was 2008 and most personal trainers then (and now) used clipboards to track things. And so started SMS hell.
- “Can we move out by an hour?”
- “No, I’m already booked at that time. How about tomorrow at that time?”
- “Can’t. I’ve got a VC meeting (JK. I wish.). How about Friday or Saturday? Not too early though.”
- “Maybe. I don’t remember and I don’t have my schedule here with me. I’ll check and get back to you.”
And so it went… not just once, but all the time. I would have killed for something like Fitli back then… oh yeah, that is one of the reasons we built this thing.
And to make this itch a triple threat… there’s one more thing that drove me nuts. It probably drove my trainer nuts too. I never know how many sessions I had used or how many I had left. I basically trusted him to tell me. Yeah. I know. Here’s the deal. He would come up with these random ‘sales’ and offer heavily discounted pricing for large packages. He had another business on the side and I think he did this every time he needed to fund something else. That’s beside the point. I would buy a package of 20 or 30 sessions at a time. Yet, I had no way of really knowing how many I had used or how many were left because it’s not like he even gave me a punch card or something. That would have helped, but he’d probably forget to punch it… totally different issue.
So, the result of this was I’d ask him occasionally, how many sessions I had left. So, what happens next? Counting. He didn’t really keep track either. OMG! He’d go back through his notes on the… yep you guessed it… the clipboard. He’d count. Maybe he’d get distracted and start over. Eventually I’d get my answer. You know what I heard more than once? Oh, you’re NEGATIVE. You need to buy a new package. Seriously? And do you think I had my credit card or checkbook (thank goodness, he didn’t want checks) handy? Of course not. So, I’d have to go home and PayPal him or remember to bring my credit card with me next time. This was just mildly irritating, but mostly it was just so inefficient.
Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back
At some point, I stopped going. Or maybe it was because I moved out of Sunnyvale. Yeah, that was it. Guess what? It started all over again in my new neighborhood. That was it. Once is bad enough. But experiencing the horrid inefficiency again? That was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. I decided I was going to do something to solve this. Of course, the first step with any good startup is to… buy a domain name! Yeah, not really, but that’s what I did. I wanted something short, fun, and related to fitness. Low and behold, “fitli.com” was available for the low low price of $1,000. And that is how Fitli was conceived. This story goes on, but I have way too much work to do, so you will have to wait for a future update.