The OpenTable of Fitness; SweatGuru Wins San Francisco’s Hottest Showcasing Startup

January 18, 2013

12:00 pm

When Tech Cocktail comes to San Francisco, San Francisco brings it.  Every Bay Area Mixer seems to improve upon the previous, and last night’s event was no exception.  Fifteen up-and-coming startups showcased their goods, but only one walked away with the title of San Francisco’s Hottest Showcasing Startup

SweatGuru, “the OpenTable of fitness” won this honor, despite still being in private beta.  Impressive.  Clearly the team possesses a good deal of momentum from their previous venture, Fit Approach, a health-centric community, blog, and class booking service.  Jamie Walker and Alyse Mason Brill, the site’s co-founders, have continued to evolve the class-booking portion of the site, and thus SweatGuru was born.

Tech Cocktail caught up with Walker to get the inside scoop on exactly what we can expect from SweatGuru, the pros and cons of starting up in San Francisco, and the importance of company culture.

Tech Cocktail:  Who does SweatGuru target? 

Jamie Walker:  SweatGuru is the OpenTable of fitness: a software platform that provides fitness businesses, personal trainers and individual fitness instructors with a single solution for scheduling, CRM, and payment processing, and consumers with a single destination for discovering, reserving, and paying for fitness classes online.

Tech Cocktail:  What was the inspiration behind SweatGuru? What do you enjoy most about working on it?jamie walker

Walker:  My co-founder (and cousin) Alyse Mason Brill and I built and grew our first business, Fit Approach, a community of health and fitness enthusiasts who share their journeys, passions, and motivation through blogging and social media.

As both providers and consumers of group fitness classes, we were frustrated with the scheduling and search platforms available in the marketplace. We are creating SweatGuru to take the pain out of managing and taking fitness classes.

What we love most about working on SweatGuru is that we are solving a huge problem, not only for ourselves but for the fitness community at large. We’ve heard countless times from our own Fit Approach community about all the challenges of running a fitness business as well as finding classes they love. We’re really excited to take the pain out of getting a good sweat.

We also love our team.  There is honestly nothing better than loving the people you work with as well as what you’re working on.

Tech Cocktail:  Who is your biggest competitor, and how do you differentiate yourself?

Walker:  There is no company doing exactly what we are doing: there are companies that offer directories for consumers, and a few that offer software solutions, but no company is currently tackling a complete end-to-end solution for fitness businesses and consumers. We’ve heard time and again that the piecemeal offerings currently in the market today do not support small, independent fitness business owners or consumers.

Tech Cocktail:  What is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of starting up in San Francisco?

Walker:  The biggest advantage of starting a business in San Francisco is the wealth of resources available at our fingertips. San Francisco is home to an amazing and thriving tech community, with countless resources for learning and recruiting talent for our growing team.

The biggest disadvantage to being in San Francisco is that we often arrive sweaty or disheveled at meetings because of all the hills. On a more serious note, good engineering talent can be hard to come by in San Francisco. There are so many startups to compete with and you really have to exercise a lot of patience while you’re building your team.

Tech Cocktail:  Describe a challenging moment or a crucial decision for SweatGuru. How did you deal with it, and what did you learn from it?

Walker:  When we first started building SweatGuru we were managing an offshore development team. We had high hopes for the team and thought they would be a significant asset to our engineering team. After a lot of pain and hard work, we realized it just wasn’t working out. We had to cut our losses and move on. We’ve since hired local engineers to help with the product build and could not be happier with the result. It taught us just how important it is for a company to flexible.

Tech Cocktail:  What’s one quirky fact about you, the SweatGuru team, or your office culture?

Walker:  I think one of the best things about SweatGuru is the people on our team. Our company culture is creative and fun. We love collaborating and finding creative solutions. We’re all about taking risks, throwing spaghetti at the wall, and seeing what sticks. We’re ambitious and driven, but also huge proponents of afternoon yoga breaks, happy hours, and vacations spent offline. We think the best brainstorming happens over wine, and that surprises and detours make for great stories. For example, when we discovered our planned location for a bootcamp (Bryant Park in New York) was closed, we got our 30 bootcampers to do a full, hour-long workout on the sidewalk of 42nd St. Sure, we got some strange looks from black-suited, briefcase-wielding commuters, but it turned out to be one of our best classes ever.

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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