Antti Akonniemi, the Director at Kisko Labs, got himself and his company on the CrossFit train early. He offered his employees access as soon as the first gym opened up in Helsinki, and as result there are some ripped nerds doing digital consulting and prototyping.
But Akonniemi isn’t alone. The high intensity strength and conditioning program has been exploding in popularity worldwide due to its focus on functional strength. Reebock now started developing their own line of CrossFit gear, and between 2011 and 2012 the number of gyms worldwide grew 60% to over 4 400 gyms.
Combining work with their hobby, Kisko Labs started developing a CrossFit Workout of the Day web service called WODconnect during their downtime between clients. But now it’s grown to become much more than a side project. Kisko has secured a loan from Tekes, the Finnish growth funding agency, and put three of its 10 employees to work fulltime on the app. Akonniemi is so interested in the CrossFit experience that he even personally bought shares in CrossFit Espoo to see how the business ticks.
What they’ve created is a web app that provides tracking, analytics, and payments to replace the bare-bones blog most gyms communicate with their clients with.
From the athlete’s point of view, WODconnect provides a service to find what the Workout Of the Day is and track their results. The same groups of exercises turn up every now and then, so keeping track of the amount of time it took to complete an exercise, the amount of weight they used, or how their form felt are important metrics. They can also interact with other members of their gym by commenting on and sharing their workouts.
But the main aspect of the service is to allow gym trainers to track the daily workouts practiced by their clients, who can then tailor future workouts to the gains (or lack of gains) experienced. WODconnect provides graphs of how workouts have gone, making it easier to estimate what weights to put on the bar the next time the client walks into the gym. The total tracking WODconnect allows makes it easier to know what other types of exercise the client is doing in their free time, giving the trainer much greater insight.
Many of the people running these CrossFit gyms are first time entrepreneurs with perhaps a stronger passion for coaching and training than setting up efficient and effective billing systems. Being technically inclined, Akonniemi sees their angle here. Gym clients receive bills through WODconnect, where they pay for everything online. This also allows the gym trainer to see whether the client has paid the next time they walk into the gym.
So far there are 17 CrossFit affiliates in Finland, who probably average revenue somewhere around €10 000 a month. Grabbing 10 affiliates in Finland alone would then move a fairly decent amount of money through their system, from which they would take a small percentage. After continuing to demo and test their product at some CrossFit gyms in Finland, Sweden, and in Palo Alto, they plan to take their product worldwide.
WODconnect is a web app for now, but they designed it to be responsive to smartphones and tablets. With the Tekes project, they’re developing the API, which will allow for the development of a mobile app. Akonniemi says that some people may find easier to use after a workout, although it may be time consuming to put together.
Not to demean working for clients (because hey, ArcticStartup is one of Kisko’s clients) but it was fun listening to Akonniemi talk about building WODconnect. He’s clearly excited about working on his own concept that he’s truly passionate about, and it will be interesting to see where this takes them.
Editor’s note: Kisko Labs is an equity holder in ArcticStartup.