About three years ago, Pablo Villalba (founder of 8fit app) went through a profound existential crisis. “I was overweight and I hated my job,” the Spanish-born founder tells us looking back. At the time, he was successfully building his first startup, Teambox. Today, the B2B productivity software is called Redbooth, based in Redwood City, California, and has received $20 million in venture capital.
But Villalba quickly tired of B2B. He wanted to do something that really convinced him, that he could stand behind completely. So he left his startup after five years, broke up with his girlfriend and went traveling.
Villalba finally landed in Berlin. He decided to start anew – and lost 15 kilos. Friends were impressed by Villalba, and he began to coach some of them via mail. While doing this, he recognized a business – one with which he could identify. So he took on Pedro Solá, with whom he had already worked with at Redbooth, as his co-founder. The pair started in early 2014 to build up their fitness app 8fit and it became a hit. According to Villalba, the app has now had 2.5 million downloads and last year generated five million US dollars in revenue.
In Germany, the startup that has now 30 employees, remained completely under the radar, because the vast majority of 8fit customers come from the United States. Also, 30-year old Villalba has not put a lot of money in advertising yet and only uses performance marketing.
The app provides a nutrition plan
Why has 8fit had such a good start? The app seems to integrate what many health-conscious users look for. It provides a plan combining different workouts. The user defines how often he or she wants to train, also the training goal, like muscle building or fat burning.
For the exercises, the athletes do not need any equipment. They are based solely on the effect of body weight – similar to the successful Munich Fitness app Freeletics. In both apps, the exercises are explained via video. While Freeletics training is known for its toughness, 8fit is more gentle. This may explain why 70 percent of users are female. Freeletics on the other hand is predominantly used by men.
The 8fit app user must also indicate when she can work out again. “This commitment is very well received,” said Villalba. He plans on integrating an option that lets users add their activity plans to their calendars. Currently, they are reminded by push notifications.
8fit also includes a diet plan with healthy and low calorie dishes and the recipes to make them. The dishes can be changed if a proposed recipe does not fit. Once a meal has been cooked and eaten, it can be checked off in the app and fitness progress can be tracked through the app.
“You better be happy”
Some features of 8fit are available for free, for some of the workouts and diet plans the users need to pay. Prices range from $15 per month to $60 for one year. The turnover of five million US dollars that Villalba generated is remarkable for the second fiscal year of his startup. However, 8fit is not yet profitable: “We invest heavily in our growth and to improve our offer,” says the founder. So far the Spanish seed fund Vitamina K and some business angels, such as the longtime Booking.com CMO Arthur Kosten, have invested a total of 2.5 million US dollars in 8fit.
For his startup Villalba says he can still think of new business ideas. He would like to have the ingredients for the healthy meals directly provided to customers. For this he imagines partnerships, with Marley Spoon, for example. He also hopes to have own stores which stock 8fit sports accessories such as dumbbells.
The founder will continue to focus initially on the US: “The market is working for us,” he says. Is the startup likely to move to California? “No,” is his clear response. “We like it in Berlin. And if you want to do something for the next five years at least – then you better be happy.”
This article was originally posted on Gründerszene.