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50 Best Companies to Watch 2021

Hugo Braam, CEO of Virtuagym, Speaks to The Silicon Review: ‘We Aim to Make Virtuagym the Number one Provider of Health Coaching Software in the Fitness Industry, Helping over 50 Million Users Worldwide to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle through Physical Activity, Healthy Nutrition, and Relaxation’

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“Our software deals with important areas such as payment, scheduling, coaching, member management, and communication. This ensures end-users are more engaged and that business processes are more efficient.”

 Virtuagym is a leading fitness technology provider for management, coaching, and engagement for fitness and corporate wellness businesses. By working with Virtuagym, businesses can give their clients a complete 24/7 training experience, whether in their facilities or at home, through virtual training, live workout videos, meditations, challenges, and more. Additionally, this is complemented by Virtuagym’s all-in-one fitness management software, chosen by over 8,500 fitness businesses and corporate wellness providers worldwide.

The company currently has 200 employees across two offices in Amsterdam (NL) and Medellin (CO).

It was founded in 2008 and is based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Interview Excerpt: Hugo Braam

Q. What inspired you to start Virtuagym? Was there any prior experience that led to the establishment of the company?

I started Virtuagym with my brother Paul Braam, and unlike many other founder stories, we did not start following an amazing startup idea. Our initial motivation was that we loved spending time together, so the idea of running a business together was very appealing to us. Therefore, we decided to start a business and then began thinking about the various things we could do. As an avid gym-goer with a keen interest in technology, I realized that the experience of working out at a gym was still very traditional. With Virtuagym, we aimed to change this.

Q. What’s the greatest challenge your company has faced? How did you overcome it?

The road from startup to scale-up is paved with challenges and setbacks, ranging from lack of resources, the struggle to get traction, trying to raise money, dealing with investors, hiring and keeping good team members, and much more. If I had to pick the biggest challenge for our company, it would be finding the right business model and product-market fit, which allowed us to start making money and grow the company. We pivoted our business twice and needed about three years before we were able to see strong traction. During these first three years, my brother and I paid ourselves 1200 Euro gross salary to keep the costs low. Many would have given up or run out of money, but we kept believing we were on to something and persevered because we were so determined. In the end, we were able to achieve the success of where we are today.

Q. Virtuagym is a leading tech company providing innovative fitness software for gyms, personal trainers, and corporate health services. How uniquely do you address your customers’ pain points per this?

The core strength of our Virtuagym offering is the comprehensiveness of our platform, in which we combine tools for management with industry-leading solutions for coaching and engagement, all within one intuitive platform and white-label mobile app framework. This allows gyms, personal trainers, enterprise and corporate wellness providers to utilize the most relevant features that address their specific pain points.

Our software deals with important areas such as payment, scheduling, coaching, and member management, and communication, ensuring end-users are more engaged and get better outcomes while business processes get more efficient. Our innovative technology, for example, assists personal trainers with offering nutrition coaching or meditation content, even though they may have limited experience in those fields. Many of our customers have moved away from having multiple outdated software solutions instead of using one intuitive platform for management and coaching to work seamlessly across multiple sites.

Q. Your integrated mobile fitness apps offer solutions for exercise and nutrition guidance, progress tracking, and online coaching. What can you tell us about these fitness features?

A key strength of our coaching offering is physical training, allowing our clients to build a library of workouts using over 5,000 proprietary 3D animated exercises. These workouts can be tracked in the gym or done at home through a virtual trainer application. This feature is one of the most used parts of our system.

However, we like to look at health holistically, so even though our primary business originated in the fitness industry, we look beyond the training aspect. We’ve developed an integrated nutrition coaching program, allowing our customers to offer nutrition guidance through personalized meal plans enhanced by a database of over 1,000,000 products.

Beyond that, we help end-users create a sustainable lifestyle change through an integrated habit system, which helps them follow-up on their healthy ambitions.

Finally, users can be coached by a real-life trainer through our trainer interface and track their progress and nutrition via our customizable Virtuagym app, enabling owners to have more control over their business, be more efficient, and significantly have more touchpoints with clients. We ensure progress tracking is as seamless as possible, too, with users able to manually log values and connect professional scales such as Inbody and Neo Health or consumer devices like Fitbit.

Q. What are the other software services Virtuagym offers to fitness professionals?

As a result of the pandemic, many of our customers were forced to close their doors, and many people started working and exercising from home. We developed a content solution called PRO+ to support them, which offers our clients a turnkey digital membership experience through their mobile app. It includes a wide array of content, including weekly community group updates on nutrition, training, and wellness, over 200 virtual trainer workouts, monthly prize challenges, over1000 licensed workout videos, and a large library of audio meditations to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Beyond the coaching experience, we offer a robust management suite of modules, ranging from membership and billing to easy check-in software, business analytics, extensive online Club Community portals, lead management, and a retention management module, giving our clients the ability to identify members with a high churn risk quickly.

Q. What new endeavors is your company currently undertaking?

The mission that underscores everything we do at Virtuagym is to make the world a healthier and happier place through technology. We want to be a full-service health and fitness platform for fitness and corporate wellness businesses, providing them with the digital tools they need to run their operations effectively, so they can focus on training and motivating their clients.

With a big focus on end-users, we support fitness providers by helping them effectively pivot to hybrid models with combined digital and physical services, enabling them to offer complete holistic health and wellness experiences to their clients at home and in the gym. At the same time, we’re collaborating with corporate wellness providers to support them in keeping a healthy, active workforce of employees through our technology.

Q. About your plans, where do you think your company will be in five years?

I think COVID-19 has taught us how difficult it can be to predict the future, but I believe that despite the rise of technology-driven home training, physical fitness businesses are here to stay. In five years, we aim to make Virtuagym the number one provider of health coaching software in the fitness industry, helping over 50M users worldwide to maintain a healthy lifestyle through physical activity, healthy nutrition, and relaxation. We hope to have over 1000 employees across offices in Europe, the US, and Asia. In each market, we want to actively work with health insurance companies, paying for our technology as we are able to show a positive ROI on our digital coaching programs.

The Resilient Leader at the Helm of Virtuagym

Hugo Braam, Co-founder, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Virtuagym. After leaving his job as a lawyer, he started Virtuagym together with his brother Paul Braam (co-founder), with the mission to make the world a healthier, happier place through innovative technology.

“With a big focus on end-users, we support fitness providers by helping them effectively pivot to hybrid models with combined digital and physical services, enabling them to offer complete holistic health and wellness experiences to their clients at home and in the gym.”