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Sessions limbers up for global growth after funding from US investors

Thursday, 11 April | By Oliver Milman

Above: Nick Crocker and Ben Hartney


An entrepreneurial Australian duo are rolling out a new online health and fitness venture called Sessions in their homeland before global expansion, after getting financial backing from a group of US-based investors.


Sessions, created by Nick Crocker and Ben Hartney (pictured above), aims to help people lead a better lifestyle by providing a 12-week program of exercise, healthy diet and motivation.


Crocker previously co-founded Brisbane-based venture We Are Hunted, which has reportedly been purchased by Twitter.


The Sessions program is delivered online on a weekly basis, with each customer assigned a coach who will encourage them and help them deal with unexpected disruptions. The service is priced between $69 and $399, depending on the level of interaction and support with the coaches.


Crocker and Hartney, who first met at university, pitched an original exercise-based idea last year to Rock Health, a San Francisco-based start-up incubator that focuses on the healthcare sector.


This concept was accepted, providing the duo with $20,000 in funding, but it was then refined to become Sessions. The past year has been spent building, testing and refining the product before it’s market-ready.


While building the venture, Crocker and Hartney also managed to secure funding from a New York investor called Collaborative Fund. Crocker refuses to reveal the amount of funding, but it’s understood to be under $1 million.


Following a pilot program in the US and Australia, Sessions is now open to the public.


“We applied to Rock Health with a different idea, a location-based sports app that would link you to other people who like to exercise,” Crocker tells StartupSmart.


“We built a prototype but in doing that we stumbled on a more important problem – most people not exercising enough in the first place. In the US, it’s something like 3% of the population that gets 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.”


“Everything we heard from talking to customers was about the difficulty of getting active. Once you’re active, there’s infinite choice. The difficulty is finding the time in the day, which we learned from talking to people.”


Crocker says that Sessions will provide empathetic coaching to people who don’t already exercise, providing it a point of difference to other businesses that primarily focus on people who are already active.


The business already has a team of around a dozen life coaches, personal trainers and dieticians, with each coach taking on up to 500 clients.


“We’re really careful about bringing on coaches,” Crocker says.


“Just because someone has a personal training qualification, that doesn’t mean they have the ability to work with a woman who is 54 and is so overweight she is struggling to walk at lunchtime. It takes a certain empathy to work with that person.”


He adds: “I’m not doing this business to make a quick buck. I want to do something meaningful.”


“If could build a business that could involve a million people, everything else will take care of itself. That’s a big impact we could have in the world.”


Crocker says he has a long-held interest in how people’s behaviour is influenced. He gave a TED talk on the topic in Darwin in 2011.