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Versus – using lean to stay lean

Monday, 6 October 2014 | By Kye White

Brad Bond is taking the measure and learn approach from lean startup theory and applying it to gyms – to help motivate people to get fit.


Thanks to a friend’s chance encounter with RMIT researchers during a demo day, his startup Versus has been collaborating with the university to commercialise its sensor research, using it in the startup’s gamified fitness product.


Versus uses a system of connected video cameras, motion and weight distribution sensors, to monitor gym users and deliver real-time technique, feedback and scores. Each workout station has a screen which provides feedback on performance and technique. All the stats are sent via the cloud to the Versus smartphone app, allowing users to closely monitor their performance and compare their results to other people using the platform.


Bond, a software developer, came up with the idea 10 years ago, but the technology back then wasn’t up to scratch.


“I’d tried a whole lot of different fitness regimes and programs and just like everyone else, I struggled to stick to any of them for more than a few months at a time,” he says.


“I eventually decided it was because I wasn’t able to track what I was doing. So I thought if you could combine the tech aspect and the gamification into the workout, then you’ve got the best of both worlds, and realised the tech wasn’t quite feasible.”


Three years ago the technology had caught up and he started working in earnest on building a product. A friend had been at an RMIT research demo day, where researchers had been showing sensor technology they’d been working on, which Bond says was exactly the type of technology he was after.


“You don’t want to underestimate what the universities can do and what they’ve got hidden away in their labs,” Bond says.


“Their biggest challenge is finding someone to commercialise their technology. RMIT is very big in sports technology and that’s worked well for us.”


Versus has been self-funded up until this point, albeit with the help of a few government grants. A Business Victoria Technology Development Voucher program paid for a lot of the research, and a Researchers in Business Grant (which has been wound up) allowed Versus to recruit a PhD researcher to work in the business for a year.


“Those were really handy to get the ball rolling,” he says.


Versus launched its first studio in the Melbourne suburb of Moorabbin two months ago and Bond says it’s negotiating with a number of gyms to roll out the technology across Australia. It costs around $100,000 to install, which Bond says is affordable when you consider a standard treadmill in a gym can cost around $25,000.


“We’re looking at opening a second location in the next three to six months, and are in discussions with larger gyms, to get our systems in place, to see how it works in that environment,” he says.


“Once we’ve proven the model in a couple of places we’ll try and push it out across Australia. And obviously an international expansion as well, the fitness market is absolutely huge in the United States.”


Bond is about to start meeting investors as the startup considers raising funding. He says the startup is looking for a strategic investor, preferably someone with experience in the industry.


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