Believing in The Dream Even When Others Jump Ship

I’m keeping my pace up as I’m passing Little Italy on my way home. After a warm and sunny day it’s now dark and the wind is picking up. My hands are numb as they’re scrolling through Facebook and Instagram for the 10th time without me noticing what’s on the screen. “You’re all alone!” The sentence keeps echoing in my head. “Are you crazy or what?!”. The second thought is just waiting to be heard. I shrug it off and take a deep breath. I raise my chin and release the tension between my eyebrows. I turn on my power song. For one more night I will send the same answer back to these thoughts, as I have done during the past week. “Don’t you know I’m loco?!”

It’s been 2 years since me, Arvid, Magnus and Leo set off to make the world healthier and stronger, founding Vint. It was a clear vision and to get there we decided to build a peer-2-peer marketplace for personal workouts. It’s well-known and proven that a personal trainer makes you more likely to start, and keep a fitness routine. To create a low enough price-point and a less intimidating experience using a peer-2-peer approach seemed to be the right thing to do.

Vint founder kick-off, Singapore summer 2013

It was clear from the beginning that this was a swing for the fences type of adventure. None of us were interested in building something small — we knew we were up for a challenge with global competition and a fast US roll-out and within 6 months from the first Vint working day we had closed a seed round of $1.8M. We managed to build a great platform, launch in Stockholm, Sweden, get fitness enthusiasts on board and eventually launch in the US market 6 months after the Swedish one, where we generated between 100–200 bookings a day. OK numbers and a solid operation was alive and kicking.

When it was time for a second round of financing we quickly understood that our growth was decent but we were not strong enough to discuss a Series A. All together we had a problem with the peer-2-peer part of the business that gave us a hard time delivering high enough quality of the actual workouts which led to a high churn rate and therefore too expensive Customer Acquisition Costs (I will tell you all about the learnings around peer-2-peer and what I think the future for these types of businesses are in a coming blog post). Instead, we chose to go for an extension to get the time we needed to solve this. We got to deep term sheet negotiations for an extension round with support from current investors and a top-up from a new industry investor. After months of discussions we ended up not closing the deal due to terms we could not agree on and before knowing it we were in what you’d call the desert walk. We had to make some drastic changes — quick. Our time fundraising had taken longer than we’d planned and now, several months later without closing the round we had no money left in the bank and a product that had stagnated its growth. We needed to get the burn rate down to $0, we needed to pivot the product to kick-start it with a new take, and we needed to do everything without our brilliant team or other resources.

For my co-founders, Leo decided to leave earlier this year when we went through our first real challenge that we had to push through. No hard feelings. If you’re not feeling it it’s better to look for other opportunities. That’s the nature of the game. Magnus, Arvid and I continued until now and I have the upmost respect for all of them. There are few people in the world that I‘m as impressed by as these guys. After 2 years on the battlefield they felt it was time to call it a day. To continue pushing without money, salary or team and having to do a pivot on top of that was just not in the cards for them. And I respect that.

For many start-ups, this is where to story ends. Running full speed for 2 years, hiring a team, moving parts of the company to the US, launching across two markets, acquiring supply and demand in a marketplace, running out of funds and co-founders leaving the business is not a solid foundation to continue. Entrepreneurship is a bitch.

For me, I’ve seen a glimpse of hope and I’m not ready to give up yet. I have learned the peer-2-peer model is not what Vint should do. I know the accountability that personal training gives you does not necessarily have to come from a small group-session but can be delivered in another form. I know I’m a hustler and that I have some pretty amazing partnerships coming up. I have to see this through. I have to take it all the way before I can call it a day.

So here we go. It’s a one woman show. We have a solid and beautiful platform with more than 200 trainers, studios and bootcamps connected. There’s no winner on the market in this industry yet — it’s up for grabs and I want to win it!

Vint will let go of the focus of personal training and instead become the one-stop destination for all your fitness. We will cater to the new behaviors in fitness where you don’t consume all your workouts in one place. Vint will help you book Sunday’s bikram yoga session, your Wednesday SoulCycle class, your last minute drop-in to the gym studios as well as book your next appointment with your personal trainer. We will disrupt your behavior in fitness by keeping you accountable to your goals. We will make sure you’re always in direct communication with your instructors and fitness buddies regardless of the number of participant in your sessions. We will build a healthier and stronger world.

I’m alone. I’m excited. I’m in battle mode. I have a few months to make this happen. One last shot to see this through. One thing though: I don’t want it to be a one woman show. Are you a fighter that wants in? Do you know a superstar that have what is takes to turn this around? Can you see us disrupting the fitness space? Do you code and are you able to build amazing things? If so shoot me an email at louise (at) joinvint.com or ping me on Twitter at @louise_kinglui and let me wow you with what I have lined up to make this happen. Bring it on. Take a deep breath and turn your power song on.

Published in Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking

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