The American dream. Who dare chase it? These days, a lot of folks. It seems I am usually only one spot in line to get ridiculously good, offensively overpriced coffee away from someone who is hustling to make their own money — be it through a technology biz, a restaurant venture, a marketing agency, a calligraphy business they manage in their spare time, or something else entirely. The entrepreneurial spirit is contagious and it’s catching like wildfire. And, DC, filled to the brim with smarts and drive, is certainly a hub for its existence. You don’t have to look hard in the district to find a new idea, taking form with a hipster-esque logo in tow.
The hardest past about a startup, I imagine, is the hustle that goes into the business before anybody is paying attention. Social media-ing before anyone is listening. Wearing a t-shirt with your name on it before anyone knows who you are. Pitching your company’s direction before you’ve even honed it on it yourself. One local startup, however, recently got the fast forward pass to potential customers who were likely all-eyes, all-ears, and undivided in terms of attention. They were in the Shark Tank.
If you don’t know Shark Tank, you have some serious binge watching to do. Basically, it’s a show where entrepreneurs can pitch their business to a room of “sharks,” aka serious business moguls with a lot of cash (think Mark Cuban), who can then chose to make an investment in the business with their own money. Regardless of a deal, the show provides value to businesses by just getting them in front of popcorn-munching, late night marathon-ing viewers.
Recently, DC startup SworkIt was in the spotlight as shark bait. SworkIt is a free exercise app that, according to Thrillist, “generates randomized circuit workouts after you toggle duration and muscles upon which you’d like to wail, with options like ‘full body,’ ‘core strength,’ and ‘anything goes.’” The company was founded by Ben Young and Gregory Coleman, two original DC innovators.
When Young and Coleman were on the show, they impressed Sharks with SworkIt’s mashup style of leading users through a series of timed exercises. Their app easily integrates with other popular health-oriented apps such as MyFitnessPal, Apple Health Kit, and Google Fit. Plus, users can integrate music through pre-existing options such as Spotify. Talking to the Washingtonian, Young was asked to further explain what it is that makes SworkIt unique.
“Sworkit creates exercise playlists or ‘sworkouts.’ It’s like the Spotify of workout apps: Spotify has something for everyone no matter what you are looking for. If you come up with a workout move you don’t like, you can skip that move as easy as skipping a song and still get a full workout. Our goal is to use our platform to continually publish both new exercise moves and new playlists using those moves. Video workouts used to be static classes – now it’s time for them to be adaptive, based on your individual goals, location, injuries, and even available equipment.”
After showing a, by most standards, successful business to the sharks, the DC- company was able to secure a deal with perhaps the biggest, baddest shark in the tank: Mr. Cuban himself. Unfortunately, after the show, when deals are signed on the dotted line and stakes are fiddled with, the deal with the Shark fell though.
Still, though, this DC startup is going full speed ahead. Since making their debut in the tank, SworkIt has released various premium versions of their app that allow users to access more intense programming. These 6-week programs feature input from professional trainers and allow users to get laser-focused on a specific goal – either getting “leaner,” “fitter,” or “stronger.” You can download the app in Apple’s iTunes store.
Even though SworkIt might not be bringing shark sightings to the district, it’s cool to see the hustle happening right here on our streets. Plus, any workout app that doesn’t send me “mapping my run” aka taking my life in my hands dodging between pedestrians, bikers, and dog poop definitely peaks my interest. That is, of course, until I spot a food truck and remember that I have little chance of reaching my New Year’s goals anyways. That would mean I would have to work, work, work, work, work. Sigh. Maybe I will SworkIt from home…