Disrupting bricks-and-mortar fitness studios

Colin Szopa of Plankk talks about becoming the largest fitness influencer company in the world, one app at a time

Colin Szopa is CEO and co-founder of Plankk, a Calgary-based tech company.

Colin Szopa
Colin Szopa

What is Plankk and what does it do?

 Szopa: Plankk is a three-year-old startup based right here in YYC. We partner with some of today’s best fitness influencers to create their custom fitness and nutrition apps.

Today, we have more than 40 live apps and over 20 in development, and we are the largest fitness influencer company in the world with a total audience of over 120 million people through our influencer partners.

We also recently launched a new single platform where users can view not only on-demand classes, but also live-streamed classes from their favourite influencers. Think: Netflix for health and wellness.

How did you reinvent yourself from a career in the oil sector to the fitness industry?

Szopa: I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur. Growing up, I was the kid running lemonade stands (three at one time with the help of others) and even had a small business buying and selling online goods during high school.

While I was previously in the oil and gas industry, I was still on the tech side and involved in startups. When we all started to feel the downturn in Calgary, I knew I wanted to stay in tech and to start something of my own. It was 2016 and I was seeing all of these fitness influencers with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers who were selling their training programs through PDF and ebooks, but none of these influencers were moving into mobile.

It was obvious that we could create an efficiency by developing a single platform that supported multiple apps, rather than starting from scratch each time. That’s how Plankk came to be.

How did you grow Plankk to what it is today?

Szopa: We’ve been hyper-focused on staying in the health and fitness industry as opposed to going wide with our product offering and dabbling in different verticals. We also primarily work with fitness influencers, which is a surprisingly tight community – everyone knows each other. Landing the first few partners definitely took work but after launching a handful of really successful apps, the doors opened up for us in the fitness influencer community.

We also offer our partners a true partnership as opposed to just being their app developers. We obviously design and develop their apps, but we also shoot and edit their content, and put a marketing team behind them to not only launch their app, but also to continuously grow their customer base. Our growth team stays with them for the life of the partnership, constantly helping to improve performance.

From a growth perspective, we had one app in 2016, four by the end of 2017 and today we have 42 apps live with another 20 in development. It’s been a wild ride.

What is your vision for the company in the future?

Szopa: With the creation of Plankk Studio, we now have the ability to connect users anywhere in the world with the world’s top creators in real time. Our goal is to truly disrupt bricks-and-mortar fitness studios. Whether you’re in New York City or Israel, you can attend a live class with your favourite fitness trainer. A user can now attend a yoga class led by Kino Macgregor or a fitness class led by Massy Arias from the comfort of their home.

Why pay $20-plus per class to attend a studio, when you can attend live classes from the world’s top creators for less than the cost of a single class per month?

Peloton disrupted group cycling in this same way and we’re focused on creating this shift for the rest of the fitness industry.

What’s next for the fitness industry? What trends do you see?

Szopa: We know people are consistently becoming more and more health conscious and prioritizing it in their life. The explosion in the popularity of boutique group fitness classes (Barry’s Bootcamp, Pure Barre, etc.) made fitness fun again.

However, people are also constantly looking for efficiency in both time and cost. Not everyone can drop $20 for a single class or take 90 minutes out of their day to attend a class – even a 30-minute class at a local gym can quickly turn into 90 minutes by the time you drive to that class, park, arrive early, and then repeat those steps until you get home. On Plankk Studio, a 30-minute class is actually only 30 minutes.

We’ve doubled down on this trend, expanding our roster of fitness influencer partners, partnering with bigger fitness brands like AIM and Omstars, and launching Plankk Studio.

Mario Toneguzzi is a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.

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