Since March 2020, fitness companies built on in-person classes have had to pivot to digital in the name of survival. But like beauty brands, which have grown tired of rote Zoom-only experiences, fitness offerings are evolving a year into pandemic living.
New fitness technology platform Bande launched on Tuesday. It is hoping to bring some of the connectivity of pre-Covid-19 classes to the digital model. Using its own proprietary website, Bande has incorporated an interactive locker room, where instructors and members have the ability to catch up before class; class group chats and whisper chats; health and wellness-related content; and friending of other Bande members. Instructors are able to see attendees to give exercise and class feedback, and classmates will be able to see one another. Bande monthly passes are $30 for four livestream classes and unlimited on-demand classes. Unlimited live classes and unlimited access to the on-demand functionality is $180 per month. Drop-in live classes are $15.
Founder and CEO Rebecca Balyasny — who comes from the finance world, previously working at Lionel Advisors, Prudential and UBS — began developing Bande in June. “I tried every platform and did a free week trial everywhere, but it was not great. It was far from it. The instructor couldn’t see you, couldn’t correct you. And if you tried to go with a friend, you couldn’t see them, either. It had none of the things I loved about working out with someone in person; it was far removed,” said Balyasny.
The company soft-launched in December and currently has 500 members. Bande’s top markets include New York, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles. It is using referral programs and influencers for early brand awareness exercises.
Balyasny is hoping that combining the benefits of in-person classes and live digital fitness will be the draw. Bande instructors are vetted to ensure there is the same level of expertise and performance across its 18 class types, which include barre and cardio dance. Bergen Wheeler, previously national director at barre and cardio company Exhale, has joined Bande as head of innovation. And further client improvements will be added throughout the month. Members will be able to schedule “coffee dates” with instructors and members post Bande classes by the end of March.
Bande is certainly on-trend. In October, fitness startup Obé upped its offering with themed live classes, including “Sex and the City,” “Game of Thrones”and “Sesame Street,” available via HBO Max. It also celebrated En Vogue’s 30th anniversary by featuring the group’s members in livestream classes.
Balyasny believes she can create an even better online experience than digital giants Peloton and Mirror. Mirror, which was acquired by Lululemon last year, said in November that it was on track to hit $150 million in revenue in 2020. For its part, Peloton had its first $1 billion quarter and saw 128% sales growth last quarter. Peloton also increased projections for this year’s revenue to hit $4 billion, up from $3.9 billion.
“‘I was a consumer of Peloton and other online apps far before I started Bande. I always found it really difficult to find time to work out with friends or to even go to really good boutique fitness classes. I just couldn’t fit it in pre-Covid. Now, add work and kids to that, all at home, and you stop finding time to both socialize and work out,” she said. “People still desperately need that.”