September 14, 2018

Fitness-Tech Company Wellbeats Muscles into the Corporate-Wellness Market

KATHARINE GRAYSON Senior Reporter / Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal

Wellbeats Inc. launched a decade ago to serve the fitness-club market with on-demand workout videos and kiosks to display them.

It’s pivoted.

Now Wellbeats is making inroads into another market: businesses that want to offer exercise videos to their workers through corporate employee wellness programs.

The transition has come over several years and meant that Wellbeats largely exited the kiosk business, said Jason Von Bank, the St. Louis Park-based company’s president and CEO since 2015. Today Wellbeats, which was initially named Fitness on Request, is mostly a tech and content company.

The company sells the software application that streams videos to clients under a monthly subscription model. Many of its users access the content using mobile devices.

Meanwhile, Wellbeats has continued to produce its own videos, often at its studio in Bloomington. The company’s videos range from full-blown workout tutorials to “office breaks,” which last between one and eight minutes, said Jen Zygmunt, the company’s senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Wellbeats also produces content like yoga classes designed to engage kids and aims to distinguish its videos from others on the market by choosing authentic instructors. “What we hear is people like us because we’re approachable,” Von Bank said. “Our competitors use pin-up models from L.A., and it’s not real.”

Wellbeats’ content and broader strategy has already won it several big corporate customers, including Richfield-based Best Buy Co. Inc. Overall, businesses’ attitudes toward wellness programs have evolved in recent years, with many companies more focused on providing perks to employees than saving money, said Von Bank, who previously worked for Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s Optum unit.

“It used to be all about return on investment,” he said. “Now it’s evolved into engagement.” Wellbeats also is popular with companies that have a remote workforce and want to let employees who are located around the country access workout videos, Zygmunt said.

Von Bank declined to disclose Wellbeats’ revenue, but said sales are up between 30 and 35 percent year-over-year. The business has about 30 employees, not including contractors. Wellbeats raised a $2.8 million round of funding led by Wayzata-based growth equity firm LFE Capital about three years ago. It doesn’t have immediate plans to raise additional capital. Going forward, Wellbeats’ expansion plans call for more than just picking up more corporate-wellness customers. It will soon launch a consumer product, though company officials haven’t decided how much marketing muscle they will put behind it.

The firm is also targeting more hotels, which offer the videos to guests, and universities, which would serve up content to faculty and students, Zygmunt said.

This article appeared in the online edition of the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal on August 23, 2018.  It has been reprinted by the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal and further reproduction by any other party is strictly prohibited.  Copyright © 2018 Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, 333 South Seventh Street, Suite 350, Minneapolis MN 55402