27 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2022 issue 3

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Leisure Management - Dave Wright

HCM People

Dave Wright

I’d love Myzone to be the go-to data collector of physical activity evidence for the world

The waterproof MZ-Switch can be used on the chest, arm or wrist photo: myzone
Clear coloured zones make results easy to read photo: myzone
Screens around the club can display real time results photo: myzone
Every type of activity can be monitored photo: myzone
The new version of the app has a social network section photo: myzone

How did it all start?
My membership marketing company, CFM, had been attracting millions of new members for health club operators, but half of these were leaving every year and I wanted to find a way of supporting our clients to keep members in their clubs for longer.

There were loads of issues to tackle. The industry was rewarding fitness instead of effort, there was a lack of accountability among members, competition from external consumer fitness products and operators had challenges sustaining motivation among members.

There was also no club gamification, a lack of trainer connection with members and ultimately, no sense of tribe.

What solution did you see?
As a gym operator myself (Wright had 11 clubs on two continents operating under the Feelgood Fitness and Voyage Fitness brands and served over 20,000 members), I’d always used heart rate monitors, but in 2009 I started thinking about how tech could be advanced to solve the retention issues we’d identified.

I believed a system that allowed the wireless transfer of data stored on a heart rate monitor could revolutionise the gym experience, enabling members to use the monitors both in and outside of a club, with the data being automatically uploaded when they returned to the gym.

We set about creating the product – we called it Myzone and outsourced the development to a manufacturing company while starting to create a buzz about it in the fitness industry.

We were so excited about the potential of Myzone that we invested too early in advertising and marketing and pre-sold the system to a number of large operators.

Unfortunately, the manufacturing company we were working with believed we were trying to achieve the impossible, and the product they made didn’t live up to the hype we’d created. We had to keep recalling the products and eventually, it got so bad we moved to deal with the factories directly and made the product ourselves.

Luckily, our operator clients knew us, had faith in us and gave Myzone another try which was successful, but we did lose a significant amount of time and money.

When did it launch in its full glory?
Myzone finally launched properly in March 2012 with a patent on the ‘wireless transfer of data from a stored belt’ in North America and patent-pending in the rest of the world.

The technology provides users with instant feedback on their exercise intensity, as well as feedback over time, allowing members to track their progress whether they’re working out in a club, at home or in their local park. When members strap on the Myzone belt or MZ-Switch, screens around the club provide a real-time display of their training intensity, which acts as a powerful motivator.

The technology rewards the effort members put into their workouts, rather than their fitness levels, giving them Myzone Effort Points (MEPs) for every minute they spend exercising in their personal intensity zones.

The system encourages members to work hard. The more effort they put in, the more MEPS they accumulate and the closer they get to achieving the results they want. Measuring activity as a percentage of the user’s maximum heart rate creates a level playing field, allowing members to compete against each other regardless of their level of fitness. It means operators can run challenges in their club, with other clubs, nationally and internationally, creating a fun and sociable gym experience.

It gives operators a unique insight into the key metrics and behaviours of their members and for the first time, club managers can stay connected with members whether they use the club every day, once a month or not at all.

What other benefits does it bring?
The technology is suitable for all fitness levels, and as such is utilised by elite athletes as well as those new to exercise or people suffering medical conditions. It puts trainers into the role of coach. They know exactly how hard their clients are working and can encourage and give feedback on their activity between scheduled sessions.

The technology also gives members accountability when they’re away from the gym. Between visits, they can view their live effort stream through the free Myzone app and can view their daily, weekly, or even yearly effort levels to see how they’ve progressed.

Myzone creates a sense of tribe among members who can take part in friendly competition in the club and share their workouts on social media.

How much market penetration have you achieved?
To date, Myzone has been adopted by over 9,000 clubs in 84 countries, translated into 19 different languages and we’ve shipped over two million devices around the world.

Have you carried on innovating?
MZ-Switch was launched in 2021. The world’s first interchangeable heart rate monitor, it can be used on the chest, arm or wrist and is also 100 per cent waterproof.

MZ-Switch combines Myzone’s ethos of rewarding effort with long battery life, accuracy and real-time feedback. It’s the only fitness tracker that supports people, however they choose to move.

The new tracker enables users to monitor and get MEPs for every single type of physical activity as it is wearable in three different ways, this means reaching the World Health Organization’s Guidelines for Physical Activity (which equates to 1,300 MEPs per month), is more attainable than ever.

MZ-Switch gives live feedback on heart rate and simplifies this into clear coloured zones which reflect the level of effort being put into the activity. It automatically calibrates to resting and peak heart rate and takes into account age to personalise each effort zone to the user.

The more effort, the more MEPs users earn, regardless of athletic ability or physical activity. This simple system ensures users receive data on metrics such as average intensity, heart rate and calories burned, which provides insight into the information that truly matters in their workout – personal effort.

MZ-Switch is also the first device in the world that has both PPG (photoplethysmography) and ECG (electrocardiography) readings, providing a complete pathway for accurate monitoring and ensuring there are no blind spots in a user’s physical activity measurement.

What has been key to Myzone’s success?
Fundamentally it’s because of our people. The pedigree of our senior leadership team comprises over 100 years at executive level in the fitness industry.

Many tech companies try and parachute into the health and fitness industry with their tech solution, but we all started from within the industry to try and solve the issue of exercise adherence and retention.

That trust, respect and leadership position has enabled us to sit at the table of the top global operators and independent sites to learn and get honest feedback. The other key is that we are always prepared to listen and move fast. It’s not the big that eat the small, but the fast that eat the slow, and many operators appreciate that fast-paced development.

BGF recently invested $17.2m in Myzone. Tell us about the deal
Since 2016, when we began to get global traction, we got an enormous amount of attention from private equity companies.

We’ve been in a very fortunate position in that we required no external finance, because we bootstrapped the growth of Myzone from our other business – CFM – and were able to maintain a positive cashflow almost from day one.

Over lockdown we were approached by 21 different private equity companies or advisors. There was a lot of capital in the market that had to be deployed and after a lot of research we ended up going with BGF.

How will you use the money?
We have big plans to help more people be more active more often. This involves enabling corporate organisations, schools and continued development in new territories such as Central and South America and expansion into the rest of Asia. Having a ‘war-chest’ of money enables us to think big without financial limitations.

It will also enable us to grow our team and offices, along with supporting OCR organisations such as Spartan, Tough Mudder, Hyrox, Turf Games and more.

Why did you choose BGF?
As this was our first step into the realm of Private Equity, we wanted to chose a partner that was minority and equity only and was light-touch in its non-controlling stake.

Our leadership team is so strong and we’re a relatively mature business, so we didn’t need someone telling us what to do, but instead supporting us in realising the opportunities.

BGF is the most active capital growth investor in the UK and was originally set up by the UK’s banks to support UK Businesses, so has an impeccable reputation of following through with what they say they’re going to do.

How did Vin Murria get involved?
In the process of taking on an investor, you typically agree on a new non-executive chair for the company. There were a whole host of options, but I happened to attend an event in London where Vin was a speaker and decided to reach out to her directly.

She’s built multiple billion-dollar tech businesses, has an abundance of business knowledge, earning her an OBE in the tech world and has fantastic energy.

She loved what Myzone stood for and its purpose of helping more people to be physically active and decided she’d love to be involved – something she wouldn’t normally do unless she owned the whole business.

What has she invested? And why’s she a fit?
Most non-executive chairs invest a nominal £100k sum to show a level of commitment. Vin put in US$2.5 million dollars, which blew the minds of the BGF investment team. It meant I had two experienced institutional investors committed to supporting Myzone’s growth.

Vin provides a level of tech experience the fitness industry has never seen in an executive position and will help us all lift our game. As a female, Indian entrepreneur she often gets called into meetings and dinners with the UK government to get her take on the industry. She has a contact book that would be the envy of any entrepreneur.

She’s also been a member of a David Lloyd club for 15 years, so loves to exercise, but has never entered the business side of the industry. We’re privileged Myzone is her first investment.

What will her role be?
She’ll begin as non-exec chair. She has a business partner – Paul Gibson – who will also support us with operational expertise, so we can build from a US$100m business to US$500m in 3-4 years.

How do clubs benefit from Myzone?
There are only four ways a club can make more money: 1. Increase the number of members. 2. Increase the price of membership. 3. Increase the yield per member. Or 4. Cut costs.

Myzone assists in all four areas by providing a tech solution that engages members with their facility. This helps clubs provide substance to their increased membership price and the longer someone stays at the club, the more the member yields. Costs can also be reduced with Myzone due to the inclusive virtual class offering, free member app, group training prescription and the ability to remote-coach clients at scale.

Tell us about the evolution of the app
The new app (released 24th January 2022) has improved UI and UX functionality. It has a social network section enabling members, coaches and clubs to connect and motivate each other based on effort rather than fitness while also enabling users to upload images of their workouts to encourage conversation.

We’ve built-in a booking diary, challenges for clubs, individuals, teams and groups, a place to upload and store body metrics and a membership card option. These are all free within the app. It also has the ability to show the club’s logo.

There’s also a step counter called MZ-Motion built in that converts steps into minutes of activity. This is a great way to collect and report on incidental movement.

What else are you planning to add?
In 2020 we introduced the ability for operators to be their own ‘Peleton’ throughout the pandemic lockdowns. We’re now planning on offering a complete customisable timetable for operators around the globe with access to the 700+ videos we have in our library. This will take Myzone to a whole new level.

What’s the focus, and future, for Myzone?
We’ve had 10 frantic years and now we plan to formalise our approach, while staying as agile as possible with the ever-growing team.
Our vision is to be the go-to data collector of physical activity evidence for the world, to help shape government policy around the benefits of exercise and to motivate the world to be more physically active.

More: www.myzone.org

"Measuring activity as a percentage of the user’s maximum heart rate creates a level playing field, allowing members to compete, regardless of their fitness level" – Dave Wright, CEO and founder of Myzone

photo: myzone

Investor Vin Murria has pledged US$2.5m

Originally published in Health Club Management 2022 issue 3

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