Mike Maser, a longtime Digg and AOL executive, came up with the idea after a long sojourn through New Zealand on his own. He thought about the workout video market and saw an opportunity to build a similar experience on the iPad that would be much more tailored and interactive.
He brought on Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez to film about 60 different video exercises in a handful of days and build a basic iPad app that has been in beta for the last several months.
The idea is that a great personal training experience on the iPad should start at a customized level that is comfortable for everyone from a total n00b to someone who regularly works out almost every day of the week. From there, it should be able to help people level up or keep up with a regular workout routine even when they’re traveling. Unlike DVDs and videos, which are passive, the iPad can respond to a person’s changes in their workout habits. It can send reminders or offer custom combinations of exercises to meet their goals.
When you sign up for Fitstar, it asks you a lot of basic information about your height, weight and age. Then it also asks you about your fitness level and whether you think a good workout is 30 minutes or an hour or longer. It then sends you through a basic workout test that’s about 10 minutes long with wall squats, elbow planks and push-ups.
“When you start it up, we really try approximate how it would be to have a personal trainer with you,” Maser said.
Gonzalez does the workouts in time with you while a timer shows a countdown to how much is left. A top navigation bar also gives lots of advice and tips like how you should drink lots of water. The video quality and lighting is super professional and none of the exercises require equipment.
“Really, our goal was to build the next generation of the workout DVD. But we wanted to do that without any kind of equipment,” Maser said. “When you head out traveling, this can be an incredible adjunct or when you’re super constrained and you don’t have your normal yoga class, this can still help you keep in shape.”
While this is the first app built on FitStar’s platform, the company will offer products down the line that appeal to different demographics and have other routines. They’re not talking about any additional celebrity partners now though.
They’re going with a freemium model, borrowing a page from the gaming industry. Maser’s co-founder is Dave Grijalva, who was the director of platform at Ngmoco, the mobile gaming company that DeNA bought for up to $400 million.
The free version gives two 10 to 20-minute sessions per week. But there are higher tiers at anywhere from $4.99 or $11.99 per month that offer unlimited sessions, nutritional guidance and HD video.
Fitstar is also opening up a store for merchandise with branded apparel and books on nutrition. They’re also partnering with companies like Kiip, a mobile rewards startup, to offer free Amazon MP3s and other goodies to Fitstar users.