In the tight-knit startup community of Tel Aviv, Israel, a lot of people are talking about a tiny company called Fitness22.
It's been raking in big bucks selling iPhone apps.
The company makes about a dozen (so far) fitness apps and charges $2 to $6 apiece for them, plus offers them in bundles for $9 to $25.
All told, Fitness22 — formerly known as ClearSkyApps — has wracked up 30 million downloads so far, all on iOS, and is generating "millions of dollars a year," it's CEO founder Benny Shaviv confirmed to us. Shaviv just launched his apps on Android a few weeks ago.
The company's most famous app is called 5K Runner. It trains you to run a 5K race in 8-weeks by working out for 30 minutes, 3 days a week.
It's been downloaded over 4.2 million times, according App Annie, and costs $3. Others include training plans for 10Ks, marathons, for building your abs or backside. There's even an app called Sleep Pillow Sounds (a white noise machine app).
But the coolest part is that Shaviv built his company without any marketing or ad campaigns and without any investors.
The secret to success, he says, is two things. First, he created apps that were very targeted. They do one thing and do it very well. Many of his apps have nearly perfect five-star ratings.
Second, he makes sure that people looking for those very specific features can find his apps easily. From naming the app precisely to writing detailed descriptions, "I do my very best to optimize for long-tail searches," he says.
Although his apps have been featured by Apple in the App Store half dozen times, he can't rely on that for revenue. He needs people to find his apps when they search, he says.
Out of a "colossal failure"
The whole company was basically started as a hobby in 2008. Shaviv was licking his wounds after the economy crashed and killedShaviv's previous startup. "A colossal failure" is how he describes it.
He had sold his house and invested a chunk of the proceeds to bootstrap that startup, too. On top of that, the company had raised and quickly burned through $4 million of VC cash. Shaviv was living on savings, the rest of the money from selling his house.
His dad, trying to cheer him up, bought him a high-end Mac for his 41st birthday.
Since Shaviv loves to code and loves fitness, he started writing fitness apps.
Seven years and 30 million downloads later, Shaviv says he has no interest in taking on VC funds ever again.
He employs 16 people (and growing), fitness clubs around the world train with his apps, and his 9-year old son used his app to complete his first 5K, too.
And he's happy.
"Everyone says they're building a company to do something for the greater good," he explains."We get emails every day from people telling us we changed their lives."