FitTech Insider

Jeff Morin: “We’re using gaming as a mode of engagement.”

Launched in 2020, Liteboxer is a connected fitness platform for the home combining boxing, music, and gamification for a fully immersive workout experience. Their mission? “We want to make ‘Liteboxing’ the new verb in your home,” says CEO Jeff Morin.

Liteboxer is a first-of-its-kind connected fitness platform for the home. It provides an engaging full-body boxing workout by combining advanced technology, music, and expert training. Based in Boston, USA, Liteboxer have just raised $20 million in a Series A funding round in June 2021.

The idea for Liteboxer was born when co-founder and chairman of Liteboxer Todd Graves –venture capitalist and fitness enthusiast ­– brought home a heavy bag to replace the inconvenience and cost of the gym, but he missed the exhilaration and motivation of a sparring partner. Prior to co-founding Liteboxer, Todd was the founder of Spark Capital whose investments Mirror and Oculus, as well as Slack, Tumblr and Twitter.

Liteboxer is led by CEO and co-founder Jeff Morin, an MIT-educated engineer and certified personal trainer with an eye for both physical and technological performance. Before co-founding Liteboxer, Jeff led manufacturing at DEKA and Formlabs.

Jeff Morin about Liteboxer

Let’s start with the future. Where do you see Liteboxer in the years to come?
Our goal is market expansion, but traditionally gamification. We want to be the leaders and a household name in immersive fitness. We want to be the polar opposite of that “checking-the-box” type fitness where you’re putting a towel over the screen and watching a TV show like “This Is Us”.

Based on which trends did you develop Liteboxer and what sets you apart from the competition?
Gamification. The gaming industry has been exploding. The way we’re tackling fitness is by using game mechanics — layering different motivators on top of each other, so that time flies by. We’re looking at fitness differently than it’s been done before.

"In the marketplace right now, we see a lot of copy and paste: a spin bike, or any machine from the gym with a screen on it, and there are already so many screens in our lives. We aim to bring the interaction of the trainer or a “mind-body interaction” that has you forget about what you’re doing."

We combine it with boxing because it’s super effective: you’re focused while you’re engaged in the activity and time just melts away. It’s our core modality because it forces you to pay attention –if you’re not, you get punched in the face. In this case, you won’t get physically punched with Liteboxer, but if you’re not paying attention to the hardware or the cues, you won’t get a good score and you’re not going to be able to compete.

So, that added level of competition — both from user-to-user, but also in a broader community sense — is another huge factor that we’re going to really lean on, especially in the upcoming months.

So, you are focused on building your community. How do you plan to achieve that?
Peloton has done an amazing job. They are by far they are the leaders in community, because they created an ecosystem where you follow the trainers, as well as programs that are holistic, welcoming and make you want to participate.

We want to take that to the next level at Liteboxer by promoting cross-user interaction. It will fuel both the activity on the platform, but also company growth — because if I have a Liteboxer and I want to challenge you, I’m going to suggest that you get one. This goes one step further with the way we’re using music as the backbone.

With the music, you can pick the exact song that you want to punch to, versus a playlist that’s chosen and you’ve got to find a genre.You could tell your friend:I want to challenge you to this Justin Bieber song. I punched to it, try to beat my score.” That’s the next level — and that’s what becomes so fun.

Who would you define as your competitors — Rumble perhaps?
Rumble is one of them. They have their own branding and style that work with their users, similar to SoulCycle or Flywheel. But Liteboxer users are traditionally much younger. We actually have Rumble users who have missed these kinds of engaging classes during the pandemic and think Liteboxer is awesome.

We see very high financing rates with our users. I think the fact that our product is under the umbrella of everyone else and our subscription service is traditionally lower than everyone else speaks to our core user.

Liteboxer provides an engaging full-body boxing workout by combining advanced technology, music, and expert training. (Source: Liteboxer)

What do you know about your target group? Who is your core user and what is your typical demographic?
We haven’t isolated out any one type of person just yet, but I’d say “younger”. We are at the intersection of music, boxing, and gaming which are traditionally young demographics so 35–40-year-olds. We also know that the men versus women split is pretty equal and they have different incomes.

A lot of our early users had other connected fitness devices at home –whether a Peloton, Hydrow, or a Mirror. They are usually willing to take a jump as they are traditionally wealthier and older individuals, who might have more income to try things out. It’s like: “Which penguin’s going to jump off the iceberg first?”. But now we’re seeing those numbers drop in this demographic.

"Then, there are what we call the: 'Uninspired'. It’s those people who are usually gamers and don’t work out, as haven’t found that thing in the gym that speaks to them. We think that this newer modality has an interactive style that speaks to them more. So overall, it’s a good mix of users."

What target audience are you not addressing that you probably should?
I think we have our bases covered. I don’t think there’s any specific market that we’re missing.

But there are some verticals that we’re looking into, like neuroscience. We have an ongoing study with the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine at the University of Jacksonville, where patients are using Liteboxer as therapy for recovery and general improvement of their condition. Boxing has been shown to perform really well for patients with neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s. There’s a lot of work in this field that can be done that is very rewarding both for the users and for us by having this kind of positive impact.

We also did a study with the University of Jacksonville to show effectiveness. We had people hooked up to monitors and tracking systems, we were monitoring their exertion. They asked people: “How hard do you think you worked and then how hard did you actually work?” And what they found was people were thinking like they didn’t work out as hard as they did. For example, they think exerted a level eight when in reality they exerted the level 10. And that’s cool, as it speaks to the time flying by. It was our thesis being echoed back to us, going back to hacking the brain.

How do define yourself as a company — are you a fitness, gaming or a medical company?
A fitness company first and foremost. Ultimately, we’re trying to get people fit and using boxing to engage the user. We have expert trainers to teach you the proper form, but it’s really about that mind-body synch, getting a good workout, and being engaged. It’s not about performing perfectly in the ring, but it’s a path to be healthy — that’s our current use case.

"We’re not teaching you to be a professional boxer. But we’re using a bunch of different motivators to propel the style of fitness that we’re attacking. We’re leaning on entertainment to create our community and using gaming as a mode of engagement."

That’s what gaming is­ — when you’re sitting down on the couch and playing a video game, it’s engagement. So, we’re seeing really high engagement numbers.

Tell us more about your business model.
We are a subscription-based model, where you want to keep your subscribers around as long as you can — and engagement is key. If you can get your users engaged more often, then you’ll keep them around longer. If you have more people engaged in the house, they’re less likely to cancel.

We’re proud of the fact that our early users have extremely high levels of engagement.
That’s very promising because typically over the lifespan of a connected fitness product or platform, the engagement increases as you refine content. We have this life cycle: we see what people like, so we change the content accordingly. We then feed it back into the user and we see what they’re actually using. So, our engaged numbers continue to grow. And they started off extremely high, to begin with, which is pretty cool.

What changed for your company in the last 12 months?
We’ve launched! We’ve only been out since October 2020, so we were in stealth mode. It was interesting. We were in stealth for years and then coming out during the pandemic, we accelerated the timeline because we thought: “People need Liteboxer now. And this is a great time to launch.”

Since then, we’ve grown ­­­– we’ve quadrupled in size in terms of our team and a customer support team. It’s been a rocket ship. We have many thousands of users in the United States (we can’t disclose numbers).

What challenges did you have to overcome to bring the product to the market?
We made a hardware product that’s an electronics board — imagine punching a screen. So, we wanted to make sure it survived and our design was valid, and there were no hidden errors or Easter eggs that would cause failures. But we have NFL players that smash it every day. I get calls saying: “Hey, man, I still haven’t broken it yet. I’m going to break it one day.”

When we launched, we sent a survey out to all our users, asking: “How do you like it? Are you likely to tell a friend?” And we’ve got a great response rate super high score that shows us we have the product-market fit.

Jeff Morin about market trends

What do you think are the most underestimated trends in the fitness and health market right now, apart from gamification and home fitness?
Music, even though it is hard to navigate and there is a barrier to enter. It’s taken us two years to get it right. We partnered with Universal Music Group and we’re lucky to have a great adviser who helped get us there.

But music is inspiring and such an important part of people’s lives. It’s kind of in the background. At the moment it only goes so far and is underestimated. You hear a lot of AI, a machine learning but there’s still a lot to be done there. You can crunch the numbers in terms of the data and that’s what we want to do as well–but that might be a little oversold, while the music is undersold.

Jeff Morin about the future

Let’s fast forward five years to 2026– what headline would you like to read about you in the New York Times?
“Have you Liteboxed today?”. We want to make “Liteboxing” the new verb in your home. We want Liteboxer to be a household name and for people to associate with it, like: “I’m a Liteboxer, I am part of this community and I associate with this type of engaging exercise.”

The market is so big and differentiated enough. Especially after the pandemic, people have realized the value of at-home fitness. I think the pendulum has swung. It accelerated what was already happening.

"People will go back to the gym after lockdown, but what’s great is that people have realized the value of working out at home for convenience — so they don’t have to drive to the gym, get showered there, and get ready for work. And it’s not an “or” statement — it can be an “and”, so some days they’ll work out at home and others at the gym."

What are three key areas you are working on developing in the next 12 months?

1. Community, by building an ecosystem of personal trainers — Peloton trainers are so important to the platform. They get six-figure salaries, have agents, and they’re treated like movie stars, and rightfully so. Similarly to Peloton’s superstar team, we’re building a “superhero team” on our own platform to engage community.

2. Product — We have a really great and passionate engineering team (who regularly use Liteboxer and always make suggestions to add new features), they are working on other product lines. We have cool stuff in the pipeline which will be coming out this year.

3. International Expansion — Now that know we we have that product-market fit, it’s time to really put our foot on the gas and capture the users because we know it will spread like wildfire once we get out there. We are working on an international expansion, hopefully this year. We are working out the music licensing and checking all the boxes. We’re also looking at a logistics partner in Germany, as it’s well-positioned in terms of getting stuff throughout Europe.

Jeff Morin was one of the speakers at the talk "Data to the people: Using biosensors for body insights" at FitTech Summit 2021. Subscribe to our mailing list here to stay up-to-date with all future events.