FitTech Insider

Do platforms have the potential to disrupt the gym industry, Nerissa Zhang?

The Bright App, a virtual personal training app, looks to disrupt the entire gym industry. It offers convenience and reduced friction for consumers, while offering new income streams for trainers. Learn more from their Founder, Nerissa Zhang.

About two years ago, you gave birth to the Bright App. How do you describe the consumer experience?
We are the gym in your pocket.  For the client, you pull out your phone or your laptop, and you go into your meeting. We're integrated with Google Calendar and other calendars, so you just click on the button, and you start working out with your trainer. It's exactly what a gym is - except unbundled. You don't have to pay for gym memberships that you don't want. You just go into the app and start working out.

So is it like Tinder for trainees and coaches?
It's absolutely not like that. We're more like what Airbnb is today.  Airbnb matches billing and scheduling for hosts. So hosts don't have to worry about distribution or earning money or finding customers for their rental.  Potential clients get vetted and approved on the platform. And then Airbnb did the go-to-market for them and brought them new, qualified customers. The hosts knew: As long as they were on that app, they were going to make money. And that's what The Bright App is for our trainers.  As long as they're up-to-date on their platform, they're able to see clients fill up their schedule and get paid weekly on Fridays.

Nerissa Zhang: In the front for remote personal trainers
Nerissa Zhang's path as a CEO started early on when she was selling Girl Scout cookies. She founded a daycare and catering company before entering the FitTech world. Today, she runs two private gyms and founded The Bright App. (🤝 Meet Nerissa at LinkedIn)

The Bright App: A turnkey solution to becoming a virtual trainer
The Bright App is a platform that turns trainers into digital entrepreneurs independent of fitness studios and promises 40% more income than common big box gyms. The Bright App also created a marketplace, where clients can find digital trainers throughout the whole world.
(👁️ Check out The Bright App)

What characterizes your typical user?
On the consumer side, most of them are white-collar workers who sit for work. They're engineers, working in finance, banking, biotech, and life sciences, or they work for Big Tech companies. All of them need to find a way to get moving. Many have never been to a gym before. A lot of them are fatigued with the fitness apps that count your steps and count your calories. They are tired of all the gadgets coming out. They just want to talk to another human again - but at the convenience of their own home. When they pay for someone's time, and it's another human on the other side showing up, they're more likely to stick to it.

According to, more women than men avoid gyms. What data from The Bright App confirms this thesis?
80% of our users are women who never went to the gym because they don't want to be in the gym. They don't want to be around men, they don't want to be sweating around their colleagues, and personal training in gyms is simply inconvenient.  The female market carries loads of untapped demand for personal training. We unbundle that for them and allow them to have the same type of personal trainer they would at an Equinox gym, but in the privacy of their own home. We also learned that we can serve children, too. Moms want their kids to have trainers, but in America, gyms don't allow kids under a certain age. There's a subset of people in America who can comfortably afford to pay for their child to work with a trainer, but just didn't have the option...until now.

How does this approach change the experience for the clients?
Because 80% of our customers have never tried personal training, they don't know how to choose a trainer. Most of them just want to be matched with a trainer, the way it works in a physical gym. However, ideally, we want to work with an experienced trainer that gets the specific results we desire. L et's say, there is Jason. He has a thousand hours on the app with people losing weight. He has had 100 customers who never had any problems. So this is the best trainer for your needs. We have not already established those reviews on our App, but that's what we're building: reviews and growing session-level data.

How did your user numbers evolve until now?
10,000 people are registered on The Bright App, and 3,000 are trainers. It evolves for one main reason: Trainers have been hit hard financially during the pandemic, resulting in 100,000 lost jobs. They're worried about how I'm going to pay rent, how to eat, and how to take care of my family and my children. The Bright App helps them with that. They don't have to do anything but get vetted and approved on our platform and start working.

How do you explain the growth of clients on The Bright App?
In the two years of the pandemic, people were knocked off track when it comes to fitness. It shows: roughly half of the Americans have gained 30+ pounds of unwanted weight. There is already an epidemic of obesity, and it's only getting worse. Despite these trends, we know that our user numbers will continue to grow because there will always be a subset of people who want to improve their fitness. They're always going to be looking for a connection with another human. That's what our app brings.

In the Saas Founder Show, you said: Most gyms forget that the core value in the fitness industry is the trainer. How does a company bring back the focus on them?
If you work as a trainer at the best gym in America, you're going to get paid upwards of 40 dollars an hour while the gym is taking two hundred dollars an hour from the clients. Trainers can't make any money. They end up having five different fitness jobs. Some are even working at a restaurant because you just can't pay the rent. I wanted to build something that focused on the value-producing unit: the trainer. They hold the client relationship. But they don't have the business know-how nor the time. We're giving them a new way to earn a good income without having to go back to business school and learn how to build a business. Instead, they just open up the app and start making money, the same way Uber drivers do.

FitTech Club at your fingertips: Unleash our superpower. For you!

Nerissa and many other visionaries are members of the FitTech Club, a global business club for the movers and shakers in the fitness, health, sports, wellness, and technology industries. In the Club, you will find C-level leaders of established companies along with mid-size business wonders, early-stage and scale-up founders, and investors interested in the space. 

Your benefits:

  • Inspirational networking with like-minded peers. 
  • Opportunities for business growth
  • Cross-industry insights and future trends

Online class reservation software is expected to be worth over $360 million by 2024 compared to $224 million in 2019. Why is this a realistic expectation?
It is realistic because we do everything on our phones. We reserve doctor's appointments, plane tickets, gym memberships, and even relationships on our phones. As the next generation comes up, they're going to do even more with the smartphone. If you want to make a reservation as easy as possible, it's a click of the button on your phone.

Who are your main contenders and why?
The gym, because they do exactly what we do for trainers, they make it turnkey. The biggest difference is because we don't have the cap-ex cost of opening a gym just to get trainers working. We're able to pay 40 percent more to our trainers than what the big box gym can pay.
Even if gyms offer virtual training, they still couldn't pay 40 percent more than what we pay. Do they still have their locations that they still have to pay for it? They would have to shut down their entire business and start all over again to compete with us.

You're running to physical gyms as well.  Isn't that a conflict of interest?
Yes. But disruption needs to happen. Technology is here to make our lives easier. And after realizing that all the women and children who could use personal training just didn't have the access, we're going to grow that. They deserve access to personal training as well. There's always going to be a subset who love the gym as I do, and there's always going to be the people who love the convenience of going into their phone and being able to work out with their trainer no matter where they travel.