A Q&A with Retrofit founder and CEO Jeff Hyman. The Skokie, Illinois-based company was founded in 2010 and closed an $8 million Series A funding round in mid-November. Investors include Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Correlation Ventures and New World Ventures.
SUB: Please describe Retrofit and your value proposition.
Hyman: Retrofit provides the tools and highly trained experts needed to lose weight for life. The weight loss program takes a long-term view and helps clients create new habits. We deliver private lessons to our clients on how to lose weight and include wireless devices to track progress on a daily basis. Only Retrofit offers this level of privacy, personalization and convenience to help clients lose weight and keep it off for life.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Hyman: Retrofit works with busy professionals. Individuals can join directly at retrofitme.com. We also work with dozens of employers to reduce their healthcare costs. Overweight employees cost companies almost $1,500 in additional healthcare costs each year. Corporations receive a group rate when multiple employees join Retrofit.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Hyman: Traditional diets are considered to be our competition. Ninety-five percent of dieters regain the weight within 12 months. Diets simply don’t work because they’re unsustainable to begin with. We work with our clients to reshape their behaviors and patterns for the long-term.
SUB: What differentiates Retrofit from the competition?
Hyman: Retrofit personalizes the weight loss process. Since no two people lose weight the same way, our program is tailored for each client. Retrofit differentiates itself from competition by using Skype videoconferencing with wellness experts—registered dietitians, exercise physiologists and behavior coaches. Retrofit also retains clients for one year. This way, we have time to collect aggregate data from Wi-Fi scales and fitness trackers. We track and monitor client progress and analyze trends in the data. Retrofit also offers clients the chance to repeat the program if they don’t reach their goal weight within a year.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Hyman: We founded the company in 2010 and met with dozens of obesity experts to understand the state-of-the-art in what works for sustained long term weight loss.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Retrofit? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Hyman: My ‘aha’ moment to create Retrofit came when my wife and I visited a wellness resort. I wanted to create a company that had the same support elements and deliver unique personalized services via the Internet. My inspiration was to bring that level of client support and accountability for weight loss to people whose lives were too busy to get away to focus on weight loss, health and overall wellness.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Hyman: We considered literally hundreds of names. Retrofit conveyed the sense that we strip down the poor habits and patterns of our clients, and rebuild them from the bottom up. You can retrofit a car engine or an office building. We can retrofit your body.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Hyman: We hire only A-Players. This is never easy in the early days. But now we have over 80 full-time and part-time professionals that share a passion for improving peoples’ health.
SUB: You just raised $8 million in Series A funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Hyman: We are investing the majority of the proceeds back into the product. More than 90 percent of our clients are losing weight, but we have countless ideas on how we can do even more.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise more funding?
Hyman: As we hit our one-year anniversary, we were able to quantify the results in a compelling way. We showed investors precisely how our clients are doing on the program, and they love it.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Hyman: We generate revenue the old-fashioned way. We deliver a great service to our clients, and they pay for it.
SUB: What are your goals for Retrofit over the next year or so?
Hyman: Our primary focus is getting the word out to more people. Sixty-eight percent of Americans are overweight. We have a limitless opportunity, and we believe Retrofit can help turn the tide on this nation’s obesity epidemic.
Retrofit – www.retrofitme.com