Connected fitness has a sparring partner, courtesy of a new direct-to-consumer (DTC) company called Liteboxer. It has an innovative product, proven management and a business model that rivals other connected products, including Peloton. And its founders think it might retire that big heavy punching bag in the garage.
The Liteboxer actually looks nothing like a punching bag. Picture something that’s similar to a stop sign, only this is black with more rounded edges. Embedded in the surface are six circular lights. For the basic workout, the user hits the light as it blinks. But that’s hardly the end of it. Like Peloton, the Liteboxer has an app with a wide variety of workouts, different trainers, music and even competitive rankings. So, for example, say a user wants to work out hard for 20 minutes with hip-hop music and an emphasis on the core. From the list of trainers, she might pick Leyon, who served as a consultant on the Liteboxer project from his Los Angeles gym, Gloveworx.
“Leyon would say, ‘okay, here's what we're going to do, we're going to punch to this round,’” said Chairman and Co-founder Todd Dagres. “Then a song would start playing, and that would produce a punch pattern that would go on the lightbox, and you'd punch the lights out to the beat of the music. When you're done, you'll get a score to tell you how you did.”
The idea has its genesis in Dagres’ own workout routines. He was working out with a bare-knuckle Russian boxing champion and trainer when the idea for Liteboxer came to him.
“It was an intense, great workout (with the trainer), but then when I tried to do it at home with a heavy bag, I found it to be very uninspiring and tedious,” he explained. “I started trying to find reasons not to go and hit the heavy bag. So I thought about applying a kind of rhythm to the punching bag, as kind of an interactive sparring partner.”
He may not be a champion boxer, but Dagres is a top-ranked venture capitalist.
Prior to founding Liteboxer, he founded Spark Capital. Spark’s investments have included Twitter, Oculus, Plaid, Tumblr, Slack, Wayfair, Postmates and Mirror – so when Dagres started searching for a partner to help him bring the Liteboxer to life, he didn’t lack a network. He quickly became connected to Jeff Morin, an MIT-educated engineer and personal trainer with an eye for both physical and technological performance. Dagres saw the fitness potential, but Morin took it further – he had the idea to make the Liteboxer a connected fitness device.
“It was his idea for us to go to a gaming trade show,” said Dagres. “I was not in favor of spending all that money to see whether this thing is fun or not. But that gave us some insight into whether people really like it, and gave us some insight into gaming dynamics and competition elements. It taught us a lot about motivating and challenging people, and making them feel like they're playing a game, even when their heart rate is up to 150 and they're burning calories and reshaping their bodies.”
Selling for $1,495, the first Liteboxers will ship in August. The company will operate on a DTC basis for the foreseeable future, although they have received inquiries from gyms and fitness retailers.
Dagres and Morin have a great deal of respect for what Peloton has done, and they hope to create a similar community. In fact, they’re comfortable with the tagline that a trade publication have them: “the Peloton of boxing.”
And like Peloton, the COVID-19-triggered lockdowns and fear of the gym have worked to Liteboxers’ favor. “I wish we weren’t in the situation we're in, but unfortunately, it’s not getting better as quickly as we hoped, and people are still going to have to look for alternatives to stay in shape outside of the gym for quite some time,” Morin noted. “Connected fitness allows them to exercise at home and still get the benefits of a gym, with the addition of that social aspect of personal training.”
So far, Liteboxer has raised $6 million in funding. According to Dagres, that money will be used for the initial distribution push, market research and some as-yet-unnamed product extensions.