SaaS Founder Interview with Nerissa Zhang, Co-Founder & CEO of The Bright App
Tony Zayas 0:02
All right. Welcome, everybody to another episode of the SaaS Founder Show. Andy Halko, our CEO and founder of Insivia is here once again, as always
Andy Halko 0:14
In the house. How are you doing? Literally in the house?
Tony Zayas 0:17
In the house
Andy Halko 0:19
That’s right. I’m doing well. How are you?
Tony Zayas 0:21
I’m doing real well, just ready for another interview again this week.
Andy Halko 0:26
I’m super excited. This is a cool little app and company, and they’ve got bright sunny weather out there and SoCal, so it’ll be you know, maybe, maybe somebody will come our way after we talk.
Tony Zayas 0:39
Yeah, we could use it. So alright, so today we’re talking to Nerissa Zhang. She’s the co founder and CEO of The Bright App. So let me bring her in here. In Nerissa. Hi, welcome. Let me organize this that you hear in the spotlight. All right. So welcome. And thank you so much for spending your time here with us. I guess to start out, we would just, you know, we want to hear all about it. But dive into the backstory and all that. But tell us about the brain out just a little bit. So everyone has the high level, what it is what it does,
Nerissa Zhang 1:19
Okay. So The Bright App, it is designed to help trainers be better at business, even though they don’t realize that they are small business. So we are a utility app that enables their business to be streamlined so they can monetize.
Tony Zayas 1:39
That’s great. Very cool. So origin story, I know that you it sounds like you are training yourself for so long. And so you probably came up with a solution. I’m guessing that was needed. that’s out there. So how did that how did the concept come about? Tell us about where you came up with the spark that idea and where it went from there.
Nerissa Zhang 2:02
Okay, so um, I’ve been a tester for a long time, almost a decade now. And I worked in San Francisco. So I had the privilege of seeing a lot of things get disrupted by tech, not the way traders do business. So gym software is usually built for the gym owner or the consumer. But they forget that the value asset is the trainer, they provide the most value to the clients and to the gyms yet tech don’t support the way they work. And so most trainers have to hack together multiple solutions using technology. So they have one to take payments, wanting to do scheduling, and then they still use pen and paper. And so the idea from The Bright App is having it all in one place and in an app because trainers are always on their phones. They don’t need a computer to do their business. They need the phones.
Andy Halko 2:58
I’m kind of curious. You know, we haven’t talked about this a lot. But I know for folks that are, you know, kind of in a role like being a trainer, how long did you think about this? And how long did the idea like incubate in your head? Before you start? You know what I mean? Like, you’re like, Oh, do this. And then how long did that take to get to the point you said, Oh, I’m not just gonna think about I’m gonna do it.
Nerissa Zhang 3:23
Oh, good question. I’ve been thinking about for a long time. So I come unlike most trainers, I come from a business background. I went to business school, I open restaurants in San Francisco. So one of the things I’ve noticed is a lot of trainers, they come from just the the trainer perspective. So they’re gym rats, they love the gym, they love the body. They have degrees in kinesiology, Exercise Science, like their whole life, they’re built around that coming from a business background going into personal training, because I love the value that you add it to your clients, I was able to, you know, apply my business side to that and become like an Elite Trainer much quickly make more money. And most traders they didn’t have that. And so I always thought for years. How do I make this better for the trainer’s I’m obviously not a technical person. But I was lucky to find my husband who in my opinion, one of the best engineers in the world. You know, he’s has 15 years of experience. He’s, you know, built some of the best apps, some of the original Vairo apps that went on Facebook and and games and iPhones until he’s built 40 plus. And so what really happened is I met him and I was like, you should build this. But I did try other ways to find solutions that actually made trainers workflow easier. But meeting him just just made that happen. Yeah,
Andy Halko 5:00
No, that’s great. And I, you know, I love when, you know, disruption is all about the idea of like someone almost from a different background coming into an industry and rethinking how it can be done. You know, and and so we see that a lot. So I think that’s such a great point is, you know, you don’t have to, you know, that outside perspective is so valuable. For you, how did you know, the business background influenced how you started up the app? And how you started the business?
Nerissa Zhang 5:38
Um, good question. Um,
Andy Halko 5:47
you know, did your education and the business side of things, you know, have you start in a different way of like finding funding or bootstrapping, you know, how did you use some of what you had learned in the business world previous to kind of start this business.
Nerissa Zhang 6:05
So I realized in the business world is, you have to have a plan. A lot of a lot of trainers don’t have any plans when they go into being a personal trainer. And so that they kind of go into it with, I love my job, I want to be good at my job. But I don’t know what to ask for. I don’t know how much I should charge for my services, I don’t know how to get a client to commit. And so in building the app, we built it in such a way that it forces you to trainer to be better at business, like you have to get the the clients to commit to a schedule, that’s the only way they’re going to get results. And that’s the only way you’re gonna make money, you got to get them to buy in packs of 10 or more you got to get so so all of all of my business background went into how the the app works. And so it’s not necessarily like a fitness app that has all these pretty features. It’s really like a business tool that forces you to confront that you’re not good at business. And if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to, you know, use a system that enables you to be better at your business, because that’s how Yeah,
that’s how you grow
Andy Halko 7:26
like a business trainer for physical trainers.
Nerissa Zhang 7:30
Yes, yes and, and the idea is that trainers provide such a valuable service, I don’t think people realize that, you know, we we’ve helped people not only just lose weight, or gain muscle, but feel better about themselves feel more confident in dating and in their personal lives, be better at parenting, like, the physical body is really important to your mental as well, right? If you’re an executive, you understand that. So you have a trainer, if you are someone who is an A former athlete, you understand that someone who you know, who appreciates being able to, to set the tone for your day, right? You you work out, and you are committed to someone who holds you accountable, because a lot of times we don’t hold ourselves, right, we have all these gadgets, and these, you know, fitness apps, that tells us we can do it on ourselves, but we don’t nobody wants to work out themselves. Nobody wants to really go running by themselves. Right.
Tony Zayas 8:38
So nervous. I’m just curious. So as you came up, you know, you started to this idea came about you recognize that, you know, there weren’t solutions to create that workflow. For the purposes of the business for the personal trainers, were you talking to other personal trainers that you recognize that they didn’t know how to run their business like or a true business? And that they were missing some of those things? Or, you know, did that help influence? You know, to dive in and build this? Or how did that work? What was the feedback you’re getting?
Nerissa Zhang 9:13
Yeah, so I did focus groups. And one of the things I learned in a lot of those focus groups is a lot of the trends that are like, Oh, this is a great app, but you know, they still want to go back to their bad habits. And part of it was because, you know, they came in, they came into the group, you know, not knowing that I was, you know, part of this company, I was just like a guest trying to get feedback on this app that’s new. And I a lot of them would say, Oh, this is a great idea. But you know, my clients only pay once a week or they’re always canceling on me anyways. And so really, it’s like, I have to change the trainer’s habits to they’ve gotten used to, you know, hacking things and it doesn’t help them monetize. And then and then a lot of them ended up leaving the industry just because they’re unable to hack the business side. They’re unable to get it right. And it’s It breaks my heart because again, it provides such a valuable service. And if only they had something that enabled them to actually run their business, they would stay. Yeah, so..
Andy Halko 10:21
How did you guys determine that first set of features that you were gonna build and what the app looked like to get it launched?
Nerissa Zhang 10:30
So we determine what actually helped you make money and so we built it to be rigid in that way. And at first trainers were like, I don’t I don’t understand this because they’re just like, I’m used to, like, do whatever the client says. And I’m like, that’s a problem. That’s why the client ends up leaving you and finding another trainer. This is why you’re always complaining, you’re not making any money. And so one of the things is, we built the app in such a way that the trainer no longer had to chase money. So normally, when you have a client on the side, you have to ask, remind the client, hey, it’s time to re up. And it creates friction, because the client on how many sessions they have left, and you don’t even know how many they have left, you’re guessing. And so the app does that for them. It tells them exactly when they paid how many sessions they have, when it’s time to re up. And so it does auto billing for the trainer’s
Andy Halko 11:27
Kind of curious to expound upon the idea that, you know, you have an audience that kind of doesn’t want to change their ways, and they’ve got these bad habits. And you have to teach them, I don’t think we’ve really talked any other founders about that concept. So what are some of the things that you’ve had to do and approaches you’ve had to take to, you know, start trying to change the mindset of the target audience
Nerissa Zhang 11:54
Get in the trap, it’s been number one, you know, I’m saying, hey, try one client, just see the difference. And the moment they see the difference, they understand, oh, wait, this is better. Because now I don’t have to, to, you know, chase everybody that I, you know, because good trainers, they have 20 to 30 clients at one time, and having to chase 20 30 people to pay you so you can pay your rent is a nightmare. And so, having the ability to know that, you know, these people are due next, these people are doing two weeks, allows you to, you know, plan your life, right instead of your life being planned around your clients. And so once you know, getting them to try it, getting them to get feedback from their clients, has been working. So the clients like it better too, because it’s a creates less friction, they don’t have to text you and wait for you to respond about how many sessions they have left. Or if they can cancel, they do it all through the app that the client can go in and say, Hey, I can’t make it. I have a doctor’s appointment. That’s never been done before. Not even a physical chip, I still have to call someone wait for their response and say, Hey, I can’t make this session. And hopefully they don’t charge you for it right? Not now in this app, you can now do it at the comfort at your own time.
Tony Zayas 13:10
So number so how did you guys take this to market? Did you guys first? Do you bootstrap it? Did you guys raise money? What did that look like?
Nerissa Zhang 13:20
So we are Bootstrap, we were able to raise a friend and family round small of 100k. Last year, we are in the middle of raising funds. We’re still trying to raise funds. One one of the biggest thing we keep hearing back from VCs is that we’re still too early, which is a little bit confusing and amusing at the same time, because they’re just like really, um, but it’s just like, we need funding for manpower. It’s like they want us to grow more, but we need money to do that. It’s like we have a working product. We have plenty of users, we have plenty of data. We need manpower now that takes funding.
Andy Halko 14:09
What’s been kind of the biggest shock experience of going through trying to raise money isn’t you know, finding folks or how you have to pitch what what’s kind of been in a penny that you’ve had in that process?
Nerissa Zhang 14:25
Um Oh, I feel like um I guess I feel like most, most VCs really don’t try that hard to understand what you’re doing. And that blows my mind. So it’s like
Andy Halko 14:57
You have to do all the heavy lifting
Nerissa Zhang 15:00
I constantly get, or one of the things that’s been happening is the goalpost keeps moving. So even once we’re like, let me see this happen, and then I show them and then it’s like, well, more of this, and it’s like more of that. And so it’s I’m unable to meet their standards, because it keeps changing. Yeah, as I grow.
Andy Halko 15:22
As we’ve talked to founders, I mean, we constantly hear, you know, raising money as a full time job. And, you know, you’ve got to put the effort in. And then like you said, if, if they’re not looking at it as as closely and the goalposts keep moving. That’s why it’s a full time job, because always got to be chasing and thinking and changing and adding information and doing that.
Nerissa Zhang 15:43
And it takes away from growing the business.
Andy Halko 15:45
Right? Well, that’s why it’s such an interesting, you know, as we’ve done the shows an interesting choice of people that have decided to completely bootstrap the whole way through. Not even worried about raising money versus those that go out and do it. Because like you said, you’re choosing where to put your time.
Nerissa Zhang 16:02
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s just bootstrapping is just hard and difficult, especially because we are, you know, a family. It’s like every single gal who’s like I can, you know, do this on my credit cards, right? Um, so it’s, it’s, it’s difficult, I’m not going to say that I’m going to wait for VCs to continue to grow, I still will. You know, I think the the good thing about most founders is that we are always willing to do anything it takes to give birth to an idea. And so we just got to do what we got to do. But yeah, I do, which VCs would wake up and pay attention. Because this is a huge market that’s been disrupted, it’s $10 billion. No one’s going after trainer, my cat for trainers are so low because of that. Everyone’s going out for content, content content. But most trainers can’t do content. They don’t want to be on camera. It’s not their thing. They’re used to being in the gym. And so they want to work the same way they did in a gym. And that’s what we allow them to do.
Andy Halko 17:07
How much did you get into like competitor research and understanding the market as you were going through the idea process?
Nerissa Zhang 17:15
Oh, so I’ve been doing research even long before we gave birth to this idea. And the reason is, because I wanted to know why was software systems like mind body, for example. So complex? Will shaders, they just want scheduling, they want to get paid on time? Why is the system so hard to use? And so I’ve always, you know, written up reports on every competitor, everything that looked like a competitor for many years, and then everything that comes on the market that’s, that looks like a competitor, I do the same thing. And then I realized none of them, again, is not enabling the trainer, or not empowering the trainer. That’s part of the reason why we have almost 2000 trainers on there. And a lot of the other platforms that I looked into, they have less than 100, for a reason. Because they’re not going after the trainers, they’re going after the consumers.
Tony Zayas 18:15
How have you targeted the trainers like to grow users, because you said you have a pretty healthy number of users that are out there right now.
Nerissa Zhang 18:22
So in the beginning, it was a lot of like, hitting the pavement going out talking to people getting them to try it. I went to New York for two weeks to do that. I are constantly talking to people you know, leads from Instagram, Facebook, and then it and then lately, it’s been just word of mouth. So points up before the pandemic was much harder because trainers were happy at the gym, they’re not going to leave their gym. Soon as the pandemic happened. All the traders now are furloughed. They don’t have a way to survive. Now they’ve moved from Manhattan to Iowa. So they’re like, how am I going to still get paid if I no longer live by my clients and clients to have moved away, they move to Upstate. And so they’re like, I don’t need to live in the city anymore. And virtual train is becoming so normal. Now, it’s like everyone’s just like, I’ll give it a try, right? Because it’s not like they have many options.
Tony Zayas 19:19
Yeah, how did the that’s super interesting. How did the pandemic dynamic influence what you did with the app? Because obviously, it was a major disruption to the industry. So where were you guys at with the app? And then how did things change? Because I imagine that was quickly it happened all quickly.
Nerissa Zhang 19:35
That’s right. So we were around six months before the pandemic, and we were just a utility app, again, for trainers and their business. When that happened, we noticed that you know, now all the trainers needed work, and they needed lead gen. And so we built a marketplace in three weeks that enable clients to go into the app, find a trainer, message a trainer and start training. One of the things we found out too during this process is trainers are good, not that good at business side, the business side, they’re not selling in sessions of 20, or more like they should be, they’re still selling one at a time or five at a time. And so then we spent a weekend and hack together a full service feature that now just like a regular gym, we have a salesperson who’s been assigned these trainers by. So we know the whole relationship between the client and us. And then we assign trainers, and the trainers are happy that way, they just get paid out. Per the amount of hours that they complete in a week.
Andy Halko 20:41
Very cool boys. So I know you’ve got the greatest CTO developer on the team. But what were the hardest parts are the biggest challenges in actually developing and creating the product that you guys faced.
Nerissa Zhang 21:00
Um, traders wanted things that they didn’t need. Hmm. So a lot of feet, because we didn’t want to listen to people before you build a product. And the reason is, you don’t want to build something that’s beautiful, that no one uses right. Trainers, sometimes they have this, this idea that they need, like a website, for example, buried under millions and millions, and then no one ever find your website, they never monetize from the website. So I’m like, Why do you need a connection to your website? You know, they don’t even know this, right? Because they’re they are taught to believe that you have a website, you make money, then they have a website, they’re not making any money. And that’s because no one can find you. Yep, SEO at you. There’s, it’s more complicated than just having a website with your face. And hopefully, you know, people find through pay for your services, right? People just don’t do that.
Andy Halko 21:51
Yeah, I think that’s great. We, you know, we hear that all the time in these discussions is kind of that challenge of, you know, your customers want something that’s not necessarily valuable? And how do you balance that? And so, you know, how have you guys made sure that you stay focused on what you think is the most valuable feature valuable features? Even if you’ve got a lot of people throwing ideas? Or, and I’m sure it’s not just potential customers, but family and friends, but people throwing ideas at you? How do you stay focused on what the core product is,
Nerissa Zhang 22:26
um, I made a lot of money as a personal trainer. So I know what what what the business should look like. And so I made sure to stay on that path. My goal, what I tell the trainers is to make sure you have paying clients, and you have consistent paying clients. And so I make sure the product is built around that first.
Tony Zayas 22:48
So along those lines, the reset sounds like there’s a lot of opportunity for education with your clients with the trainers, is that part of what you guys are delivering? And I would just love to hear it sounds like there’s things that can be valuable to the trainers.
Nerissa Zhang 23:07
Yeah, we we make, you know, PDFs and decks for them to tell them like what’s the best practices, the best practices in business. And using this app, we communicate with them as often as possible, where, you know, we try to get to know them and where they are and what it is that they need. So we can meet that need. You know, I think one of the things marketplaces tend to do is they tend to just build a marketplace, and they don’t get to know their users. And so that’s why you know, their users leave. Hmm.
Tony Zayas 23:45
What are some of the ways that you guys capture that feedback or engagement with your users to learn, you know, what, what their challenges are, and what they like, what they’re, you know, might be missing, etc.
Nerissa Zhang 23:57
Emails, we have a team of people who, you know, set up appointments with them, they talk to them, you know, weekly, or every other week, whoever’s the most responsive, they get, you know, they get exactly what they need. So if a trainer, you know, emails me, they need this and that, and they need to jump on a call. I’m happy to do it.
Tony Zayas 24:19
I’m guessing since they’re running the business using the app, that engagement and keeping them active with it’s probably not that difficult. So I would say that’s probably one of the brilliant things about the app is that you know, you got people on there, they’re using it to run their business. That’s pretty cool. Okay. Now, you mentioned as far as one of the challenges is having the resources the people so what does the team look like now? Is it just you and your husband are there others involved? You know, here and there?
Nerissa Zhang 24:50
Yeah, it’s yeah, it’s here and there because contractors as as we need them. We would like to bring a lot of them on full time. So do that.
Andy Halko 25:02
What’s the, you know, dynamic for starting a business with your husband? I, you know, my wife actually works in my business and I know people that you know, have family companies, what do you how do you feel about that dynamic and how that is either helped or maybe even hurt you.
Nerissa Zhang 25:22
I mean, I love it. I mean, I think we, my husband work really well together. Um, it’s just the financial part is not fun, because you know, when you lack resources, it creates friction, that’s, you know, a little bit unnecessary. But as far as like building the company together and making decisions, we do a really good job at listening to one another, we just love it. We we, we wanted to build a family company, so that way, our user are actually being served as well as one, but what the way it hurts us is VCs don’t like have fun husband and wife teams.
Andy Halko 26:04
Interesting. I mean, you know, there’s something to that. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised. I think, you know, there’s, as I’ve dealt with VCs over the years, is they want to reduce risk. And they’re always trying to figure out what is something that could add risk to the, you know, environment. And if there’s a, you know, Rift or something like that, they want to know that their investments still safe. Right, right. Yeah, it’s interesting. For folks that, you know, founders that are watching that may be going out there as family, businesses trying to raise money. Have you been able to spin that for any VCs as a more powerful tool, rather than, you know, it being a potential risk?
Nerissa Zhang 26:51
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think it’s powerful. Because we’re able to build quickly, we bookmark place in three weeks, we built the full service option in two days, like, I think that makes it more powerful. Because one of the things that makes us different than other fitness app is our app was built in house from scratch. A lot of them, they start outsourced, and then they can iterate quickly enough, whereas we can iterate quickly. It’s like, trainers need this, Honey, let’s build it. It’s like, can you build it, and he can build it. So if he can’t build a he’ll say, he can’t build it. And we’re like, Hey, this is gonna have to wait. So the communication is great. And so that’s what I tell VCs is that, you know, it’s one of those things where you know, them by their fruit, right. So it’s like, this is what we produce. So this should tell you how well we work together.
Andy Halko 27:44
How is your role? What is your role specifically in the business? You know, are you more sales and marketing and kind of growth? And then, you know, potentially, how is your role changed as you guys went from an initial idea to today?
Nerissa Zhang 28:01
I mean, really, my role is everything. Including with designing the app, I’m not. But I understand the flow. So I have to be heavily involved in the way it’s being built in the technical side as well. I did learn a little bit of coding, I’m not at all someone who can code I want to be clear. I do want to understand what the tech team is doing. And I’m not just completely out of the loop. But I do do the business side, the sell the growth, marketing, as well as social media, all that stuff, as much as I can.
Tony Zayas 28:42
So how is a husband wife team? How do you guys kind of, um, I’m sure that there’s not a whole lot of boundaries works, probably always something that’s part of the conversation, but how do you guys balance it? How are you? And if it’s something you’re passionate about, it’s probably not a bad thing that you talk a lot. But yeah, what’s the work life balance look like?
Nerissa Zhang 29:03
We didn’t talk a lot about it, because we do love it. We just love it. And so we do talk a lot about it. However, we do, make sure in the evenings that we always eat dinner with our kids, we always talk about their their days. Our kids are also users on the app, they have coaches on the app. And so we’re able to discuss what they did with their coaches, how they like it. You know, they do running coach, they do swimming, they do weightlifting, as well because they do soccer competitively down here in San Diego. So it’s important that they are, you know, always strong and ready to attack. And so we we, the weekends, we take off, we you know, we’ll work but then we’ll also take time to be with each other, we go hiking. You know, we make time, you got to make the time so it’s hard to say there’s a true balance because at times there is no balance and at times there is But finding ways to carve out time that’s just for you in the family is huge.
Tony Zayas 30:07
Yeah. So do you find that that helps like, you know, taking that time to say, Hey, let’s go for a hike this weekend. So you guys are away, and you guys are out in nature. Spending time together, you guys make a point to do those types of things?
Andy Halko 30:21
Yes, yeah. And it’s added to the calendar. Everything’s on a calendar. So thanks to one of our, you know, team members, Russia, we’ve been really highlighting female founders in the last couple of episodes. And I think we will be for a while. And I want to keep it real. So I’m kind of curious, how do you feel about the startup environment? You know, for someone that is a female and even a minority? You know, how have you thought about that? What do you what have you seen?
Tony Zayas 30:59
Um, that you’re not as so. So my experiences as a female founder. I’m not as I’m trying to find the best words to say this. But basically, I feel like when I say something, no one’s really listening. Where it’s like, if my husband says something, everyone’s listening. Um, we’ve even found that in talking with VC, so we even like turn the table where he starts off and do it and get them engaged. And then I joined in and the RE, I don’t know what it is. But I think our society has this idea that when a man speaks, you listen, when a woman speaks, especially when it comes to business, I think it’s a business thing, too. It’s kind of just cheated as Oh, that’s a cute little project that you’re doing how cute girl? Or it’s like, for man, that’s a serious business. That’s awesome.
Andy Halko 32:08
No, that’s good feedback. And I mean, I think we have to be, you know, honest about how people feel about the environment, and you know, to be able to change it. What do you think? I’m kind of curious, what resources do you think we need to provide new startups that may look different than the typical Silicon Valley boys club.
Nerissa Zhang 32:31
So one of the things I really do believe is VCs need to stop pretending that they give to pre seed and seed and then telling people that they’re too early, when they when pre seed is really just an idea. Okay? Especially when they’re constantly giving money to boys and men with an idea, they’re constantly giving them three and $5 million to flesh out an idea that they, you know, built in their garage, even though they don’t have a prototype yet, right. But they’re telling me who have a working product where recurring revenues, and, you know, month over month growth, that I’m still too early. So then you shouldn’t call yourself a precede, you know, so that needs to be they even need to decide if they’re truly precede, or they’re only precede for the month. This is why the statistics of women still getting less than 2%. And black women still getting less than half a percent, is because they only give to black founders, and a series B. So even recently, when they came up with statistics of oh, look at all these black founders who just got funded at Series B, that they couldn’t they couldn’t get anything below that it’s not fair. They’re basically telling us build this company with your hands tied behind your back, and good luck. And then when you make more revenue, that I know that you’re less risk, then I want to investigate. You know,
Andy Halko 33:52
Yeah, no, I think that’s, I mean, that’s the scenario. And, you know, it’s how do you how do you how do we begin to change it and make it more, you know, equal for everybody to be able to start a business because that’s what this country is about? So I think that’s, it’s a great conversation. Right? Good.
Nerissa Zhang 34:10
No, I’m just saying I do think it’s changed. Because right now, it feels like just elites handing it off to other elites, you know, I don’t have an Ivy League Degree. And so I really is like, on top of lists, and then next to male and then everything else, right. And so it’s not enabling me to grow a business that actually works. I’m not I’m not, you know, and I, you know, one of the things I tell them is, that’s why I’m asking for a million dollars, not a lot. It’s a rounding error. For a lot of these firms. It’s so tiny, it’s just to prove out something that’s already been working, but to grow that with manpower. I’m not even asking you to build the product, the product is already working. Alright. So it’s like when When do they stop pretending that I’m more riskier than a man who just came up with an idea? Just he just has an idea, but he’s able to get fired really just flushed out
Andy Halko 35:03
Have you? Are there any accelerators? where you’re at? And have you had any experiences with those we hear about that often on these shows, as well, is, you know, accelerators and incubators that help businesses kind of get off the ground.
Nerissa Zhang 35:20
Applying and seeing what happens, and I’m, you know, looking into YC. Okay, it’s very well, I thought about it last year wasn’t sure if I should do it. A VC said I should do it. And I said, you know, okay, I’ll give it a go and see what they say. It’s just for me, at first, I assumed unsalaried would work because I have a family. Also, usually, accelerators tend to be companies who tend not always who is just an idea stage. And so they really want to grow your idea into a working product, where it’s like, ours is a working product that needs money, and they don’t give you enough money to hire manpower. Yeah, well, and so they’ll give you like, what 25k to 100k. And that’s it. It’s like I can’t hire a team of salespeople with that, right.
Tony Zayas 36:17
So what are those areas? The rest of it, where, where now you’re looking to grow? So if you did get that funding, where would you put those dollars into?
Nerissa Zhang 36:27
Oh, great question, salespeople. So one of the things, we figured out what the full service option is that we need 40 salespeople to have a cohort of 100 trainers each will put us at 4000 trainers working part time, at a 30% take rate, we’d be at $115 million valuation, because our average trainer charges at $5 an hour. So it’d be we’d be able to be a unicorn, we’d be able to be a billion dollar value company. So yeah, I need 40. Salespeople to do that.
Andy Halko 36:59
How do you guys, what is the revenue model? You know, we’re always curious to hear about, you know, how people structure do you take a commission do people pay a fee on a regular basis in the advertising.
Nerissa Zhang 37:16
So our service option, which was made available first just enables the trader to do the sales, we take 4% per transaction with a new full service feature, we take 30% per transaction, and the way it works is just like a gym, we take 100% of the money, and we pay the trainers as they complete the hours.
Andy Halko 37:35
Huh, how’d you end up coming to that pricing model? You know, that’s the other thing we always hear about is the struggle of figuring out what’s the right number, the right percentage, or, you know, what’s the right model? How did you have to do research? Did you test different ones out? You know,
Nerissa Zhang 37:53
so this comes from research talking to the trainers, feedback from clients as far as like the trainers not selling more sessions than they should have been selling. And then the fact that I worked in a gym, it’s just like gyms take anywhere from 40 to 75% of your top line. Even in my old research, I thought it was 50%. But then after digging some more into what, like gyms like Equinox, they charge the client 150, the trainer gets 40 bucks. They’re taking a good chunk, but the trainer state because it’s 40 bucks is is better than $0. Right? So what we’re doing is we’re able to offer the trainer $55 and take 30%, right, we take you know, we charge $85 And get 55 We get the rest. And it’s still better, it’s $15 more than what they’re getting. It’s great to do the same guy.
Andy Halko 38:48
So what’s the future of the app look like over the next six months? The year? What are you guys planning from a feature set or changing in services? What do you see happening with it?
Nerissa Zhang 39:01
So number one, we grow the full service feature with self people. So we can a allow the trainers to make money so that they can survive because they have bills and families too, too. We want to build out reviews so that way clients can now see reviews on these trainers, how much trainers how much money the trainers earned on this app? How often do they show up on time to their clients? Like a lot of things you don’t see when you’re looking for a trainer even now, you know, you don’t know if they’re on time if they’re good, you know, you just see them because they’re next to the first person at the gym right now you can do that with data, right? So we want to do that in the next year. A year later. We want to be able to offer trainers financial services, because trainers are some healthiest people in the world. They don’t have health insurance. People don’t know that they don’t have health insurance, and so they need to have health insurance. And so with data, we have all this data on them we can offer them health insurance, as well as other financial services like loans, trainers. Don’t want them don’t have credit cards or car loans because they can’t get it because their job is if it’s hacked together with Venmo, and all these different things, how do you prove how much money you’ve earned, but with our app, you have that data, we know how much money you’ve earned. And you can be offered, you know, things like credit cards and things like that.
Andy Halko 40:18
Yeah, that’s really interesting. What would you say?
Nerissa Zhang 40:22
And loans, credit cards and loans, things trainer just don’t get to have that they deserve?
Andy Halko 40:28
Yeah, I think that’s great that you’re thinking about that side, you know, the the health insurance, the financial, it’s, again, kind of that, you know, business fitness for these folks that maybe don’t take care of themselves. I love the Okay, how that fits together. What about over the next year? From a growth standpoint? How do you see yourselves, I guess, marketing and handling sales, whether you’re able to raise some money or not, like what’s the way that you see growing your customer base?
Nerissa Zhang 41:00
Salespeople. So it’s like one of those things is if I don’t get if I get the funding, I can grow it a lot quicker if I can just have to put self people in a race against each other to see who can do what and get paid out like that. I just, you got to get creative, right. So it’s like, Hey, here’s 10 of you who can make the most money, you you get the job, and then you grow people underneath you, and you just grow from there. Because these sales people were also furloughed, or they’re not getting sales bonuses anymore, they lost their jobs as well, I think people are not paying attention to how just look at it, this market is right. It’s like, it’s not just these traders, it’s these people who work at these gyms and it won’t come back the same over 50% are closed permanently, that would even in three years, they’re not going to come in, they’re not just going to come back that quickly. It’s going to take time. And then trainers and salespeople and clients who all moved away, they’re not just going to be like, Okay, I’ll go back to Manhattan tomorrow, just because gyms are open, no one’s gonna do that. A lot of these clients are happy where they are, it’s convenient to do the virtual training, we have families on the app, not just mine, where it’s like the mom, the dad and the kids and they enjoy it, it’s nice, they get to go to their garage to workout instead of you know, Equinox, you could not have your kids working out there. But our app you can. It’s also making personal training more accessible for people who couldn’t necessarily afford it. So if you were, you know, diagnosed with any illness, and you need to have training, you wouldn’t necessarily go to a gym. But now you can go find a trainer on the Friday because they’re paying 150 an hour, you pay 85. And you don’t have to pay the membership fees. So another thing is clients don’t want to go back to having to pay gym membership fees. And for trainers, they don’t have to.
Andy Halko 42:42
Have you guys focused regionally? Or have you taken a strategy of narrowing on certain markets? Or do you tend to be open across the country or even further.
Nerissa Zhang 42:55
So we are focused on America, however, we do have trainers who are all over the world we available. So we have trainers in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and one in Germany. So it’s like, we don’t we don’t focus worldwide. But because this is a worldwide issue those trainers to want business. So it’s like if they want to be on there, we decided Sure, we’ll go ahead and make it available. The best part about that is now clients can find trainers anywhere. So you can find one of the best Pilates instructors in Germany because you now work from home. So you don’t have to go into the office, you’re more flexible on your time of year and you’re able to commit more. So that’s one thing we’re finding as clients are able to commit more because they’re not going into the office.
Tony Zayas 43:45
So how does how, obviously said that, you know, you guys were about six months in when the pandemic kit. How did that changed the roadmap for the future here and now with virtual, you know, audience, right, it’s so massive because so many people are, are now using things to, you know, remote, gym memberships and things like that. Yeah. How does that look now? Like? What are the how is the roadmap changed?
Nerissa Zhang 44:17
It just made things happen faster, like we wanted the marketplace, but maybe in a year down the line, and we get it sooner. The full service features also something later, now it’s happening faster. So just everything we already had in the roadmap is just happening much faster.
Tony Zayas 44:34
That’s interesting. Now, you guys are poised in a great spot, given all that went down. So
Nerissa Zhang 44:41
yeah, because we had the hard part done already. And that was the scheduling and billing. That is the thing that keeps the trainer on there because now they no longer have to spend four to six hours of unpaid admin work, which they don’t get, you know, they don’t get paid for that. So here it is. They no longer have to do that. So once that was taken care of the rest Just come on in and try it. Right.
Tony Zayas 45:05
Shifting gears. Alright, Andy,
Andy Halko 45:09
I’m kind of curious, um, you know, what influences and inspires you? You know, are there certain people or companies that you look to? Whether for inspiration of how they’re running their business or growing or influence on, you know, ideas and and where industries are going?
Nerissa Zhang 45:33
Andy Halko 45:35
you can’t say Elon Musk?
Nerissa Zhang 45:37
Oh, I actually, I think I’m right now, who I look to is Brian Chesky, of Airbnb. And the reason is, I know how hard it was for him to raise. And he had to give birth to an idea that was absolutely insane. Why would you let a stranger in your house, however, you know, during the recession, people needed to keep their mortgage, and they needed to survive. And so he made a platform that turned people into small businesses before they knew they were a small business, you know, so at first it was like, I just want to keep my house. So I just want to rent out my room to make some extra cash. Now, those early host are have super hosts, they have multiple homes, I know people who have been having homes for, you know, almost a decade now. And they love it. And so this is their lives, these moms now can work from home, they don’t have to, like have an office job anymore. But that’s it. He enabled small businesses no matter what you think, right? Because the laws came because we have an Airbnb, and the laws came in and you have to pay like hotel tax. And you, you you operate like a small business. And so but you know, you did, he did it with such ease that you didn’t realize you were a small business. And so that that’s why we made our app, so easy to use for that with that same idea in mind that you don’t even know that you’re a small business, but you’re doing so well, that you’re just you have nowhere else to go but grow up. Right.
Andy Halko 47:11
I love that that was such a great example.
Tony Zayas 47:14
Yeah. And so I’d like to hear you know, where do you go to who do you reach out to, to bounce ideas off of I’m sure you and your husband, you know, do a lot of that. But when you need an outside perspective, you have a group of people that you engage with, whether it’s like, a mastermind type thing, or some mentors, you’d have along from along the way.
Unknown Speaker 47:42
I don’t have any mentors just yet. I am still looking for that. Sorry, my phone is making so much noise. My husband has more mentors than I do. So he is able to bounce ideas off of engineers that he’s worked with in the past. As far as the tech goes. business side, it’s me in the trainer’s right now. It’s, you know, it’s it’s us, you know, who who didn’t who been at the bottom, who understands who are the who are the most neglected by tech. It’s like, that’s who we’re bouncing ideas off right now.
Tony Zayas 48:19
Do you have some go to people that, you know, probably friends as well that are living that life and kind of get their perspective?
Unknown Speaker 48:28
Yeah, I don’t yeah. They’re on yeah. Just like, what can we do to make this better? What can we do to get to from here to here? And that’s the reason why we grow. Because if, if you if you, you know, again, back to Airbnb, one of the things he did was take pictures of the host home because they didn’t know how to do it to post, right, when you’re invested in your users that much this early on, you keep them
Tony Zayas 49:00
Unknown Speaker 49:01
And you grow, you will grow.
Andy Halko 49:04
So I, you know, there’s a question I’ve been asking all the founders and what it is, is really, if you could go back in time and have coffee with yourself before you started this app started this business, what advice would you give yourself about the experience and about the future?
Nerissa Zhang 49:28
Well, I had clients who were VC that should have been their best friend. That’s what I should have did. I had no idea that the smoothing of VCs was such a such a job.
Andy Halko 49:41
So kind of build your network bigger before you started the business.
Nerissa Zhang 49:46
Yes, and I would recommend that to any entrepreneur who hasn’t started yet, is start with the money. Go find VCs, make friends with them, talk about your idea and then and then share your progress as you grow.
Andy Halko 50:00
I started my business at the age of 22, right out of college, and people would ask me, you know, what would you have done differently? And I actually do always say, you know, in college, I wish I had the wherewithal to, to build my network bigger so that when I started the business, I knew more people, I had more connections. But the reality was, I think, as a college student, you don’t think about that going to networking events. I’m always impressed when I see students that want to be entrepreneurs out at networking events in college, because I’m like, you are way ahead of the game. So
Unknown Speaker 50:35
You know, that’s another reason why it becomes a boys club, because a lot of those people to be fair, they were told to do that early on. So that’s why they, you know, a lot of MBAs are the ones getting all the funding, they were taught to do that. So a lot of us weren’t, and so we’re starting way in the back. Right? So how do we, you know, especially for minorities, and women and women and women of color is like, we don’t even know that. Yeah, like we’re recovering from, you know, way in the back to try to get into the front of people. And it’s just, it’s difficult. If you don’t have that network.
Andy Halko 51:15
Yeah. Yeah, it’s hard to go backwards in time. And that’s right, change what was done, the best you can do is Okay, push the information forward for those in the future to know. And this is how you have to start
Unknown Speaker 51:28
Network, not the money. Anyone you know, who wants to be a VC is a VC was a VC? They should be your friends?
Andy Halko 51:35
Yeah. So if you have any inkling at all starting a business, now’s the time to start meeting people, right?
Nerissa Zhang 51:41
That’s correct. The people with the money first, yeah, my talent later, but people with money is much more difficult than talent.
Andy Halko 51:48
Agreed? Yeah. Well, this was fantastic. How, what are the best ways that you know, folks can find you and reach out to you obviously, get in on the app, but you know, how do people connect with you?
Unknown Speaker 52:04
kipwrite.app. I do not have a personal Twitter account. Twitter is dangerous. Post Facebook, so I’m off of those platforms, but our businesses so you can find it right out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and our website at www.kipwrite.app.
Tony Zayas 52:25
Very cool. Thank you, Nerissa for spending this time with us really appreciate it. We wish you the best of luck and growing. Thanks for joining and we’ll see you guys next time.
Unknown Speaker 52:36
Alright, thank you guys so much.