Need motivation to start working out again or to join a fitness activity after a long, sluggish winter? Don’t know where to start? There’s an app for that.
Guy Pistone ‘12 began formulating his idea for linking fitness with technology shortly after transferring from Ithaca College to Clark University in his junior year to major in Communication & Culture. It was during this transition period that he came up with the idea of developing a web-based platform for scheduling pick-up sports. The former varsity athlete simply “wanted to motivate people to play sports.”
He’s done more than that. In December 2012, Pistone and his partners launched Fitivity, an iPhone app that is free to download and includes features such as tailored workouts (nearly 300 videos), running programs and countless group fitness activities such as basketball, soccer and volleyball. Based on your phone’s GPS tracking and selected fields of fitness interests, the app will search and display activities within a 40-mile radius of your location. So whether you’re into gym workouts, prefer a fitness class or searching for a team sport, you’ll find it in this app. Or if you’d rather start your own group, you can use the app to do that, too.
While at Clark, Pistone’s twin passions for sports and business led him to Amy Whitney, associate director of Clark University’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship program, to discuss how he could move forward with his fitness application. “Amy became my informal advisor,” he says. “She encouraged me to take some I&E courses; they taught me to become an entrepreneur.” Though Pistone did not complete an I&E minor — the more traditional path for students taking courses in the program — he notes that the classes gave him valuable feedback and helped him learn the art of selling as well as flushing out the financials for his start-up.
Pistone, who is the CEO of Fitivity, has worked on the product with his two partners, chief operating officers Jana Dankova and strength and conditioning coach Sean Possemato. They recruited computer science interns in the summer of 2011 to help develop and design the mobile app, which started out as a web-based scheduling platform for pick-up sports. As the app matured technically, the Fitivity team brought marketing interns on board to assist with graphic design, videography, analytics and social media strategy, especially critical due to the lack of an advertising budget. “We follow and engage with active people,” Pistone says, making the most of outlets such as Twitter, YouTube and Craigslist to promote fitness groups and activities.
Since its launch, Fitivity includes groups spanning 35 states and involves more than 500 groups internationally. As the app’s popularity grows, Pistone and his Fitivity team are developing an Android version, planned to go live on April 22. By October, the app also will enable users to rent and split the costs of athletic facilities at schools, parks and other recreation spaces.
Amy Whitney notes that Pistone exemplifies the Innovation & Entrepreneurship program’s goal of working with students to “take an idea and turn it into action.”
“It’s not about building businesses,” she says, it’s about “helping students be entrepreneurial in their thinking.” She says the I&E minor supplements what the students have chosen for their major, rather than focusing solely on entrepreneurship as a concentration. By the end of the program, the hands-on curriculum helps bring students’ products and businesses as close to launch as possible. The rest is up to them.
Whitney watched Pistone refine his brainchild during his involvement with the I&E program, and set him up with mentors to help guide him through the process. Over time, the concept evolved to the eventual build and launch of his application.
Pistone is currently in his second semester of the Clark University M.B.A. program, which he aims to complete by spring 2014. While he learns the fundamentals of business, graduate school is also providing the young entrepreneur with the opportunity to meet a number of international students and explore the global expansion of his app.
“People are more motivated to be physically active when they are engaging with others,” Pistone says. “The more accessible that is, the more active people are going to be.”
By Natalie Harney