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In a post on the Microsoft Blog Baris Ozaydinli (above), founder of Turkish startup Fitwell has spoken of their success taking advantage of Microsoft’s startup assistance, including Bizsparks and Microsoft Accelerator.
Fitwell is a free fitness app used by more than a million users worldwide. It takes the user through an assessment and then chooses the most appropriate goal – weight loss, bulking up, toning etc and generated meal plans and workout ptograms curated for you, with a focus on calories and macro-nutrients.
There are no crash diets, it’s balanced and nutritional – “We do not endorse not eating, we endorse healthy eating,” Ozaydinli says.
Workout regimes are also tailored for the individual, with strengthening exercises used alongside yoga and martial arts moves. You don’t need any gym equipment but Fitwell can factor dumbbells and kettle bells if you have them lying around your house. It’s your own personal trainer, with you 24 hours a day, but for a minimal fee.
Fitwell launched in 2014 and has support from Microsoft’s Accelerator program for start-ups, to provide affordable fitness training and nutritional services via an app. Within a week of Fitwell’s launch in October 2014 it was the most popular health app in Turkey – and still is – and topped the country’s download charts. It now has around one million users across the world.
The next step in Fitwell 3.0 is an artificial intelligence bot that fitness fans can interact with, asking it how many calories are in a bowl of cereal, for example, or, potentially, where would be the best place to go for a run. To do that has required help from Microsoft and its Accelerator start-up scheme, a global initiative that helps entrepreneurs build great companies. Microsoft runs seven schemes across the world, offering the tools, resources, knowledge and expertise start-ups need to scale their business, bring innovative services to market and reach new customers.
Warwick Hill, Chief Executive-in-Residence at Microsoft Accelerator London, said: “Microsoft Accelerator London empowers entrepreneurs to achieve their goals via a tailored business curriculum combined with curated customer access.”
Fitwell was originally a member of BizSpark Plus, a Microsoft initiative that offers start-ups access to training, software and advice. That led to a closer relationship with the Microsoft team in Turkey and a meeting with chief executive Satya Nadella.
“We were one of three start-ups that was introduced to Satya when he visited Ankara, and we just talked about our vision. He’s very charismatic, and was probably the most intelligent guy in the room.”
That led to Ozaydinli applying for Microsoft Accelerator, choosing the London programme as he believed the city was a good global hub. He has embraced the workshops and one-to-one sessions with financial, business and technology experts that Microsoft has arranged.
“The programme makes you think about some things you might not have thought about that will help your company scale and grow and achieve revenue, as well as build a better product. It has helped us a lot,” he says.
The free Azure cloud credit has “been like additional funding”, helping to reduce costs and make the business more efficient. That, and the fact Microsoft takes no equity stakes in the start-ups it helps, makes the whole experience feel like a family, according to Ozaydinli.
“We are also sharing space with other companies, so we are sharing experiences and connections. Usually, being an entrepreneur is lonely and it’s a roller-coaster ride. But here you have 10 other companies going through similar things and we all ask each other for advice. So there is a team dynamic. Normally, you don’t have that outside your company.
“It has been a very good journey for us because we have great mentors that we are very excited to work with, as well as some good connections with engineers and evangelists within Microsoft who are helping us build machine learning and cloud services. That will help us in the next stage of our project, as we establish our company in London.”
After that, Ozaydinli has global ambitions. The UK, US, Turkey and India are Fitwell’s biggest markets, so he wants to push further into North America and China. The plan is for Fitwell’s headquarters to remain in the UK, with another office in Silicon Valley or Los Angeles.
“Microsoft’s programme helps to scale businesses, and that was important to us. If we were in another accelerator, I don’t think we would get the same benefits. And because Microsoft doesn’t take a stake in the business, they help you in a more genuine way. We feel more like a team and like a family.
Read more about the Accelerator program at Microsoft here.