By GABE COHN
Over the past two years, UT has transformed into one of Tampa’s go-to hotspots with the addition of the Innovation and Collaboration building and the new fitness center. The Innovation and Collaboration building has put the entrepreneurship major and other business majors at the forefront with resources and space for these students to be inventive.
The fitness center, on the other hand, has generated newfound interest in health and has also given the university a chance to be at the forefront of fitness technology advances. These buildings have revitalized UT’s campus and have given three students the chance to break through with a revolutionary fitness technology app that could change workout statistics as we know them.
A year ago, senior international business and marketing double major Mariner Cheney and senior mathematics and philosophy double major Patrick Schroeder met while playing basketball on UT’s campus.
Cheney, who is originally from Blue Hill, Maine, transferred to UT after his freshman year, and previously worked as a landscaper and a carpenter. Schroeder is from Buffalo, New York and previously attended the University of Buffalo before transferring to UT. In the past, he conducted protein research at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, worked as head of sales at BA-King Inc. in Buffalo, and participated as a U.S. student ambassador at the National Young Leader’s Conference.
After they met, they remained friends and decided to join UT’s Spartan Climbers organization because of their love for rock climbing. Upon joining the club, they met senior entrepreneurship major Matt Phillips, who soon became the third member of the LiftSync trio. Phillips is from the Tampa Bay area and was a collegiate basketball player at TAGG Academy (Tampa) before his career was cut short due to an injury. Before meeting Cheney and Schroeder, Phillips was also an intern at Skyway Towers.
The three became good friends through the club, and after a couple of months, came up with a concept that they thought could change the fitness technology industry: digitally tracking workouts and statistics hands-free.
“We all thought of the concept together,” Schroeder said. “The technology is pretty simple and uses the same sort of technology that you can find in a phone. With aspirations to get more involved in business and a great idea in hand we decided to join the Startup Weekend competition to see where this idea could go.”
The concept and technology that the trio presented at Startup Weekend involves two wristbands, several on-weight sensors and a mobile application to keep track of all lifting stats for analysis.
The participant that uses the technology, whether it’s an athlete or an average gym-goer, wears a set of two wristbands, which sync with sensors that are on weights. These sensors track the essential aspects of workouts such as the weight lifted, and reps and sets completed. Besides the simple weight lifting statistics, the bands can also track more in-depth stats such as power, velocity and work. All of this information is logged, hands-free, into the LiftSync app and can be viewed during the workout or after by the athletes or coaches.
The application, which stores all of the analytics, is then used by coaches and trainers to create workout plans based on the individual’s stats. The coaches or trainers then can send notifications to the athletes to make sure that they are on track or if they need to make an adjustment to their workout plan. Then they can each keep track of their progress over a select period of time.
That concept and application, which they named LiftSync, won them first prize at the Startup Weekend competition and has generated a ton of success at other startup competitions. LiftSync was voted the global winner of the Disruptors and Big Ideas track of the Global Startup Battle and also took first place in the Southeastern Entrepreneurship Conference’s startup competition, beating out 24 university teams from the Southeastern U.S.
“The business competitions are more labor intensive than most would expect,” Phillips said. “We usually write our pitches a week or two in advance and continue to shape it until the day of the competition. We practice the pitches over and over until we’re finally happy with how it sounds. There’s a lot of amazing startups in the area, especially at UT, so the competition is always strong. Past that, we simply try to ensure that we portray the business in a way that everyone can understand, while still showing the more intricate aspects of the company.”
The success that LiftSync has had through startup competitions has led to deals with several companies including Ark Applications LLC, a private equity firm, and PAR Inc., a software company. The trio is also working with an independent engineer to develop the hardware in the wristbands and in the weight sensors.
“Right now we have a prototype that is being scaled down and readied for mass production and our app will be done in a few months,” Cheney said. “We hope to have everything ready to go so we can release the application in February. For the future, we hope that we can grow the company into a multi-million-dollar company and keep it based out of Tampa.”
LiftSync continues to gain momentum as the release date for their app approaches and time will tell if their concept can put a stamp on the ever growing fitness technology industry.