University of Sunderland graduate, Elliott Perry with business partner, Matthew Quinn.

Sunderland graduate attracts international investment with London exercise startup

A graduate from the University of Sunderland has created an on-demand service which allows people to join fitness classes from their own homes, and has attracted the attention of America’s fitness market.

Elliott Perry, from Washington, founded London-based Flex in 2015, and has already had up to 3,000 signups.

The streaming service allows fitness instructors to host live and interactive classes, broadcast into the home via internet-TV boxes and supporting casting devices, as users link up through a heart-rate monitor to keep check on their workout and compete against others.

As a result of Flex’s growth, Elliott and business partner, Matthew Quinn have been accepted onto US-based Techstars, a worldwide entrepreneur support network that runs three-month long startup school bootcamps known as ‘accelerator programmes’.

Elliott, who graduated in 2012 with a first-class degree in business computing, explained: “Having moved from Sunderland to London, I’ll now be moving again to Boulder, Colorado - the fitness capital of the US - to focus on American expansion for Flex.

“We’re delighted to have been accepted onto Techstars, the equivalent of an ivy-league university in the tech startup world.

“Techstars comes with $120k in funding and by joining the programme we’ll have access to world-class mentorship from the founders, executives and employees of the world’s most successful technology companies such as Amazon, Google, Twitter and Airbnb.”

Elliott Perry.

Flex works by calculating your maximum heart rate using HUNT’s fitness study model, scoring you points-per-minute. These points and your overall percentage are then stacked in a leaderboard in real-time throughout the class.

Combined with music, classes - including bootcamp-style training, calisthenics, cardio and high intensity interval training - are broadcast at a specific date/time and everyone tuning in works out at exactly the same time.

Natty Zola, managing director of Techstars Boulder, added: “We’re super excited to have Flex join us here in Boulder.

“The Boulder programme has attracted many health and fitness technology startups over the years that have gone on to be successful companies. We’re looking forward to working with Elliott and Matt to turn Flex into the Netflix for fitness.”

Elliott founded his first technology startup, an accelerator program in the North East, at 23. Specialising in B2B online events marketing and analytics, he sold the company to a London firm and moved to the capital in 2014.

Explaining the concept behind Flex, the 27-year-old commented: “Both myself and Matt had difficulties balancing our professional careers with a healthy lifestyle. We had both tried ‘at-home’ workout websites and apps.

“But we found that the ‘at-home’ exercise space was such a lacklustre experience compared to, say, boutique studio classes. The poor experience meant that we didn’t stick to it and build those all-important healthy habits… That’s when Flex was born.

“Technology for live streaming is coming of age and it’s an exciting time for our team, but I’ll never forget my roots and where it all started as a concept in Sunderland!”

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