Wearable fitness trackers are becoming increasingly popular, but a lot of them are quickly abandoned after the novelty of tracking exercise and sleep wears off. GOQii, however, believes it has landed on the winning formula for long-term success. The Menlo Park, California and Mumbai-based company just raised a $13.4 million Series A, which it will use to expand in the U.S. and China.
Co-founder and chief executive officer Vishal Gondal says the company is already the leading fitness tracker company in India and wants to hit one million users there as soon as possible.
GOQii sells its own fitness trackers, but its main focus is a cloud-based platform that sends data to real coaches, who then provide feedback to help users meet their health goals. Subscriptions come with a free wristband, but the platform is also compatible with most major brands, including Fitbit, Jawbone, and Misfit.
The company’s Series A was led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA), with participation from Cheetah Mobile; Great Wall Club (GWC); DSG Consumer Partners; Supercell co-founder and chief executive officer Ilkka Paananen; angel investor Pravin Gandhi; and Gondal.
Gondal says that the addition of Cheetah Mobile, the Beijing-based mobile developer best known for Android utility apps like Clean Master, and GWC, a mobile company network that hosts the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC), will help it gain market share in China.
Xiaomi founder Lei Jun is also Cheetah Mobile’s chairman, but Gondal says GOQii will pursue partnerships with a wide array of Chinese companies in addition to the Mi smartphone maker.
Recent research from the International Data Corporation that says shipments of wearable devices will increase to 76.1 million units this year, a 163.9 percent jump from the to 28.9 million shipped in 2014. That figure is expected to hit 173.4 million units by 2019.
FitBit and Xiaomi are emerging as the main contenders for the high and low ends, respectively, of the fitness tracker market, however, and as recent layoffs at Jawbone underscore, the market may become increasingly competitive and difficult for smaller players.
Gondal claims GOQii’s coaching platform will give it an edge, especially since it is compatible with over 35 fitness tracker brands.
“We believe that there is an inherent flaw in the wearable market. They are trying to sell you a piece of hardware, which most people stop using in a matter of weeks or months. But GOQii flips that,” he says. “Most people have all the data they need about their health and fitness, but they don’t know what it means and that is how our coaches help them.”
Each coach welcomes users by setting up an audio or video call and then continues to give them feedback every day based on their goals (for example, losing weight or running a marathon). While the process is relatively labor-intensive, Gondal says GOQii’s platform streamlines it by using big data analytics to help coaches deliver personalized advice. Most worked with about five or 10 clients every day, but GOQii’s platform allows them to handle up to 60 to 70 users each day.
GOQii hasn’t disclosed its user metrics, but Gondal says its coaching platform enjoys strong engagement rates. The company launched its U.S. beta program in January and plans to open it to the public by the first quarter of next year.