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Ali Jawad is a British Paralympic weightlifting champion and he has a belief: Exercise should be seen as something for everyone, regardless of impairment.
Jawad’s belief is why he teamed up with his former agent and British athlete Sam Brearey to launch Accessercise, a fitness app for people who want to exercise despite their disability. This startup is part of the Startup Battlefield 200 group at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023.
In the first onboarding step, Accessercise asks users about their disability, such as missing upper or lower limbs. The next questions asked them about their current fitness level and whether they needed someone to assist them.
The familiarization process is key to what happens next: In Accessercise, each disability is specifically supported.
Brearey told me that if you have a leg, you will only watch videos that have scientific validity and are relevant to you so they have been proven to be safe and help you and they will be proven by someone also has one leg. That’s really important not only to be contactable but also to make sure that that’s very specific in our support [of] Each defect is different.
Focus on empowerment
Since Accessercise focuses on empowerment, it doesn’t come with pre-built processes. Instead, users can choose from existing videos to build their own training plan, Brearey said. You can build your own workouts, you can schedule them [in] your calendar, you can set reminders, you can filter workouts based on where you want to train, the muscle groups you want to work, the difficulty you want, and the equipment you have available.
To help users keep track of their training, Accessercise also includes social features such as sharing and liking comments as well as groups. This can be around a specific training or decline target, but can also be geographical.
Geography is also part of what Brearey describes as Accessercise’s third major feature, the Explore section. For now, here’s a map of fitness facilities in the UK, with some basic information about their accessibility, but the startup plans to add more details over time. and also use this information to promote more gyms to accommodate special needs. account.
According to a recent report by the Perkins School for the Blind, globally, an estimated 1.3 billion to 1.85 billion people are living with at least one disability. There are many barriers that prevent them from exercising, but lack of willpower is rarely among them.
We know that the vast majority of the disability community wants to be more active 81% [do] and we know that they are twice as likely to seize an opportunity if it is given to them than a physically fit individual. The only thing that was really missing was someone willing to provide the resources, knowledge and empowerment, so that’s exactly what we did, Brearey said.
Lack of tailored training advice remains an issue, which is why the startup is partnering with fitness education company Future Fit to help qualified trainers assist people. disabilities. That’s also why Accessercises’ videos are original content; There is no substitute for scientifically validated training.
For example, during COVID, Brearey said, if you were fit and wanted to stay in shape during the lockdown, you would go to YouTube, type Joe Wicks or type in press or workout or whatever, and there are hundreds of thousands of options. But if you go to YouTube and tap one foot, there are probably 10 videos, 9 of which were filmed by unqualified people.
The pandemic plays a key role in Accessercis’s origin story. At the time, Jawad was preparing for the Tokyo Paralympic Games, but the event was delayed by a year and he began looking for ways to help the disabled community be more physically active. This also resonated with Brearey: A retired professional sailor turned sports agent, he specializes in underrepresented sports, with a client list that includes several athletes. paralympic tablets.
In building the app, Brearey leveraged his connections in Ukraine, where he lived for five years and is home to Accessercis’ third co-founder; As a lawyer, Yulia Kyrpa left her role to look after her mental health. As for Brearey, he fled Ukraine as the war escalated but describes it as a very important part of his life. That’s also true of Accessercise: All of its marketing and development is still outsourced to people in Ukraine.
Accessercise on a global scale
Making its content available to Ukrainians for free is also part of Accessercises’ plans, but its commercial expansion goals are broader and imminent. Its targets include Brazil, as well as other English-speaking countries beyond the UK, including the US later this year.
Brearey himself is planning to move to the US and move his company there. Accessercise also recently said it is closing on its first round of institutional funding. In late 2022, it received funding from the Cerebral Palsy Australian Alliance Research Fund (CPARF).
More money will help Accessercise expand globally and grow several app sections currently marked as coming soon: nutrition, store, blog and podcast. Brearey said the startup hopes to launch all of these in the next few months and diversify its revenue streams. Besides e-commerce revenue from their store, where they will sell tailored training items, they also plan to make money through targeted advertising and sponsorships.
In addition to expansion and new features, Accessercise is also planning to use its upcoming funding for a major marketing effort to grow the user base it has acquired organically. With around 2,100 active users before Disrupt and an underserved target audience, it still has a lot of room to grow.
The app uses a freemium model and its subscription costs $11.99 for a month ($14.61), which drops to $5.41 a month ($6.64) with the 12 months.
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