When Austin Cohen ’16 (’11CC) was an undergrad, he studied neuroscience, planning to become a doctor. Come senior year, Cohen realized that his heart wasn’t in medicine; still, his passion for health never wavered, so he set out to create a fitness brand that would keep users in shape no matter where they are.
At CBS, Cohen explored various ideas for fitness companies before landing on a way to cater to millennial and Gen-Z consumers, whose priorities when it comes to fitness tend to be flexibility, variety, and mobile accessibility. In 2018 he founded FlexIt, an app that provides users with on-demand access to fitness brands around the country by offering both virtual personal training and entry into gyms. With more than 100,000 downloads, his business, Cohen says, is “a lifestyle, not a job.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, FlexIt allowed users to pay by the minute to work out at gyms where they were not members—a model especially handy for business travelers. But in March 2020, when gyms closed, Cohen saw an opening in the market. “We had a change in focus when the world changed,” he says. He and his team adapted FlexIt’s model and created the Virtual Personal Training platform, which offers live personal training sessions of 30, 45, or 60 minutes. Users book a live session with an instructor at one of FlexIt’s partner gyms such as Blink, Gold’s, [solidcore], Physique 57, SLT, and many more. They can work out with the trainer one-on-one or gather up to four friends for a group session.
“FlexIt Virtual Personal Training is built for anyone—wherever, whenever—so consumers who have no equipment can get just as good a workout as consumers who are able to access a full gym,” says Cohen.
While many businesses have been hard hit by the pandemic crisis, Cohen says his brand has thrived amidst the demand for home-based workouts. “We had a great product for in-gym access and now we have what we believe is the best access to virtual training,” says Cohen. “The combination is revolutionary and the future of fitness is hybrid.”
Here, in his own words, is a day in the life of a fitness-startup founder during the COVID-19 pandemic.