Latina Founder Raises VC Funding To Help Fitness Creators Succeed
A Latina immigrant from Venezuela, Alexandra Bonetti didn’t grow up as a fitness fanatic. In fact, she wasn’t athletic and did not exercise much. However, she started working out to manage stress and the weight gain from working long hours and traveling a lot as a management consultant.
That decision took her down a whole new path: entrepreneurship.
The Wharton grad eventually left consulting to open a fitness studio. Over time, she realized that the industry had a two-sided problem: Studios had no place to find talent and talent—fitness and wellness coaches, instructors, and trainers—were treated as a commodity. How do you increase the financial leverage of fitness creators with studios and gyms?
Her answer: Provide them with the tools to be masters of their destiny.
Encouraged by her mother to do something she loved, in 2010, Bonetti opened her first Bari Studio and it became a cult favorite. With greater ambitions and having spotted an industry problem that she wanted to solve, she sold her flagship and satellite studios in 2018 to focus on building an online platform.
“Studios have a tough time attracting great talent,” said Bonetti. “There was nowhere to go find them, no standards, for example, on what to pay them, and no clear career ladder in our industry.”
It was a big black box for both studios and talent.
“The value drivers of the industry—the talent—are treated as commodities,” said Bonetti. Studios charge premium prices, but it’s not the eucalyptus towels that clients show up for; it’s the fitness and wellness talent. She wanted to build a community for fitness creators, support them through their careers, and help them succeed. Because they are a business of one, they don’t have much leverage with the studios.
Bonetti self-funded Bari Studio but determined she needed to raise equity financing to scale Talent Hack. She raised a pre-seed round from friends and family in 2018. In 2019, the startup launched as a job board. When Covid-19 hit early in 2019, it changed the industry overnight. “All of a sudden, no one was hiring, and people [fitness professionals] who had jobs were told to go home,” said Bonetti.
When Covid-19 hit, the Talent Hack team reacted quickly to help fitness coaches, trainers, and instructors provide online services. “One of the quickest decisions we’ve made was on March 9th,” said Bonetti. “We laid off half the team and started whiteboarding. What actions could we take?”
The team was already building software for creators. Creators were moving out of studios and gyms to hold classes online, or in-person outside or, eventually, in their clients’ homes. Bonetti raised $4.7 million in a seed raise in 2020 to build out back-office functionality for fitness creators.
Talent Hack provides fitness creators with all the tools they need in one place. These tools—payment processing, live-streaming, content hosting, email automations, and CRM—enable creators to build and scale their businesses by building digital wellness studios. Fitness creators can use the platform’s website as their own or embed it directly into an existing site at no cost to them. Talent Hack makes money by charging a processing fee for sessions booked through the platform, and the client pays for the expense.
“We have over 60,000 fitness instructors and about 5,000 studios and gyms,” said Bonetti. “Lately, we’ve been growing at 50% month over month.” With so little technology specifically for fitness creators, meeting all the needs of a rapidly growing customer base is challenging. “For us, it’s about doing a few things at a time and doing them really well.”
Things are changing so fast for Talent Hack’s clients that it’s hard to know what to focus on. Prioritization is guided by the philosophy of delivering the most value to the most fitness creators. “Even when you get things wrong, it’s important to be decisive,” said Bonetti. Make a mistake, course correct, and move on quickly. “A great manager does this intuitively.”
The industry is again transitioning, blending both online and in-person delivery of services. “The fitness and wellness industry is at a pivotal time as many consumers begin to adopt a hybrid approach [to staying fit], utilizing both in-person and virtual workouts,” said Bonetti. “We ultimately believe that regardless of what the future model looks like, the industry is being driven forward by creators, and we are excited to use this latest fundraise to build the most important fitness and wellness creator community to further help them gain the recognition and financial success that they deserve.”
In October, Talent Hack raised a $17 million Series A round—the most significant Series A for a Latina-led software startup and the most well-funded creator platform in its vertical. The Series A round was led by Emergence Capital and joined by existing investor Global Founders Capital. The company will use the money to expand Talent Hack’s suite of business software tools to focus on education-accelerator courses, including its Six Steps to Six Figures program.
How will you take advantage of rapidly changing market conditions?