• Virtual coaching startup Perform just raised $1.2 million in pre-seed funding from defy.vc.
  • The startup is banking on the pandemic boom to offer affordable coaching to everyone.
  • Olympic legend Meb Keflezighi and his brother are also partners in the startup.

A fitness startup strives to bring personalized coaching to the large community of dedicated runners — and just got VCs to back its idea and a marathon legend to join its team.

Perform, which offers online running coaching using human trainers and AI, launched with a $1.2 million pre-seed round, Insider has learned. Defy.vc led the round, with Techstars, Calm’s product manager, former CPO of and Uber, and co-founder of fitness startup Fitbod also investing.

Additionally, Perform is partnering with Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi, the legendary American long-distance runner who won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic marathon, in addition to winning gold at the Boston and New York marathons. . His brother Merhawi, who manages professional distance runners and track and field athletes, also joins the startup as an advisor.

Thanks in part to the pandemic, the number of runners in the United States soared to more than 75 million in 2021, according to a report from Nielsen Sports.

As a member of the sport’s elite, Keflezighi said the expert support he has received throughout his career is experience every athlete should have access to in order to achieve their goals.

“The people and technology behind Perform inspire people to bring out their best, have fun, and succeed,” he told Insider in an interview.

But traditional coaching is hard to find and expensive for the average runner, with coaching packages typically running into the hundreds of dollars a month, Perform co-founder and CEO Eric Brownrout told Insider in an interview. Instead, many joggers choose to pick a random workout plan from the internet and hope for the best.

Perform seeks to disrupt this model by providing access to qualified coaches at an affordable price. For $39 per month, users are paired with a coach who considers their fitness goals, writes a personalized workout plan, and makes adjustments. The more expensive membership models offer daily, on-demand video communication with coaches, while the basic model offers weekly check-in.

The startup will also advise users on fitness, recovery, running strategies, feel and other aspects of sport beyond daily exercise, noted Keflezighi, who will mentor Perform trainers.

“The majority of our customers have never had a trainer before, but Perform’s pricing and technology finally makes it accessible,” Brownrout said, noting that users range from those looking to complete their first 5K to athletes. elite who have their eye on world records.

Perform hopes to capitalize on the fitness craze that has overtaken Silicon Valley in recent years with companies like Fitbit, which makes fitness trackers, and Peloton, an exercise equipment maker that offers fitness classes at Requirement.

Other health startups marketed more specifically to runners include Strava, a social media platform for sharing workouts with friends, and Whoop, a wearable that tracks heart rate data and calculates users’ recovery. . The two unicorns raised $151.9 million and $404.8 million respectively, according to Crunchbase.

Perform hopes to improve on the existing competition by adding more personalization to the mix: a real human trainer with fitness certification who works with the app’s AI to help people adjust their training plans and achieve their fitness goals. fitness. While the startup is currently “laser-focused” on the running space, the co-founders noted that its model could be adapted to other sports in the future to further expand its user base.

“The small number of training services that exist today are doing great things, but they’re reaching a very small portion of runners,” Brownrout said. “Combining human trainers with technology helps us bridge the gap and create a solution that didn’t exist before.”