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This Tech Startup Started In The Ukraine And Now Has Over 50 Million Downloads

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With the huge rise in usage of smart phone’s as exercise aids over the last decade, there has been a proliferation of fitness apps that have come on to the market.

Whether the goal is to lose some extra weight or build muscle there are plenty of apps each vying to help people reach their fitness targets, in what has become a very competitive space.

With international companies like Nike, Adidas and Fitbit ploughing their resources into the app market you would be forgiven for believing that the fitness app market would be impossible to break into.

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The Fitness App Industry Is Still In Its Infancy. Credit: Bruce Mars

Victoria Repa co-founded the BetterMe fitness app with video marketer Vitaly Laptenok in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv back in 2016. During its lifespan the company has achieved over 50 million downloads and has annual revenues of over $60million.

What makes this rise to success in such a short space of time even more remarkable, is that Repa built a company to rival that of MyFitnessPal and My Diet Coach at the age of 23.

Founder Victoria Repa is 27 years old.

Humble Beginnings

Growing up in a small village in east Ukraine with a school that had no computers, few would have expected the success that the entrepreneur has gone on to have – especially in a technology sector dominated by west coast American startups.

There were 12 children in her class in high school and lessons lasted 20 minutes in the winter as there were no heaters.

However, the ambitious youngster didn’t want to let the lack of facilities available in her childhood dictate the rest of her life, as she developed a determined attitude that she would later rekindle, when starting her business.

During her formative years, Repa took a keen interest in business as she began to study some of the titans of the business world including the “Sage of Omaha”, Warren Buffet. Inspired by the greatest investor in the world, she went on to study business and financial economics at Kiev School of Economics.

After leaving University and securing a well paid job at a US multinational, the graduate soon developed aspirations to create a company of her own. Realising that being in her early twenties, it was an ideal time for her to take risks as she left her full time job and set to work on creating a fitness based company.

Go With What You Know

Having struggled with her weight growing up, the former Proctor & Gamble employee was no stranger to self-improvement apps and online fitness workouts.

Sensing an opportunity for an app to create more bespoke regimens for women she and her business partner created the first iteration of BetterMe called BeautyHub.

It failed to captivate the online audience and yet undeterred by this failure of her first attempt in the app business, the Economics graduate explained to the BBC that her mantra in these early days were “fail fast, and fail cheap“.

Similar to Mark Zuckerburg’s unofficial motto at Facebook of “move fast and break things”, Repa understood that the tech sector has very little overheads – which gives startups the flexibility of trying new products until they find one that works.

The company’s next effort, the now named BetterMe, started to take off in 2018 as its personalised fitness and diet courses gained traction with users as the positive reviews started to translate into a more downloads and paying subscribers.

What’s Next

With the price of gym memberships rising over recent years there has been a strong trend towards home workouts amongst women, which looks set to continue for the near future.

This is reflected in the numbers as the app continues to grow in popularity with 18-34 year-olds. As a result of the rapid growth the company has started to branch out and target more niche’s in the fitness space including men’s fitness.

The tremendous success the company has experienced in just a few years looks set to continue as chief executive Repa starts to spend more time managing the 80 strong workforce rather than being the “chief everything” she was at the start.

By Tom P

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