06/29/11 | Uncategorized

Tracking Fitness with Skimble's Maria Ly: Her Latest Mobile Apps for the Quantified Self

By Maria Ly (Co-Founder, Skimble)

My parents immigrated to Canada when I was a baby and growing up, I found myself attracted to sports like figure skating and gymnastics. When I wasn’t being active, I was actively coding and running my first mobile “modding” business. Eventually, I had the opportunity to represent Canada at the World Cheerleading & Dance Championships and completed my computer engineering degree at the University of Waterloo — with that, I flew to San Francisco!

My friends can attest that I’m a bit of a health and fitness fanatic. Not long after I began working at Google, I picked up… rock climbing, yoga and mountaineering. Instantly hooked on my newfound sports, I began creating intricate spreadsheets that tracked everything I did to train. Uber-quantified? Perhaps… but I dare say you don’t just ‘get there’ with a little rah-rah — it takes passion, goal-setting and a fair amount of sweat. Since I was particularly bent on rock climbing, I took a year off to to climb around the world and redpointed 5.13a outdoors and indoors (ask your climber friends what that means).

Meanwhile, as my spreadsheets became cumbersome and unsocial, the initial ideas of Skimble formed. My partner Gabe and I envisioned building mobile apps that would help people get and stay fit in a motivating and social way. When we weren’t on rock walls, we were developing our first prototype.

There really wasn’t much in the way of glamor during our bootstrapped days. We were like honey badgers hustling to get Skimble up and running. For us, success certainly did not happen overnight.

Tips From Our Journey

  1. Invest in yourself. Prioritize, build & iterate! Have some cash in hand to get you frugally through the early days/months/year. You’ll also want to do everything but with resource constraints, you’ll need to prioritize, build and iterate fast. We initially focused on developing tracking tools for the sports we knew well, grew to support 45 different activities and now offer multimedia training content in the form of workouts for all levels.
  2. Get help. Be your own cheerleader. Upon enthusiastically sharing our vision, many of our friends and community members became passionately involved. We owe them many thanks for things from sports icons to studio time, French/Italian/German/Spanish translations to Android app development.
  3. Outsource yourself. Become ramen profitable. Gabe and I won roundtrip tickets to Asia for best Halloween costume. We figured we’d continue to keep our burn low by ‘outsourcing ourselves’ for a few months last winter. We set up Skimble HQ in China with a penthouse view of limestone rock formations, weekly maid service and a plethora of top restaurants to choose from. No housework. Minimal cooking. Just Skimble!

To date, we haven’t taken any outside funding — we simply made Skimble profitable and sustainable. I’m happy to report we have done quite a lot with very little. The photos of our bootstrapped days show we’ve put smiles on many healthy faces already.

Skimble Tops App Store Charts

So far, Skimble’s launched two mobile fitness apps. At the end of last year, we launched our most recent app, Workout Trainer. It provides follow-along multimedia workouts led by expert personal trainers!

Why Workout Trainer? Many people told us they didn’t know what exactly they should do to get fit or train harder. Everyone seemed to want to be active but many didn’t know where to start. Some lacked guidance, others motivation and many simply wanted to keep their muscles guessing. Moreover, people often had to deal with accessibility and time constraints. We listened and began leveraging the platform we built with our first app, the GPS Sports Tracker, to launch Workout Trainer.

Out of the App Store gates, Workout Trainer quickly and organically gained momentum and currently ranks Top 10 on iPhone and Top 3 on iPad in the free Healthcare & Fitness category. We’re thrilled to be touching the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Turns out you absolutely can make a living doing something you are truly passionate about — we’ve pinched ourselves a few times!

Today, we’re thrilled to launch Skimble’s Workout Trainer for Android!

Rockin’ Out with Rock Health

Skimble isn’t inspiring healthy lifestyles alone. This summer, we’ll be part of Rock Health, the first tech accelerator for health apps! Consumer-friendly healthcare apps should not remain elusive to the every day consumer. Rock Health chose several health-minded startups to form its inaugural class, providing each with a grant, office space and mentorship.

XX Chromosomes Leading Rock Health

The Rock Health program is co-founded by Halle Tecco. Along with Skimble, Cellscope is rocking the female co-founder — Amy Sheng is innovating for at-home diagnosis of diseases using device attachments for your mobile phone. And of course there are plenty more femme powers on board including rockstar advisors, mentors and partners such as Linda Avey, co-founder of 23andMe.

After a rockin’ kick-off event for Rock Health, we’ve settled into the office space. Already, I feel there is tremendous energy coming together. This is just the beginning. Now back to work!

About the guest blogger: Maria Ly is the co-founder of Skimble, a mobile health & fitness startup. Whether practicing yoga at K2 base camp, rock climbing 5.13a (hard), she is your natural-born Skimbler. Prior to Skimble, Maria worked in international, product and marketing at Google, Flurry and Cypress. Maria holds a BASci in Computer Engineering and minors in Management Sciences and International Studies from the University of Waterloo. Follow her adventures at maria.ly and on Twitter at @marialy.

Anne-Gail Moreland

Anne-Gail Moreland

Anne-Gail Moreland, an intern with Women 2.0, was on the StartupBus. She studies neuroscience at Mount Holyoke College, where she is trying to merge a passion for tech and the brain into a new wave of cognition-based technology

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