In The Startup Battlefield Of The Nike+ Accelerator, You Might Want To Bet On Black!

phil navy seal

There is a reason Phil Black and his company FitDeck is batting lead off in the 10 company Nike+ Accelerator Demo Day. If you want to get the other team’s attention, you bring your big bat. And at 6’7” tall, Black not only carries a big stick, but he IS a big stick. Friends of IAT that were in attendance at the Portland Demo Day said that after Black’s 5 minute presentation to the over 700 people in the audience (you can read a good review of the program from Geekwire here,) they were ready to run through a wall, that is how charged up they were. Which is no surprise, as the former Navy Seal (the tallest Navy Seal on record), and trainer of Navy Seals, brought the house down with the kind of enthusiasm and motivational flair you would expect from someone training our elite fighting forces. Or Tony Robbins.

FitDeck is the culmination of a career worth of accomplishment and insights for Black and carries a lot of potential. A former Yale basketball player, Goldman Sachs banker, Harvard Business School graduate, and Navy Seal, Black discovered that even though he had access during his enlisted days to every possible fitness program or piece of equipment available on the planet, a deck of cards, spent playing a socially competitive challenge game, proved the stickiest.  After HBS, Black decided that the game he and his dorm mates at Yale conjured up to challenge on another to do more pushups, and perfected with his Seal buddies, might just be the formula to drive fitness enthusiasts to enjoy their workouts more. And so, FitDeck the card game, was born.

Operating out of his basement, Black and Fitdeck have sold almost $5M of FitDecks, which now boast over 40+ titles. By reducing and abstracting even the most complex workouts (think Crossfit, P90X, TRS or simple Bodyweight exercises), to simple components, he essentially has created a simple, social, fun, competitive game of complex exercises. His secret sauce, is the operating system, for whatever fad takes off can be leveraged in his form factor.

And now, FitDeck is taking its secret sauce to mobile platforms which it seems especially ripe for given the mobile form factors. The Company is  building a network of fitness applications for consumers, and trainers, tied together by the essence of what FitDeck has always been–simple social tools that create a simple, yet fun and competitive atmosphere, without all the requirements of a gym or any equipment. We especially like its ability to co-opt whatever fitness fad is hot, and leverage the marketing power of other brands to build its own FitDeck network of fitness enthusiasts (think YouTube) and trainers that want to customize workouts for their customers. According to the company, early alpha tests have been very promising in the App Store, and with over 500,000 analog units sold into 140 different countries, we can see why Nike was excited to bring FitDeck and its impressive Founder to the Nike+ Accelerator and into the mobile environments where Fuel can be used as competitive benchmark.

Given Black’s track record of accomplishment, we would not bet against him and his ability to adapt to the many startup conditions that are always changing.


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