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While Allentrepreneur is going through its final stages of redesign, that’s no reason for the interviews to stop! In this fantastic piece, we get to learn from Luke Clifford and his young, but promising new startup: Zodbod. As a platform for fitness enthusiasts, read how this new entry into the field may be just the solution you need to get the shape you’ve always dreamed of having!
Allentrepreneur: Welcome Luke! To start things off, give us a glimpse of you and your partners’ backgrounds.
Luke: Hi Tien! Thanks for the opportunity to share some information about ZodBod on Allentrepreneur. This is my first interview so I hope I do OK and you don’t need to edit too much!
The first thing I’d like to say is that whilst I view myself as an entrepreneur I also view myself as a work in progress. I’ve not ‘made it’ yet, and I’m still very much in the process of learning.
My professional background is quite varied – I’ve done lots of not so great jobs: washing dishes, gardening, laborer, cleaning cars, cocktail bar man, waiter to name a few.
Then I started out on my own and did the following: Greeting card business, wrote some books, sold shoes on ebay, imported electric skateboard to the UK selling consumer electronics online, and finally an import business selling direct to consumer.
All this time I’ve been reading and learning about business and entrepreneurialism. I’ve made heaps of mistakes, had my fair share of failures but I’m hopefully improving at what I do all the time.
With regards to my partners, my girlfriend has been my partner on some of my previous ventures, and with ZodBod I’m striking out alone, although I have had lots of input from friends, family and Ralph my head developer.
Allentrepreneur: Zodbod proposes an interesting solution to a common problem: finding the right training/dieting regimen by following those of successful users. When and how did the “aha!” moment come about?
Luke: When I saw some people on youtube who had undergone their own physical transformation I realized no-one had given a great platform for this information to be shared in an unbiased and neutral way.
I realized that by creating this platform we could eventually catalogue every type of body change in the world. This was an exiting thought and seemed like a positive thing to be doing as well as a great business idea.
Allentrepreneur: How much time did you spend in development before launching, and what would you say is the most effective way to ensure constant progress in the early stages?
Luke: It took about 5 months of thought experiments and sketches before the first line of code was written. It took a further 5 months of development and refinement to get to where we are today.
The best way to ensure progress in the early stages comes from the commitment you make to yourself that no-one can stop this thing from happening. Once this thought becomes a real life fact, there’s not much that can get in the way.
Allentrepreneur: If I’m not mistaken, Zodbod is a crowdsourced effort. Users are the main providers of content. Can you tell us how you plan on getting and managing a constant flow of fresh content?
Luke: Going forward we plan to partner with other businesses so we can showcase their clients results giving them free marketing, whilst offering our users more ‘plans’ to follow. We also plan to offer incentives such as competitions with awards for the most downloaded plan, best rated plan, etc.
Pretty soon we’ll be implementing a league table of our top earners. I think once people realize they can make real money by helping others this will encourage uptake.
Allentrepreneur: One of the most appealing features on Zodbod is the ability to make money from your training plan. Each plan is priced at around $5 and users get a commission off each sale. Will you eventually allow users to decide the price they want to charge for their plan?
Luke: In the pipeline is the ability for people to set their own price for the plans. This will naturally set the optimum velocity of sales and will also enable our users to reflect the volume of work which went into their plan. In the meantime we have $5 as the price of the download which seems like a reasonable price and undercuts pretty much all competitors we have selling tailored diet and exercise plans.
Allentrepreneur: Can you run through some of the things that get put into Full Plans and what potential buyers get from them?
Luke: We aren’t that restrictive with the information contained in a plan as we don’t profess to ‘know’ what’s best – we want the world to tell us and not the other way round. We do however have a framework people can fill in if they like. Our framework includes details such as diet plans, recipes, exercise and motivation and mental obstacle overcome.
By showcasing people who overcame the mental battle in losing weight (or getting in great shape) we offer a unique proposition to lots of diets/weight loss techniques who just focus on what to eat. This is one of the very cool things about ZodBod.
We also filter out certain plans on safety – things like minimum number of calorie intake, maximum weight loss per week, no steroid use and other factors go into ensuring we offer the best quality of plans possible to our users
Allentrepreneur: What have been some of the most knotty problems you have encountered along the way, and how did you get through them?
Luke: The biggest challenge was figuring out how to work the concept of people sharing successful transformations into a user friendly website. To get to where we are, there was lots of trial and error, and lots of talking through the implications of various possibilities. It can be very tough to make a decision knowing that it may have repercussions 3 years down the line but sometimes you have to just opt for something which feels right and cross your fingers.
Going forward the biggest challenge we face is getting amazing people in the right roles, and ensuring we have the funding to make sure we can execute our ambitious pans as we’d like.
Allentrepreneur: I first read about Zodbod in Techcrunch. Can you tell us a bit about your marketing strategy? How do you plan on getting the word out to the right kind of people?
Luke: Our biggest marketing tool will be our website. There will be a point where we can genuinely offer people the chance to learn how to get from any body shape, to any body shape they desire. Once we achieve this goal the site will get a certain degree of viral growth (beyond what we’re currently experiencing). Our marketing message will also be a relatively easy sell once our proposition is realized.
I see every user as a potential marketer. Due to the financial benefits our ‘plan creators’ have an incentive to promote their own plans via their own website, youtube, facebook. Also when ‘plan buyers’ get great results from the site they will also become word of mouth promoters for ZodBod.
Partnerships will also be key to a successful marketing strategy.
Allentrepreneur: If you could derive a lesson from both the training and the startup worlds, what would you say is the most important one to follow?
Luke: The biggest thing for learning is enthusiasm for knowledge. If you have that, you can learn either in a class room or on the internet, or from books, magazines, podcasts, newspapers, as an apprentice etc. etc.
Learning to fail is vitally important in my opinion that is something that is hard to replicate in the classroom. Even the best people fail. It’s not how many times you get knocked down that is important, it’s how many times you get back up.
On a more specific note, there is a huge amount of resources on the stanford university website, in particular the ‘entrepreneurial thought leader series‘ podcasts are amazing. I have listened to all of them and have them rated on my ipod. There are hundreds of great books out there too – you can absorb someone’s like work in a matter of days by reading which I find amazing. To paraphrase from one of my favorite books – ‘Readers are leaders’
Allentrepreneur: Zodbod is a fascinating new entry into the field. I wish you the very best and as a fellow gym rat will be following your progress closely! Thanks!
Luke: Thank you for this opportunity to share a bit more about ZodBod and flatter my ego!