There’s a simple but powerful concept behind picking the right music for a fitness class. It’s called entrainment — the proclivity for human beings to adapt to the rhythms around them. In an exercise setting, the right music inspires motion and activity, and ultimately gets students to work harder. (That’s why you jog just a little bit faster when Lady Gaga pops up on your Spotify.)
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to take one of Amira Polack’s spin classes, you know the music is incredible. It comes in steady during a climb. It’s loud and intense during a sprint. Somehow, her playlist corresponds perfectly to the ebbs and flows of the class — and you can’t help but move your body accordingly.
In the past, getting the timing and rhythms just right took five hours. She’d rely on everything from spreadsheets to handwritten notes. Then, she’d be forced to memorize the specific instructions for her class and precisely when to give those instructions.
There had to be a better way. So she built it. Her company is called Struct Club and the Los Angeles-based startup offers a mobile app that helps fitness instructors to choreograph, run, and manage their classes.
“I realized that other fitness instructors were planning classes by using old school methods like pen-and-paper. They were even memorizing their playlists,” Polack recalled. “As somebody who lives on her phone, I felt that planning and running fitness classes should be taken into the 21st century so instructors can do more one-on-one coaching.”
With Struct Club, instructors can flag points in a specific playlist or song that inspire different motions or coaching notes in the workout. When they’re ready to run class, the app points those flags back to the instructor in real time so they can easily offer instruction without cycling through paper notes or spreadsheets.
Polack’s idea has really taken off. Instructors at big-name studios like Equinox, SoulCycle, and FlyWheel are using her technology — as well as fitness leaders at YMCAs, university gyms, corporate facilities, and smaller studios across the U.S. and Canada. Some American and Canadian instructors based in 11 countries, such as China, Germany and Iceland, have also begun using Struct Club. And they’re not just using the platform for spinning class. They’re using it for high intensity interval training, yoga, bootcamps, and circuit workouts, too.
Once an Entrepreneur, Always an Entrepreneur
Ever the entrepreneur, Polack launched her first venture back in the third grade.
“My little fingers had a really hard time opening and closing my big backpack,” she recalled. “We found a solution for that — chunky starfish keychains that hooked on the zipper making it much easier to open and close. We sold them to all my classmates for a buck. Before I knew it, everyone had one!”
Polack’s entrepreneurial spirit clearly came from her parents. Mom was a social worker who also made jewelry. Dad was an engineer.
“That brought together concepts of problem solving, tinkering, and building things in the spirit of helping people and serving others,” she said.
Fast forward to college at Princeton University, and Polack found herself studying abroad in South Africa. The experience led her to launch Ubomi Beads, a startup where single mothers in the Tambo Village in South Africa created jewelry and sold them in the United States. Then came gigs at SAP, a Silicon Valley startup, and eventually an MBA from Harvard Business School.
For the past two years, she’s been running Struct Club with four employees in typical scrappy startup style — first working at her kitchen table and coffee shops in her hometown of Los Angeles, then moving into a coworking space. For 13 weeks this summer, she moved to Philadelphia to join the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Working from the Comcast Technology Center, she and her team are meeting with executives and mentors who are helping them refine their business model and learning best practices for pitching potential investors.
Polack is also testing her tech in the state-of-the-art fitness center inside the Comcast Technology Center.
“The people we’ve gotten to meet through the LIFT Labs Accelerator have been transformational,” said Polack. “Some of the people directly mentoring Struct Club include Lauren Jarvis, the head of North American content partnerships at Spotify; Dane Atkinson, former CEO at Squarespace, and Allen Chen, the co-founder and CEO of Fitbod. The list goes on.”
Being welcomed into the Comcast NBCUniversal family has also made an immediate impact.
“The executives I met really found a love for their careers, finding the ability to solve problems and do things at scale that impact the lives of millions of people. But, they also find fun in it every day. They bring a lot of joy and energy to the conversations they have,” said Polack. “They also bring a lot of humility to the table. That’s a really cool part of Comcast NBCUniversal’s culture that I didn’t expect.”
Plus, the Struct Club team is getting a jolt of energy working alongside the other 10 companies in the cohort who moved to Philly from all over the world this summer.
“Getting to meet other founders in similar stages is one of my favorite parts about this accelerator. We have incredible classmates here at LIFT Labs. We’ve formed pretty special bonds,” she said.
The Struct Club team knows women entrepreneurs don’t get a lot of love — or venture capital investment. In fact, only 2.2% of all venture capital funding goes to female founders. But, Polack believes the paradigm is shifting.
“This is a special moment for female founders,” she said. “There is more awareness than ever around the disparity between who gets venture capital and who doesn’t. In Struct Club’s headquarters in Los Angeles, there’s an incredible amount of momentum for female founders as well as female investors. So I’m really energized to see the diversity. I personally learn a lot from these individuals. There is a special energy that’s growing now.”
In the next six months, the Struct Club team plans to solicit and examine feedback from current users to continue building out the technology, growing the business, and deepening its community. Ultimately, they hope to be the go-to platform for fitness instructors planning classes and a true differentiation for their students.
“We’ll be doing a lot of experimentation on how to best serve our users but also achieve our broader vision of expanding access to awesome fitness all around,” said Polack. “We believe doing that through music-inspired fitness and elevating fitness professionals to achieve their highest performance is the best way forward.”