Singapore fitness start-up sets sights on Japan

Singaporean fitness start-up ELXR, whose flagship product is a four-month-old mobile app, has trained its sights on Japan after taking part in a six-week accelerator programme in Kobe run by the 500 Startups global incubator.

ELXR was the first Singaporean company selected for the three-year-old programme in Kobe, Japan's sixth-most populous city and a major technology and industrial hub. It was among 14 Japanese and six regional start-ups chosen out of 237 applicants this year.

Other Singaporean start-ups associated with the 500 Startups brand include online marketplace Carousell and ride-hailing firm Grab, both of which have received seed investment from the company.

While the Kobe mentorship programme does not include funding, ELXR founder Steffan Fung, 38, told The Straits Times the experience has been beneficial in giving his nascent company a leg-up in Japan, which is gearing up for the Rugby World Cup next year and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Mr Fung, a former commando officer in the Singapore Armed Forces, said ELXR has set up a representative office in Kobe to "show our commitment to Japanese investors, that we want to be here".

TARGETING FITNESS BUFFS

Some 440 million people in Asia are spending US$16 billion (S$21.8 billion) annually on fitness training and gym membership. Our initial target is the 5 per cent who are ready to incorporate ELXR into their already active lifestyle.

ELXR FOUNDER STEFFAN FUNG

In February, he will take part in the annual Slush Tokyo global start-up event that drew 6,000 people this year.

He is also working closely with the Kobe city government to conduct market surveys, as well as to reach out to Japanese gyms and sports brands like Asics, which is headquartered in the city.

The ELXR app aims to build a tightly knit community of fitness enthusiasts through a two-tier subscription model.

The Essential tier, which is free, gives users a logbook function to track their progress, while the Excel tier ($33 a month) brings in DNA analysis, which Mr Fung said is the first of its kind in Asia.

The analysis will be done by ELXR's partner, Japanese private genetic research firm Genesis Healthcare, which has over 70 per cent of the domestic market share.

It will give users a DNA test kit to submit a saliva sample for analysis.

The test will determine if a person has genes predisposed to power sports such as sprints or high-intensity interval training, endurance sports like marathons, or a hybrid of both types of genes, said Mr Fung, whose company's team of advisers include sports psychologists and physiologists.

These results, coupled with an assessment of a user's current fitness level, are used to build a training regimen that he said will help to unlock a person's maximum potential.

ELXR has a recurring revenue of $2,000 a month, Mr Fung said, while there have been a "few thousand" app downloads so far. It is seeking investor funding.

He acknowledges that not every sports buff will find it necessary to invest in clinically designed training, but added: "Some 440 million people in Asia are spending US$16 billion (S$21.8 billion) annually on fitness training and gym membership.

"Our initial target is the 5 per cent who are ready to incorporate ELXR into their already active lifestyle."

Mr Fung, who has formerly organised the Spartan Games both in Singapore and the region, is also managing director of Superfit, the fitness company behind the annual Red-X Games in Singapore.

He has partnered the Singapore Sports Hub to hold community workout programmes as well as fitness assessments.

Ms Christine Lau, the Hub's director for sports and community programming, told The Straits Times it is working to incorporate ELXR into its programmes, like having special deals for participants.

"We look at global fitness trends, and we see more offerings now geared towards personalised solutions. ELXR is... made in Singapore, and has access to the largest Asian genetic database," she said.

"As we continue to offer our routine workout sessions, we also want to give more choices to people who want to learn more about their fitness level and enhancing their lifestyle."