Founder's Blog: First Trade Show!
Emma here! Thanks for checking out our blog - it's great to see interest in Precision Sports Technology and the product we are building!
Last week I attended FIBO Global Fitness - the world's largest fitness and health trade show which takes place in Cologne every year. It's a place for the biggest brands, organisations and innovators in fitness and health to get together, exchange knowledge and create business opportunities. From Gymshark to Technogym, the German bodybuilding federation and Nocco BCAA, the variety and scale of the trade show is simply enormous. 2022 saw the edition of a dedicated area to CBD, an accelerating market in the area of athletic recovery and rejuvenation.
Big Brands and Fitness Activities
It was clear the likes of Technogym, Gymshark, Matrix and InBody put significant investment into attending events like FIBO. With their huge areas, high-tech displays, staffing numbers and activities, they were doing their best to make the most out of this massive event!
Gymshark had a store along with four platforms, multiple bars and sets of Eleiko plates for activities they were running throughout the weekend. I didn't catch any of the events, but it seemed it could be a cross between powerlifting and crossfit? It certainly brought me over to their stand anyways!
Gym Equipment Manufacturers
Gym equipment manufacturers were by far the ones with the most amount of floorspace purchased. The biggest stands from Technogym, EGYM and Matrix had large demo areas, but also also space set aside for consulting and sales. They were constantly busy, with lots of customers lining up to see what deals they could work out with them.
Although the number of stands was approximately half of what it was pre-covid, there were still hundreds. At least half were equipment manufacturers, with many of the others in nutrition and digital.
Innovation and Technology
One of the key reasons I decided to attend FIBO in 2022 was to see what other solutions are people creating to help improve fitness and health using computer vision or wearables. There was an interesting variety there, from the laptop-only solutions to high-tech resistance machines which EGYM manufacture. EGYM, Curve and Advagym were all targeting a very similar specific market: adding gamification to gym machines to make them more fun and engaging for members, to increase retention in gyms. EGYM sell full digital machines, whereas Curve and Advagym sell devices that can be retrofitted onto existing machines to measure the height and velocity of the weights stack, which can be displayed live on your mobile.
Advagym are a Sony brand - first I heard that Sony are investing heavily in the health and wellness market!
Gamification was a big trend at this year's event. Lots of new companies creating fun fitness solution in different reality modes such as AR, VR and XR. This could be a great way to encourage people into fitness that previously did not enjoy running, lifting weights or going to fitness classes.
Computer vision technology for fitness is still very much an emerging market. There were a handful of companies in this space exhibiting at FIBO with different target markets in mind. One was Improfit.ai, who are selling software to schools or organisations that runs with a laptop camera. Students or employees engage with an online tournament and are scored based on exercises completed and scores awarded for how accurate the movement is.
Milon sell a range of connected fitness equipment. One product they are launching this year is a large device with a LiDAR camera and a screen that can be set up in the gym. With the supervision of a coach or trainer, a functional movement screening can be conducted. The person's profile is saved to the system and their settings are saved across the Milon gym machines.
I think the best learning from seeing the other computer vision solutions is now knowing where Precision Sports Technology has the competitive advantage!
Along with the stands and fitness activities, there were also a number of scheduled talks across the weekend. Two of the highlights for me were "Physio 4.0: Status Quo und Ausblick der Digitalisierung in der Physiotherapie" (yes - I could understand it!) and "FitTech Summit: Cases of Places". The first was a really engaging presentation about how physiotherapy has evolved over the past twenty years, and trends we can expect to see going forward. One particular point to note was the amount of big tech companies that are trying to enter into the health and fitness market, but innovative start-ups can often beat them with the right innovations and team.
The FitTech Company hosted the "Cases of Places" panel discussion in the afternoon, centred around the evolution of the variety of where people are exercising. It was hosted by three fitness technology CEOs: Emilia von Keyserlingk, Nerissa Zhang and Tanya Parfenyuk. Three women! It was so exciting to see incredible women pushing innovations in the fitness industry forward. Who knows, there could be potential for collaboration between Precision Sports Technology and their companies in the future! Girl power ✊
First Trade Show - Top Tips on a Budget?
When I first learned about FIBO last year, I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase what Precision Sports Technology is trying to achieve. This was last October, when I had just committed full time to the start-up. I enquired with FIBO about renting space to exhibit. Turns out the cheapest option was for a tiny area and cost over €3,000! Of course, that's just the cost for the area. There are so many additional expenses to have a presentable stand, such as any promotional posters, information sheets, freebies to attract people over and having equipment to demonstrate the product. On top of that, I would have needed at least two other staff to travel with me to showcase and supervise the stand while one of us explored the rest of the trade show to achieve everything I outlined above. Luckily we didn't, since product development is quite slow with minimal staff in the business so definitely wouldn't have had a demo ready to showcase!
Instead, a four day trade ticket was only €86, what a steal! In total, I managed to visit a huge international trade show for less than €1,000. Nearby accommodation was pricey, but worth it to be able to walk between the trade show and the city centre. Flights made up the bulk of the rest of that, since Ryanair are absolutely painful if you need to change anything. Turns out I needed to change my outbound and inbound flights to work around various other Enterprise Ireland events I needed to be in Galway for.
Since I was just attending by myself on a trade ticket, I wanted to still be able to promote the brand and bring some interest to the business. I had custom t-shirts and hoodies made from a local printing shop in Galway, and business cards and stickers sourced from other Irish businesses. I thought a business card with a free sticker would be more appealing for someone than just the card itself. The stickers came in sheets of ten, so I spent the Saturday before the trade show slicing up the sticker sheets and attaching them with paper clips to the business cards while watching the United Rugby Championship. Start-up life on a Saturday night! Shout out to my family for giving a hand, I'd have been all night doing them myself! I was able then to just wrap them in elastic bands and get them all into a laptop case so everything would fit into my carry-on luggage.
One of the goals I had set for myself was to get international customers to sign up for beta trials. I know now why I didn't manage that, because all the physical assets I brought with me were just the logo and name. They were great to give to people I had spoken to so they can remember who we are, but they were no good to hand out to strangers en masse, and I didn't have any stand to showcase. If I was doing this again, I would have created some flyers demonstrating what we do and who we are trying to help.
So my key tips for start-ups are: yes go to the trade show to get invaluable market research to see how competitors are positioning themselves and meet potential partners and investors. Don't pay for a stand unless you are ready to sell and have at least three staff to man the stand and discover the rest of the trade show. Book your flights late. This sounds a bit counter-intuitive because the prices go up, but start-up appointments change so quickly that like me, you may end up spending 2-3x the price of your original flights because of needing to change them around to suit other appointments. Most of all, have fun!
Of course, our fundamental product and the key advantage of it is still under wraps for now. All to be revealed over the next few months! However you can still see a demo with me directly, just email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Hope you enjoyed my blog!