Just What The Doctor Ordered: Waqty Fitness
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Following a few successful years as the coach of the Dubai Barracudas, an American football team competing in the Emirates American Football League, Kyle Jordan has now decided to apply his coaching philosophy and expertise to business by becoming the Managing Partner of Waqty Fitness, an online video platform dedicated to improving health and fitness throughout the Middle East.
Waqty Fitness, launched by four fitness enthusiasts and athletes, three of whom now serve as board members, has a three-fold target: firstly, raising awareness on the need to lead a healthy, physically active lifestyle; secondly, helping to overcome the lack of online health and fitness content catering for Arabic speakers; and, lastly, offering a fitness routine that can fit into even the busiest schedule. The digital video-based platform lists hundreds of videos of high-quality studio-produced beginner, intermediate, and expert workout videos by Arabic and English-speaking fitness trainers, health coaches, yoga instructors and nutritionists. Its tagline, “Anywhere, Anytime, Any Device,” points to an often-overlooked issue that although some of the MENA’s countries and cities have the world’s best fitness offerings, the access to facilities and resources is not universal throughout the Middle East. “Waqty Fitness aims to fill the void for those who don’t have resources available in their area, don’t have access to transportation, don’t have the time, or simply don’t know how to start their journey into health and fitness,” Jordan says. Waqty Fitness' offering has been carefully constructed to offer much of this content for free, which, Jordan explains, is possible because their advertising video-on-demand (AVOD) business model allows them to monetize the platform through ad revenue. Jordan notes the company’s key success factors as being its ability to use “digital marketing, SEO-friendly content, and social media engagement to make people in the region aware that health and fitness is important to their quality of life, while simultaneously letting them know that Waqty Fitness is available to them as a free resource that speaks to them in their language. Then, creating large quantities of diverse, informative, entertaining, and relevant content catered to Arabs, along with progresstracking features that will bring users back frequently, and lastly, building an Arab community around health and fitness.”
Initially funded by the four co-founders, and later through a family-and-friends seed round, the Waqty Fitness team has now opened a second seed round to continue funding growth, content creation, and the platform's technical development. This commitment, Jordan reiterates, is fueled by Waqty Fitness' purpose to serve as the go-to Arabic language resource for health and fitness in the Middle East. And this region seems to be in need of these services now more than ever. According to recent reports, altered eating patterns, more consumption of sugar, and a sedentary lifestyle have caused different health concerns across the region. A report by Colliers International warned that the number of diabetic patients in the MENA region is expected to increase by 110% to 82 million by 2045, impacting mortality, productivity, and healthcare expenditure. Furthermore, the UK insurance provider Protectivity recently stated that the UAE is amongst the top consumers of sugar, with an average person downing 213kg per year, which is equivalent to 53,591 teaspoons annually, or 147 teaspoons per person on an average– bear in mind that the recommended daily allowance of sugar is just 30 grams (five teaspoons).
“The biggest hurdles for Waqty Fitness' business were and continue to be our need to generate awareness, and to create content that speaks to a target audience with a wide variety of interest levels,” Jordan adds. “This means that we not only have to make people aware of the fact that Waqty Fitness offers free Arabic health and fitness videos and articles, we also have to help make a large part of our target audience aware of the fact that health and fitness are hugely important in improving their quality of life, confidence, and overall happiness. When they understand that they can start to fix some of the problems they’re facing on their own, Waqty becomes a part of their solution. It’s because of this that when we create content, we often have to keep in mind that for many platform visitors, it may be the first time they’ve been exposed to the concepts Waqty focuses on. That means speaking to them in their language in a way that informs, inspires, and motivates them to get started. At the same time, we also have to speak to a smaller audience that has some experience and knowledge, but want to further both with a trusted, professional source. We will always have to work to strike the right balance of content complexity and tone.”
Waqty Fitness is not Jordan’s first foray into entrepreneurship in the region. In 2010, he co-founded SmartShopper.me, a grocery store couponing company in Dubai, and he has also been involved in and advised startups since the early 2000s while living in San Francisco. For anyone considering starting a business in the region, Jordan advises taking into account a few potential challenges, starting with fundraising. “While there is a developing startup ecosystem in the region, to get funded outside of your own money and friends and family network, you’ll need to prove your concept and have early revenues, and you will need to dedicate a large amount of time interacting with investors to procure those funds,” he says. “When it comes to recruiting, you will most likely need to consider hiring staff from more than just the country where you are located, which means you will potentially face delays and add additional costs to your staffing budget as you interview and go through the visa system. And lastly, in order to be thorough with your planning and funding needs, you’ll need to understand the local government requirements, process, timelines, and costs to set up a business, as well as understanding the local commerce and banking regulations to ensure that the way your business will operate is feasible.”
It is worth noting here that the Waqty Fitness team seems to have followed another oft-repeated piece of startup advice: respond to a burning market need. With more than 300 million people across the region, many of whom suffer from obesity, diabetes, and other health issues, and many of whom do not have access to, or the know-how on how to begin, maintain, and succeed with a meaningful health and fitness journey, Waqty Fitness has certainly got that point covered.
‘TREP TALK: Kyle Jordan, Managing Partner, Waqty Fitness, shares tips for Dubai-based entrepreneurs
1. Adapt and adjust quickly.
“Quite often, most of the answers aren’t available in the early stages of the business. Understand and be prepared for the reality of wrong calls being made. When those wrong decisions are made, spend one minute feeling sorry for yourself and then exhaust the rest of your energy towards finding and implementing course corrections.”
2. Raise more money than you think you need.
“It’s rarely, if ever, enough.”
3. Work with passionate people
“Work with people with whom you can vehemently disagree, and still work together productively to get things done.”
4. Make sure to understand all of your company-setup requirements.
“A big part of this is making sure you pick the right jurisdiction – DED vs. free zone– based on your operations and revenue sources while making sure you have all of the right certifications and licenses in place in order to add the necessary activities to the trade license that best suits your company. This also factors into your startup costs and determining where you’ll set up shop. A strong, experienced, and connected corporate services company will help you figure all of that out and make the overall setup process as smooth as possible, including helping to find a local partner if applicable.”