Create the Future. Today

Wise Words with Alex Gourley

Sport & Fitness

Alex Gourley is the co-founder of BitGym, a company looking to gamify exercise through a series of interactive iOS apps.

Alex Gourley is the co-founder of BitGym, a company looking to gamify exercise through a series of interactive iOS apps. Previously Alex worked at Loopt, where he ran internal metrics and analytics, worked at Krugle on a source-code search engine, and lead a team building an autonomous vehicle at UC Davis. Upon moving to San Francisco Alex turned to the treadmill as the only form of exercise he could find the time for. Drawing upon a love of video games, he subsequently began work on apps that could enliven his workout. BitGym have released two free apps so far, one of which requires treadmill, exercise bike or cross trainer users to move their head in order to drive a virtual car along a retro racetrack. The other came as the result of a collaboration between BitGym and Virtual Active, who combined forces to create the “Virtual Active” app, enabling users to virtually travel through iconic cities and landscapes around the world while on a treadmill or exercise bike.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You have to be the right kind of crazy to enjoy this life, so if you start it and don’t find yourself strangely happy despite the inevitable setbacks, move on to something else.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I hate exercise, and don’t get enough of it. Ironically BitGym is my excuse for not having the time for it. My goal is to build a game so sticky and engaging that it gets me into exercise again. It’s a high standard but we have to get there if we expect to really make a difference in people’s behavior.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You have to be the right kind of crazy to enjoy this life, so if you start it and don’t find yourself strangely happy despite the inevitable setbacks, move on to something else.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.
9. If you weren’t working on BitGym, what would you be doing?
Solving some other problem the best way I know how – a tech startup.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I hate exercise, and don’t get enough of it. Ironically BitGym is my excuse for not having the time for it. My goal is to build a game so sticky and engaging that it gets me into exercise again. It’s a high standard but we have to get there if we expect to really make a difference in people’s behavior.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You have to be the right kind of crazy to enjoy this life, so if you start it and don’t find yourself strangely happy despite the inevitable setbacks, move on to something else.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
On a subway car right now, most people look at their phones. In five years that will change to absolutely everybody. That’s what the gym is going to be, too. By then some people will have persistent heads up displays too. So even walking, jogging and cycling outside will involve interactive technology. BitGym or not, that future is coming. We’re trying to be the de facto way to use interactive technology while exercising. To get there we’re trying to build the underlying technology making this interaction possible. With that in place we just need to get the economics right so external developers will come to use that technology to move their IP and brands into the exercise context.
9. If you weren’t working on BitGym, what would you be doing?
Solving some other problem the best way I know how – a tech startup.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I hate exercise, and don’t get enough of it. Ironically BitGym is my excuse for not having the time for it. My goal is to build a game so sticky and engaging that it gets me into exercise again. It’s a high standard but we have to get there if we expect to really make a difference in people’s behavior.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You have to be the right kind of crazy to enjoy this life, so if you start it and don’t find yourself strangely happy despite the inevitable setbacks, move on to something else.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d skip the hardware and get a year of my life back. I’d internalize Lean Startup thinking earlier and more profoundly.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
On a subway car right now, most people look at their phones. In five years that will change to absolutely everybody. That’s what the gym is going to be, too. By then some people will have persistent heads up displays too. So even walking, jogging and cycling outside will involve interactive technology. BitGym or not, that future is coming. We’re trying to be the de facto way to use interactive technology while exercising. To get there we’re trying to build the underlying technology making this interaction possible. With that in place we just need to get the economics right so external developers will come to use that technology to move their IP and brands into the exercise context.
9. If you weren’t working on BitGym, what would you be doing?
Solving some other problem the best way I know how – a tech startup.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I hate exercise, and don’t get enough of it. Ironically BitGym is my excuse for not having the time for it. My goal is to build a game so sticky and engaging that it gets me into exercise again. It’s a high standard but we have to get there if we expect to really make a difference in people’s behavior.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You have to be the right kind of crazy to enjoy this life, so if you start it and don’t find yourself strangely happy despite the inevitable setbacks, move on to something else.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.
6. What motivates you to keep going?
I’m the kind of person that derives meaning from solving problems. I see a big problem in the world right now, not the biggest, but big. And by chance I’ve arrived at a spot where I’m uniquely able to take swings at it. So I’m swinging away.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d skip the hardware and get a year of my life back. I’d internalize Lean Startup thinking earlier and more profoundly.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
On a subway car right now, most people look at their phones. In five years that will change to absolutely everybody. That’s what the gym is going to be, too. By then some people will have persistent heads up displays too. So even walking, jogging and cycling outside will involve interactive technology. BitGym or not, that future is coming. We’re trying to be the de facto way to use interactive technology while exercising. To get there we’re trying to build the underlying technology making this interaction possible. With that in place we just need to get the economics right so external developers will come to use that technology to move their IP and brands into the exercise context.
9. If you weren’t working on BitGym, what would you be doing?
Solving some other problem the best way I know how – a tech startup.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I hate exercise, and don’t get enough of it. Ironically BitGym is my excuse for not having the time for it. My goal is to build a game so sticky and engaging that it gets me into exercise again. It’s a high standard but we have to get there if we expect to really make a difference in people’s behavior.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You have to be the right kind of crazy to enjoy this life, so if you start it and don’t find yourself strangely happy despite the inevitable setbacks, move on to something else.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.
5. What drove you crazy when building your business?
I think I got a lot of bad advice from the tech and entrepreneurial community at large when I first started. I was told any relationship with an investor was going to be adversarial. I was told that they are short sighted and that they had to be managed. Starting from that perspective can make you waste a lot of time worrying about superficial appearances, engaging in cargo cult behavior and generally having the wrong priorities. It drove me crazy to have two heuristics, one from my perspective and one from a hypothetical investor perspective. It’s only now after talking to lots of investors, reading their blogs and reading their books that I’ve realized most of the ones still in business are quite smart and reasonable people. I’m still working at it, but I believe it’s possible to unify these two heuristics by finding their underlying truths, and as I approach that it gets easier and easier to have productive conversations with investors instead of trying to put on a show for their money.
6. What motivates you to keep going?
I’m the kind of person that derives meaning from solving problems. I see a big problem in the world right now, not the biggest, but big. And by chance I’ve arrived at a spot where I’m uniquely able to take swings at it. So I’m swinging away.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d skip the hardware and get a year of my life back. I’d internalize Lean Startup thinking earlier and more profoundly.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
On a subway car right now, most people look at their phones. In five years that will change to absolutely everybody. That’s what the gym is going to be, too. By then some people will have persistent heads up displays too. So even walking, jogging and cycling outside will involve interactive technology. BitGym or not, that future is coming. We’re trying to be the de facto way to use interactive technology while exercising. To get there we’re trying to build the underlying technology making this interaction possible. With that in place we just need to get the economics right so external developers will come to use that technology to move their IP and brands into the exercise context.
9. If you weren’t working on BitGym, what would you be doing?
Solving some other problem the best way I know how – a tech startup.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I hate exercise, and don’t get enough of it. Ironically BitGym is my excuse for not having the time for it. My goal is to build a game so sticky and engaging that it gets me into exercise again. It’s a high standard but we have to get there if we expect to really make a difference in people’s behavior.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You have to be the right kind of crazy to enjoy this life, so if you start it and don’t find yourself strangely happy despite the inevitable setbacks, move on to something else.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.
4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
Chris Sacca once said advice is over generalization and anecdotal experience. So even if I eventually reach entrepreneurial success I’m not sure I’ll have a credible answer for you.
5. What drove you crazy when building your business?
I think I got a lot of bad advice from the tech and entrepreneurial community at large when I first started. I was told any relationship with an investor was going to be adversarial. I was told that they are short sighted and that they had to be managed. Starting from that perspective can make you waste a lot of time worrying about superficial appearances, engaging in cargo cult behavior and generally having the wrong priorities. It drove me crazy to have two heuristics, one from my perspective and one from a hypothetical investor perspective. It’s only now after talking to lots of investors, reading their blogs and reading their books that I’ve realized most of the ones still in business are quite smart and reasonable people. I’m still working at it, but I believe it’s possible to unify these two heuristics by finding their underlying truths, and as I approach that it gets easier and easier to have productive conversations with investors instead of trying to put on a show for their money.
6. What motivates you to keep going?
I’m the kind of person that derives meaning from solving problems. I see a big problem in the world right now, not the biggest, but big. And by chance I’ve arrived at a spot where I’m uniquely able to take swings at it. So I’m swinging away.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d skip the hardware and get a year of my life back. I’d internalize Lean Startup thinking earlier and more profoundly.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
On a subway car right now, most people look at their phones. In five years that will change to absolutely everybody. That’s what the gym is going to be, too. By then some people will have persistent heads up displays too. So even walking, jogging and cycling outside will involve interactive technology. BitGym or not, that future is coming. We’re trying to be the de facto way to use interactive technology while exercising. To get there we’re trying to build the underlying technology making this interaction possible. With that in place we just need to get the economics right so external developers will come to use that technology to move their IP and brands into the exercise context.
9. If you weren’t working on BitGym, what would you be doing?
Solving some other problem the best way I know how – a tech startup.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I hate exercise, and don’t get enough of it. Ironically BitGym is my excuse for not having the time for it. My goal is to build a game so sticky and engaging that it gets me into exercise again. It’s a high standard but we have to get there if we expect to really make a difference in people’s behavior.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You have to be the right kind of crazy to enjoy this life, so if you start it and don’t find yourself strangely happy despite the inevitable setbacks, move on to something else.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.
3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on BitGym?
Video games. I’ve been a gaming nut since getting my first NES at age 5, but now I can pretend I’m doing research as I play. It’s true though; once you start designing games you start to look at published titles through entirely different eyes, seeing every game design choice and tradeoff. It’s especially interesting to me to see how traditional game designers and the new wave of “social” game designers are starting to arrive at the same patterns despite coming at them from different directions.
4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
Chris Sacca once said advice is over generalization and anecdotal experience. So even if I eventually reach entrepreneurial success I’m not sure I’ll have a credible answer for you.
5. What drove you crazy when building your business?
I think I got a lot of bad advice from the tech and entrepreneurial community at large when I first started. I was told any relationship with an investor was going to be adversarial. I was told that they are short sighted and that they had to be managed. Starting from that perspective can make you waste a lot of time worrying about superficial appearances, engaging in cargo cult behavior and generally having the wrong priorities. It drove me crazy to have two heuristics, one from my perspective and one from a hypothetical investor perspective. It’s only now after talking to lots of investors, reading their blogs and reading their books that I’ve realized most of the ones still in business are quite smart and reasonable people. I’m still working at it, but I believe it’s possible to unify these two heuristics by finding their underlying truths, and as I approach that it gets easier and easier to have productive conversations with investors instead of trying to put on a show for their money.
6. What motivates you to keep going?
I’m the kind of person that derives meaning from solving problems. I see a big problem in the world right now, not the biggest, but big. And by chance I’ve arrived at a spot where I’m uniquely able to take swings at it. So I’m swinging away.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d skip the hardware and get a year of my life back. I’d internalize Lean Startup thinking earlier and more profoundly.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
On a subway car right now, most people look at their phones. In five years that will change to absolutely everybody. That’s what the gym is going to be, too. By then some people will have persistent heads up displays too. So even walking, jogging and cycling outside will involve interactive technology. BitGym or not, that future is coming. We’re trying to be the de facto way to use interactive technology while exercising. To get there we’re trying to build the underlying technology making this interaction possible. With that in place we just need to get the economics right so external developers will come to use that technology to move their IP and brands into the exercise context.
9. If you weren’t working on BitGym, what would you be doing?
Solving some other problem the best way I know how – a tech startup.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I hate exercise, and don’t get enough of it. Ironically BitGym is my excuse for not having the time for it. My goal is to build a game so sticky and engaging that it gets me into exercise again. It’s a high standard but we have to get there if we expect to really make a difference in people’s behavior.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You have to be the right kind of crazy to enjoy this life, so if you start it and don’t find yourself strangely happy despite the inevitable setbacks, move on to something else.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.
2. Can you describe a typical working day?
Clint, Josh and I get into our office around 10am each day. Our corner of the Mission district in San Francisco isn’t the nicest, but the rent is cheap and the view from the 5th floor wall-to-wall windows is really inspiring for creative work. Josh generally works on the motion and head tracking code, Clint works on the website or latest app, and I jump around the boring bits like fundraising, marketing, customer support, bizdev, and product specs. We work until 7 or 8 then head to our respective homes, but usually work a few more hours. When we have a release deadline it’s common to be up working until 2 or 3 in the morning.
3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on BitGym?
Video games. I’ve been a gaming nut since getting my first NES at age 5, but now I can pretend I’m doing research as I play. It’s true though; once you start designing games you start to look at published titles through entirely different eyes, seeing every game design choice and tradeoff. It’s especially interesting to me to see how traditional game designers and the new wave of “social” game designers are starting to arrive at the same patterns despite coming at them from different directions.
4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
Chris Sacca once said advice is over generalization and anecdotal experience. So even if I eventually reach entrepreneurial success I’m not sure I’ll have a credible answer for you.
5. What drove you crazy when building your business?
I think I got a lot of bad advice from the tech and entrepreneurial community at large when I first started. I was told any relationship with an investor was going to be adversarial. I was told that they are short sighted and that they had to be managed. Starting from that perspective can make you waste a lot of time worrying about superficial appearances, engaging in cargo cult behavior and generally having the wrong priorities. It drove me crazy to have two heuristics, one from my perspective and one from a hypothetical investor perspective. It’s only now after talking to lots of investors, reading their blogs and reading their books that I’ve realized most of the ones still in business are quite smart and reasonable people. I’m still working at it, but I believe it’s possible to unify these two heuristics by finding their underlying truths, and as I approach that it gets easier and easier to have productive conversations with investors instead of trying to put on a show for their money.
6. What motivates you to keep going?
I’m the kind of person that derives meaning from solving problems. I see a big problem in the world right now, not the biggest, but big. And by chance I’ve arrived at a spot where I’m uniquely able to take swings at it. So I’m swinging away.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d skip the hardware and get a year of my life back. I’d internalize Lean Startup thinking earlier and more profoundly.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
On a subway car right now, most people look at their phones. In five years that will change to absolutely everybody. That’s what the gym is going to be, too. By then some people will have persistent heads up displays too. So even walking, jogging and cycling outside will involve interactive technology. BitGym or not, that future is coming. We’re trying to be the de facto way to use interactive technology while exercising. To get there we’re trying to build the underlying technology making this interaction possible. With that in place we just need to get the economics right so external developers will come to use that technology to move their IP and brands into the exercise context.
9. If you weren’t working on BitGym, what would you be doing?
Solving some other problem the best way I know how – a tech startup.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I hate exercise, and don’t get enough of it. Ironically BitGym is my excuse for not having the time for it. My goal is to build a game so sticky and engaging that it gets me into exercise again. It’s a high standard but we have to get there if we expect to really make a difference in people’s behavior.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You have to be the right kind of crazy to enjoy this life, so if you start it and don’t find yourself strangely happy despite the inevitable setbacks, move on to something else.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.
1. Where did the idea for BitGym come from?
After I moved to San Francisco in 2009 I lost access to my ultimate frisbee pickup game and started going to a gym instead. Running on a treadmill was maddening and I kept thinking of how I wished that I were playing a game. Of course that realization is nothing new – there are patents on cardio machine video game interfaces going back 30 years. The real leap for us realizing we could do it without any special hardware at all. After nearly a year of a trying to build special iPhone hardware, a brainstorm session with a new cofounder made us realize we could probably ditch it entirely. A week later we had a working prototype and we have not looked back since.
2. Can you describe a typical working day?
Clint, Josh and I get into our office around 10am each day. Our corner of the Mission district in San Francisco isn’t the nicest, but the rent is cheap and the view from the 5th floor wall-to-wall windows is really inspiring for creative work. Josh generally works on the motion and head tracking code, Clint works on the website or latest app, and I jump around the boring bits like fundraising, marketing, customer support, bizdev, and product specs. We work until 7 or 8 then head to our respective homes, but usually work a few more hours. When we have a release deadline it’s common to be up working until 2 or 3 in the morning.
3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on BitGym?
Video games. I’ve been a gaming nut since getting my first NES at age 5, but now I can pretend I’m doing research as I play. It’s true though; once you start designing games you start to look at published titles through entirely different eyes, seeing every game design choice and tradeoff. It’s especially interesting to me to see how traditional game designers and the new wave of “social” game designers are starting to arrive at the same patterns despite coming at them from different directions.
4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
Chris Sacca once said advice is over generalization and anecdotal experience. So even if I eventually reach entrepreneurial success I’m not sure I’ll have a credible answer for you.
5. What drove you crazy when building your business?
I think I got a lot of bad advice from the tech and entrepreneurial community at large when I first started. I was told any relationship with an investor was going to be adversarial. I was told that they are short sighted and that they had to be managed. Starting from that perspective can make you waste a lot of time worrying about superficial appearances, engaging in cargo cult behavior and generally having the wrong priorities. It drove me crazy to have two heuristics, one from my perspective and one from a hypothetical investor perspective. It’s only now after talking to lots of investors, reading their blogs and reading their books that I’ve realized most of the ones still in business are quite smart and reasonable people. I’m still working at it, but I believe it’s possible to unify these two heuristics by finding their underlying truths, and as I approach that it gets easier and easier to have productive conversations with investors instead of trying to put on a show for their money.
6. What motivates you to keep going?
I’m the kind of person that derives meaning from solving problems. I see a big problem in the world right now, not the biggest, but big. And by chance I’ve arrived at a spot where I’m uniquely able to take swings at it. So I’m swinging away.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d skip the hardware and get a year of my life back. I’d internalize Lean Startup thinking earlier and more profoundly.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
On a subway car right now, most people look at their phones. In five years that will change to absolutely everybody. That’s what the gym is going to be, too. By then some people will have persistent heads up displays too. So even walking, jogging and cycling outside will involve interactive technology. BitGym or not, that future is coming. We’re trying to be the de facto way to use interactive technology while exercising. To get there we’re trying to build the underlying technology making this interaction possible. With that in place we just need to get the economics right so external developers will come to use that technology to move their IP and brands into the exercise context.
9. If you weren’t working on BitGym, what would you be doing?
Solving some other problem the best way I know how – a tech startup.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I hate exercise, and don’t get enough of it. Ironically BitGym is my excuse for not having the time for it. My goal is to build a game so sticky and engaging that it gets me into exercise again. It’s a high standard but we have to get there if we expect to really make a difference in people’s behavior.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You have to be the right kind of crazy to enjoy this life, so if you start it and don’t find yourself strangely happy despite the inevitable setbacks, move on to something else.
Thanks Alex!
You can read more about BitGym in our article here, or visit the BitGym website here.