Ed Buckley, our dynamic CEO of FitOn Health, recently had a heart-to-heart on the Growth Fire podcast, and shared his personal journey in the health and wellness sector. As someone who's taken the leap from academia to entrepreneurship, Ed has plenty of tips on how to build a thriving company gritty reality of raising capital. He also knows the importance of mentorship and having a great team behind you.
This podcast is great if you'd like some tried-and-true tips on how to skyrocket company growth, keep the team's spirits high, and stay inspired as a leader in an industry that's always on the move. If you're eager to learn the ropes from a true industry trailblazer, don't miss Ed's candid conversation on the Growth Fire podcast.
Welcome to the growth buyer podcast, where we engage with top business leaders who share their experiences and provide real insights that help them attract customers, retain staff and grow their bottom line. Now, let's get started with the show
Kevin Hourigan 00:22
Hi there I'm Kevin Horrigan hosted the show right feature inspired leaders from various backgrounds and industries willing to share their stories and insights. Our podcast is brought to you today by spinia Tech. Spinney Tech is a 160 person digital agency, who helps her clients attract new customers grow existing and ultimately be more successful in the revenues and client satisfaction.
Thank you spin your tech for your sponsorship. Our guest today is Ed Buckley, and is the CEO of FitOn Health, a platform that makes it easy for insurance carriers, brokers and employees to offer a variety of fitness experiences to their clients, employees and Medicare members through their pure fit product move.
Ed has raised over $60 million of investment capital. He leads expansion strategies by fundraising, driving National Partnerships, and continued business development for fit on. Ed is a multi award winner, including helping his company we're in USA Today's great places to work, and was number 140 on the Inc 5000 list. Edie Welcome to the growth fire podcast.
Ed Buckley 01:25
Thank you for having me, Kevin.
Kevin Hourigan 01:27
Absolutely. Well, I'm super excited to have this conversation. But And while we've known each other for a while, I might ask that you maybe would tell our audience a little bit about yourself, where you grew up. Maybe you like what your thoughts are when your kid you know, maybe what he thought you want to do for a living and share some of that insight with us. You know, ordinarily when I tell people where I'm from, they'd be like, Oh, I'm
Ed Buckley 01:47
not sure I've heard of that. But because of all the class action lawsuit commercials, everyone knows where Jacksonville, North Carolina or Campoli. June is, which is where I was, was born. My dad was a Marine. And so I was born in Jacksonville, when he was stationed at Campbell, June, during the class action lawsuit periods, I should probably jump in on that.
But I was I was born on the East Coast and my dad being a Marine, and then ultimately transferring to Navy. And we moved around a lot. And, you know, I stole it always has a huge positive. I loved moving every couple of years, getting the opportunity to meet new kids and new goal.
So it was just it was really fun for me growing up and I think it helped develop me to who I am today of always looking for new kind of looking for the new opportunities and really being ready for any scenario or situation.
Kevin Hourigan 02:41
When you're growing up, did you think the military was going to be your calling? Get out,
Ed Buckley 02:45
you know, people who are in the military, it's kind of like the police. Your dad was a cop. You're a cop, your grandfather's a cop. Kind of the same thing in the military. My dad, right was marine Navy, my stepdad was a Marine. several family members close had gone there, I actually went to the University of Florida on a Navy ROTC scholarship, certainly looked like that was going to be the case.
And luckily for me, they have an opt out. If you have like their top two, your scholarship, you get one year of college, that they pay for everything. And then at the end, if you go into second year on that, then there's a commitment but you can opt out. And I just got through that first year.
And I thought you know, I think there's so much that I'm going to be able to do that isn't where my I think interests are going to lie. And I'm very happy for the opportunity that it gave me but I'm really, really happy that I trusted my gut and went down this path that's led me here so far.
Kevin Hourigan 03:42
So let's talk about college. You've won quite a couple of degrees out there. Okay. Tell us about you know, what you went to school for which original study focus was and maybe your journey and then that continued degrees you pursued and the intent of the why and the intent of what you'd receive in return for doing all of that.
Ed Buckley 03:58
I'm a three time Gator so if you're a gator out there Go Gators. I actually got back here Mike Gator 100 award so once again Go Gators. I'm sorry for all those Knowles and Bulldogs but yeah, look, I went there in 2004.
I studied communications actually focused on on health communications, and then would go on to get my master's in public health policy and then got my PhD in health behaviour where I focused on digital health. So I've been wild it but I totally got more than one degree while I was there.
Kevin Hourigan 04:34
Yeah, no, that's great. And in, in, in in going after that, that path and in college. Was there an end career that you thought that if I did these different if I pursued these different degrees if I gain this type of knowledge by learning different types of experiences, was being the CEO the company you're at today what you thought to become or where did you see it taking you?
Ed Buckley 04:56
I definitely knew I was not an academic and and people that are in academia have such a great discipline, when it comes to research, I always knew that I wanted to bring ideas to life, which to some extent is the opposite of what they're there to do. Right, they're there to be dispassionate.
And just research and move on to the next research idea, I would read these research papers and say, also, now let's go do something with it. And that's where I certainly was oil and water with a lot of the people that I went to grad school with who, you know, if you're getting a PhD, 98% of the time, you're doing it because you want to be in some sort of formal academic, you know, research facility, and that was just not me.
I never, never thought that this was going to be the path for me. I didn't I have no business. No formal upbringing, no business school, no one in my family, you know, had gone on to raise venture capital or start tech companies or anything like that this was just complete. I don't know if serendipity is the right word. But I'm just so blessed the journey that I've been able to
Kevin Hourigan 06:06
have so far. So let's talk about that transition out of school and into becoming an entrepreneur. So you can tell us, you know, did you have a few companies before the one year you're in charge up today? And or do you start to get lucky with the first one right out of the gate, give us a little bit of insight on how that worked.
Ed Buckley 06:22
So I started a company the it during that like undergrad to grad school face because I graduated undergrad one year early. So I was like, What the heck, I've got a free year, you know, like a year I was gonna not be in the workforce anyway. So I started my first company, it absolutely was not a tech company. But it was focused on fitness wellness, this was when like worksite wellness was first coming about, if you think about like the mid 2000s. So I was really intrigued. And I had that company, probably six years. And it paid for me to basically live like a king in Gainesville, and go to grad school, run the company, learn a lot of mistakes of what it's like to run a company and manage people's very terrible at it was not sophisticated or binding means mature in my professional development. But it gave me a lot of lessons. And it gave me all of the capital I needed to be successful at that stage in my life. Yeah, yeah. But then I started. So then I started peer fit, sorry, then he started peer fit, which led me down this 12 year journey that I've been on to m&a transaction, raised a lot of capital grown this company to be one of the most notable brands in the space.
Kevin Hourigan 07:36
So let's talk about let's talk about that. So I started as purefit. It's it's been on now instead a couple of transactions in between where it started and where to starting it. What was the idea behind it? Did you have Did you have any partners when you got started, and maybe tell us a little bit about where the idea came from and who was around you when you're getting started. So the idea was
Ed Buckley 07:59
originally, that what we do today is just a piece of it, right? That was some helpful that we knew that people wanted to know, to find the best fitness experiences around them. So this was during the rise of boutique fitness. So if you think about like 80s 90s, early that big box gyms, one membership, 12 month membership, that's all people did. And then all of a sudden, in the 20 teens, there was flywheel and SoulCycle.
And you started to have the rise of yoga and CrossFit. And so there was just this fractured amount of high quality fitness experiences out there. But at that time, in its infancy, you still only picking one place. Right? So we saw the opportunity to be able to hop from place to place to place which was so against the fitness model.
Right, right. We assumed that if we could create a frictionless jumping off point that everyone could be a winner, the gym, the member, everybody, that there was going to be something there. We also thought that as worksite wellness become more of a thing. If we could capture the wallet of the health plans in the employers, that'd be a really important component of the offering.
What we didn't realise was that was going to end up being the entire business, right? Can we go get the share of wallet that employers and health plans are putting to work and manage it for them. So that's really easy, seamless, and then help drive maximum engagement.
That's what has made us be successful. And then that's what helped us go into the Medicare space as well, where you had basically one player for the last 20 years doing it for seniors, and it's the same product that it was 20 years ago, it was really interesting for us to go into that faith and disrupt things.
Kevin Hourigan 09:42
Ya know, what a great patient and our company perfect client, you know, we definitely like what you send, you know, there was such a diversity of different types of fitness experiences that the big box gym just couldn't offer any more.
So, for our team to be able to be able to go to a spin class and be able to go Swimming and be able to CrossFit and yoga and all these types of things. You know, that was, that was it that brought that all together? And like you said, so so not what the gym model had been for so many years. So who were the founders of the original company?
Ed Buckley 10:15
So I was working at a gym, I was doing my master's in public health policy. So I've worked all summer on this idea, I'm starting to start it. And then just like, the people you hang out with, they're like, Hey, you wanna help me out with this thing. And next thing, you know, we had a group of four of us, we were all in grad school for completely different things.
And everybody brought something different to the table, you know, we're meeting at most, or we're meeting at Starbucks, or meeting over on our living room, I didn't really wish that that kind of classic, stereotypical startup story where your your work, and you've got classes during the day, you worked on this all night.
And, you know, it was just, it was a really fun time. Having said that, whenever I go and start my next company, I hopefully will have a skip a lot of that is because of the knowledge and resources that I have this time that they didn't have, you know, previously,
Kevin Hourigan 11:07
well, I were supposed to be wiser on the journey. So if it ever takes place, I hope you can take that 12 years of wisdom and be able to learn from it. Yeah. So and, you know, you talked about it was starting to just pure fit. And it said to a couple you've had a couple partners who've helped come in into the business and help it for different purposes, get tell us a little bit about that journey. Yeah, you know,
Ed Buckley 11:26
I knew nothing about fundraising. And so everything that you know, those early days we did was, we read as many blogs, articles, there weren't a lot of podcasts, if you think about 10 years ago, and just made ourselves absolute experts on scaling a business and doing so with venture capital.
And so once again, for those of you I'm in Tampa, Florida, Florida was one of the worst dates for early stage capital venture capital. 10 years ago, despite being one of the biggest economies, this was a commercial state. This is a tourism state. This is real estate, you know, investor base. And so it was nearly impossible to raise capital. And every lesson that was out there was the Silicon Valley model of raising capital and scaling fat.
And so we had this great playbook, but we didn't have the resources to pull it off. Right. And when we looked at all the other startups in the state, they were doing the Florida model, which was really not scaling fast, barely being able to use capital. I just was like, wow, we'll figure out a way around that. So we started raising capital, any by any means necessary, friends, family, people that we knew, just by talking to as many people and asking for introductions, we knew no investors by any means.
And then, as we started to have some traction, there were really some influential people who leaned in and supported us they absolutely had no reason to other than they believed in me. They believed in hopefully where we were going for like Mark Blumenthal at Florida funders, Lee Arnold, which, you know, we've both, you know, he's been there for both of us, Jeff vinik, very early on.
And so they were able to come in and put the amount of capital that we've been looking for to run this playbook. I also was able to go get a great external board member, Jim Phillip has been my mentor now for years, and really had no skin in the game other than to just help a young, you know, entrepreneur. And, and you know, what resulted, as I mentioned to you call that, like, we were 100 and 40th on the Inc 5000. A year ago, right. And we did it the right way by winning national cultural award. So we grew, which was impressive, but we grew the culture, which was really equally as impressive for us.