San Diego Tech Competition Awards Local App Startup

PitchFest hosts tech-centric local startups in competition for $5,000 and the title of San Diego's Top Technology Idea of 2016.

by Jennifer Van Grove, The San Diego Union-Tribune / December 21, 2016

(TNS) -- Fledging fitness-focused app Lymber outlasted 75 tech-centric local startups in this year’s PitchFest competition, ultimately winning a $5,000 check and earning the honorary title of San Diego’s top technology idea of 2016.

Founded earlier this year, Lymber makes an iPhone app that helps locals book a drop-in spot at 180 studios in San Diego, and more than 600 around the country.

The startup is looking to slice off a portion of the $22-billion annual gym-membership business with a pay-as-you-go marketplace where supply and demand dictate drop-in rates at partner facilities.

Unlike New York-based ClassPass, which was founded in 2013 and charges a monthly subscription fee, Lymber offers workout seekers a no-commitment way to explore various disciplines offered around town. Classes available range from the standard to the bizarre, and include things like yoga, barre, rock climbing and even spearfishing.

The PitchFest competition, an annual affair hosted by the San Diego Venture Group, invited local early-stage companies to measure their business plans and investor appeal against others in town. Some 124 startups applied to participate in October. Applicants were divided into tech and biotech categories, with roughly 70 percent falling into the former bucket. A panel of judges picked two finalists per division to compete in a live demo in front of a crowd of 480 people.

Lymber narrowly won the tech division of the pitch-off on Dec. 13, securing the crowd’s vote over challenger Approved, which makes software for mortgage professionals. In the biotech group, Sun Genomics bested Poiesis Therapeutics.

Lymber’s signature feature, called “dynamic pricing,” likely played a role in its win. Dynamic pricing means that studio fees will fluctuate depending on the day of the week, the time of day and the popularity of the studio or instructor. The studios set a high price and a low price — anywhere from a few bucks to $40 per class — and then Lymber’s algorithm goes to work, using real-time and historical data to adjust class rates on the fly.

While the startup may have earned the approbation of its peers, the company’s young app — 2-months-old — is still looking to secure a sizable audience that will vote in the only real way that matters: studio bookings. So far, Lymber has landed just 100 local users. Though those who are using the app tend to be repeat visitors, as the company is averaging three visits per user, CEO Doug Hecht said.

Lymber has raised $1.1 million in seed funding. Currently, the company is looking to raise an additional $1 million in capital, and aims to use the money to continue to build its foundation in San Diego and recruit new users.

“The first million was spent on building supply and now we’re raising money for consumers,” Hecht said.

©2016 The San Diego Union-Tribune Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.