Three Florida International University students zeroed in on a problem: Athletes need specialized, daily training but not everyone can afford a workout coach. Many apps, YouTube videos and Instagram posts contain workouts but they aren’t personalized.
Enter their concept: VDrill. VDrill, which stands for Virtual-Drill, is an app that connects athletes with personalized video training. VDrill’s team — students Tyrone Walker, Jocelyn Wert and Jaleel Jolly — took second place in the 2018 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge FIU Track.
“We let trainers into the lives of athletes’ daily training activities. It’s like having personal assistance when they are working out,” said Walker, who leads the team. “Our competitors focus on the trainers and how they manage their business. We focus more on the athletes.”
VDrill (www.vdrillapp.com) is a free social training mobile application that turns athletes’ mobile devices into their own analytic training tools and is suitable for all ages, the team said in its plan. It places subscribers in what it calls the trainer’s “my party,” enabling trainers to efficiently manage, analyze and engage with multiple clients online. For athletes, VDrill is a training tool that organizes their day-to-day sports lives, including managing training schedules, communicating with coaches and teammates, tracking progressions, studying film and more — all from one platform.
The VDrill journey started a year ago. Wert’s cousin was doing drills off Instagram videos and said he wished he could afford a trainer. “We started talking to athletes and trainers about what problems they have and it just came to be,” said Walker. He played high school football in Daytona Beach and college football in Lagrange, Georgia, before transferring to FIU, where he is studying business management.
Last summer, Wert, who is majoring in marketing, pitched the idea to a retired real estate investor, who loaned the team $3,000 to develop a basic product. About 50 users are testing a prototype as the team gathers feedback and develops the app based on the suggestions and needs.
VDrill’s competition nationally includes startups Hudl, Overtime and CoachUP, but it’s a big opportunity. IBISWorld says sports coaching is a $7 billion market growing at a 2.3 percent annual clip.
Once VDrill launches, any athlete or trainer can sign up. “We are an app to help athletes see what they are doing right and wrong and correct themselves through video. We help trainers grow their businesses by helping athletes,” Walker said.
VDrill aims to make money through monthly subscriptions and advertising; basic subscriptions may start at $9.99. The team is testing their assumptions with 10 trainers and five athletes per trainer. Later they hope to add a location feature to help athletes find nearby places to train; it also will feature sports memorabilia. The team’s big vision: “to become a digital necessity for every team, trainer and athlete.”
VDrill has struggled to find developers for its bootstrapped project, although it helps that Jolly is a computer science major. Jonathan Richter, a developer friend of Walker’s father with iOS experience, has helped them with advice throughout the project.
An FIU program helped too: “I was able to be one of the project leaders for UPE’s (Upsilon Pi Epsilon, an honor society) SparkDev, which was a great program that helped me learn about the technical side of developing software, which helped us a lot in the development of VDrill,” Walker said. SparkDev is a 9-week program within UPE that lets computer science students work on student- or faculty-led projects.
The Small Business Development Center at FIU also provided assistance to the team.
Walker said a key skill FIU has taught him is networking. “You never know who you may be in the room with.”
His advice to other student entrepreneurs:
“You have to have a passion for it, and I feel like if you work toward it every day and keep a positive attitude, you’ll get there. It’s about execution.”
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