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Peerfit CEO: Flexing Tampa’s phenomenal tech growth

Veronica Brezina

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Peerfit CEO and founder Ed Buckley. Image provided.

When the words “Tampa” and “tech” surface in conversations within the entrepreneurial community, Peerfit usually follows that same sentence. 

Tampa-based Peerfit, an exercise technology company, has been at the forefront of Tampa’s emerging tech scene, which has climbed to the charts as one of the top tech talent cities in the U.S. 

Peerfit, founded in 2011, connects employers, brokers and insurance carriers to local fitness experiences and wellness services. It has two main product lines – its original business, simply called Peerfit, which is for people under 65 with commercial or employer-provided health insurance coverage. The other is Peerfit Move, which is provided through Medicare Advantage plans.

Peerfit has raised $47.9 million from investors over several funding rounds, according to Crunchbase, including a $10 million bridge round in January that was led by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Virgo Investment Group, a San Francisco-based investment firm.

Peerfit was acquired earlier this year by Los Angeles-based FitOn, which describes itself as the No. 1 fitness app and digital fitness platform. The acquisition was a major win in Peerfit’s book. 

Peerfit will be receiving the Startup of the Year award during the TIECON Tampa Bay 2022 awards event, which will be held in downtown Tampa on Sept. 8. 

In a one-on-one interview with the Catalyst, Peerfit CEO and founder Ed Buckley shared how his company has continued to pivot and fuel its growth: 

How did Peerfit play a vital role in the growth of Tampa Bay’s startup scene?  Since I arrived in Tampa in 2014, the startup community has exponentially increased in quality and quantity in terms of companies, funders and talent contributing to the ecosystem. There was a deliberate focus by the community to build a city supportive of startups and entrepreneurs. A few key people have helped the community as a whole – [Tampa Bay Lightning owner and Water Street Tampa founder] Jeff Vinik, with his vision and funding, former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who was very dedicated, and that dedication has continued with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and all of the organizations that have been here and are being built to provide support and a rich foundation for entrepreneurs and their startups to thrive.

We have seen not just great funding, but also successful exits, which reinforces that this is a great place to do business that then provides resources to give back to the community. Peerfit has always tried to be a bit of a spokesperson for this evolution over the past eight years. We were really one of the first to raise Silicon Valley-type fundraising from some notable people and have had two merger and acquisition transactions within 18 months of each other, which further validates the community and builds continued resources. We love this city and the area and are thrilled to continue to contribute to its growth.

Since the acquisition by FitOn, what has changed for Peerfit? The team has been able to get a unique perspective and experience from Lindsay and Russell Cook [the founders of FitOn], who come with a lifetime of knowledge of working within successful startups and tech companies. They have seen success at the Silicon Valley level and gave us new expectations and goals to shoot for. A few years ago, we may not have been in a position to grow at the rate they are expecting, but now with their support, we can hit some major milestones. In addition, they’ve given us the space to continue to be Peerfit. We’re looking forward to working together in the future to build one company that brings the best of both of us together.

What has been Peerfit’s recipe for success? Our recipe for success has been an unyielding thirst for progress and growth, whether that be in external sales and partnerships or internal communications and culture, staying focused on our people, processes and products.

How did Peerfit perform during the height of the pandemic?  Like many other fitness providers, we certainly had to pivot and rethink our offerings. Behind restaurants, the fitness industry was one of the most impacted businesses in terms of closures and engagement. Being able to adapt by providing solutions that users could engage with at home and even when they were ready to go back to the gym, and doing it quickly, is why we survived and thrived during the pandemic. We ended up doubling our business during this time and continue to see growth because of these pivots.

What advice do you wish you gave yourself years ago?  It probably wouldn’t matter what I would have said because like most, I was young, passionate but foolish so I wouldn’t have listened anyway! [he laughed] The advice I give people today is you can’t expect the good and the bad to be equal. You have to learn to be comfortable in the bad times, as much as you are in the good times. You should continue to be passionate about the product and services you provide and stay focused on the goals at hand.

What are your plans for Peerfit next year and the years to come? While we will continue to grow the business, we have started to find new services to be able to roll out to our populations in the near future. Some new services will be coming soon, and we can’t wait to announce them. 

 

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