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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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Woog's World / Too busy to get old, he's forging a social link to fitness community

Published 8:43 am, Sunday, March 9, 2014
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Jeff Dyment is 47 years old. He graduated from Staples High School in 1984, which means his 30th reunion is coming up this year. But you sure wouldn't know it from looking at him.

Dyment -- now a Fairfield resident, after living in Westport and Weston for many years -- slaloms with a "Dawn Patrol" waterskiing group. He beats people half his age at the Crossfit gym. He rolls on jujitsu mats with black belts, kiteboards on Long Island Sound, plays soccer, teaches spinning and rock climbs with his three kids. He also runs 10Ks -- in preparation for his next triathlon.

You are probably as exhausted from reading this list as I am after typing it. But that's just a small list of Dyment's doings. He has a cooking show on YouTube, writes poetry, reads voraciously and works 16-hour days.

Dyment says his greatest passion in life -- and he sure has a lot of them -- is "building technology businesses." And his favorites among those are ones that "give the small guy a voice, exposure or resources they might not get on their own."

Which brings us to Fitmoo. That's his nascent social network for fitness, health and wellness. It's a way, he says, to "give every gym instructor, event director, athlete, fitness and sport fan" both distribution and visibility for their classes, products, events and services, along with community building, research, and, of course, sales.

Fitness, health and wellness are part of "a highly fragmented industry," Dyment says. His goal is to consolidate it, creating what he calls its "first social marketplace," with everything shoppable.

Fitmoo offers a chance to buy and sell "anything": a class, membership, event or product, offered by any gym in the country. Dyment hopes to leverage the special appeal of fitness centers. People want to be there -- most of them, anyway -- and they're engaged in both activities and their fellow users. Many gyms are social centers, as well as places to work out and sweat. Yet, he says, no one has ever consolidated them all in one place.

In the U.S. alone, Dyment says, there are more than 100,000 websites and Facebook pages for gyms, studios and personalities. All look and function differently. Americans spend $656 billion on outdoor recreation, and another $28 billion on gym memberships. It's the third largest market in terms of consumer spending, after financial services and health care. Yet nothing -- so far -- has tied it all together. Most fitness and wellness businesses lack the budgets, time and human resources to build sophisticated e-commerce.

Funded with over $2.5 million of venture capital from mostly local investors, Fitmoo hopes to be "the new Facebook for fitness," Dyment says. "Everyone will be able to socialize their fitness activities, share their hopes and desires, join online groups, research gyms and instructors, and find the perfect class. They can rate, post, share, buy or sell something." The only requirement is that it involves "an active lifestyle theme."

The definition of "active lifestyle" is debatable. Chess is a lifestyle; games can be active, and grandmasters sure need stamina. And is golf a sport, with all its standing around and riding in carts? But that is an argument for another time.

Dyment says that former Groupon co-founder Mick Purzycki -- who joined Fitmoo when it started, after turning down job offers from Facebook and Google -- is helping find "the delicate balance" between too much commerciality and too much social stuff.

Fitmoo is doing something else different. One hundred percent of all revenues are shared back with purchasers, referrers or "influential group members." If you buy a product, you receive a credit for the future. If you refer a class to a friend, you earn a commission. If you amass a large group of followers, you'll earn a share of advertising dollars.

The idea for Fitmoo came -- no surprise here -- when Dyment on a kiteboarding trip to Puerto Rico. A Crossfit gym owner was complaining that his classes were not filled. Dyment wondered why he couldn't engage his loyal members to sell for him.

Gym owners and instructors, coaches, race directors and event managers don't often have big budgets, Dyment says. What they do have are hundreds or thousands of people loyal to their efforts. Fitmoo hopes to leverage their passion, building an online community while also opening up other opportunities for like-minded men and women.

Fitmoo is in beta mode now. June is the target for a usable launch. The "global headquarters" are Dyment's house. His staff works hard. But they've got a beach right outside to run on. They do that whenever they can.

No doubt following Jeff Dyment, who may be older than they are, but is way in the lead.

Here is a YouTube introduction to Fitmoo: http://bit.ly/1k6tkOD

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his "Woog's World" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is www.danwoog06880.