Hitting the gym may boost your fitness and well-being, but you don’t necessarily make new friends while you sweat it out.
Desmond McNamee says it was this isolating side of the gym experience that inspired him and his business partner, Guillem Ros, to invent their weight-lifting tracker app Hevy.
“We had used other apps for different activities, like Strava, that adds a community aspect for running and cycling, which can also be inherently kind of solo sports,” McNamee explains. “We had the idea to make something like that for the gym.”
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The Hevy app allows gym users to log their weights lifted, repetitions and routines. Then, as with Strava, they can connect with friends and share those workouts, routines and personal records.
“So if they do their best bench press ever, then it’ll show up in your feed and then you can like and comment and stuff like that,” McNamee says.
The app is free to download and allows users to create and log their own workout routines or choose established plans from a library. They may also take inspiration from their friends by copying each other’s routines into their own profile.
When Hevy launched four years ago, McNamee says the stretch goal was to have 1,000 users log at least two workouts, which he says would have been “unbelievably amazing” at the time.
Hevy now has 1.5 million users, with 500,000 joining since January of this year, and expects total revenue to hit $2 million this year, double the revenues from 2021. The pair bootstrapped the company from the beginning and now they each own 50 per cent.
McNamee says the turning point came in January 2022 when Hevy cracked the top five apps on the Google Play Store.
“January is a huge month for fitness and so we had a huge influx of users and that was when the business really changed for us. All of a sudden, we weren’t scraping by financially,” he says.
Hevy co-founders McNamee and Ros met while working for the fitness app 8fit in Berlin. They founded Hevy in Spain, where Ros is a citizen, because it was more convenient at the time. McNamee has since returned to Ottawa, where he grew up and where three of the nine Hevy team members are currently based.
Building a successful app has been a career ambition for McNamee. He launched his first app, crewcam, with current Hevy software developer Ryan Brink while the two worked their first jobs with LiveQoS in the Kanata North Business Park. Their early pre-Snapchat video-sharing app didn’t catch on.
“But it was the first taste of starting a little tech company and entrepreneurship,” McNamee says.
McNamee says the experience with crewcam and other apps that didn’t gain traction makes the success of Hevy all the more gratifying.
“I just want to build something that people use. Hevy getting off the ground, and real people writing to us and saying that we’re really adding a ton of value to their life and stuff like that. It feels amazing,” he says.