Startup story

Fitness startup Fathom AI races to eliminate preventable injuries

How two former athletes quickly adapted their business to evolving customer needs

Sometimes sitting out the game can help with your overall career wins. Ivonna Dumanyan and Gabrielle Levac were both NCAA Division I athletes at Duke University when injuries ended their seasons early. Being sidelined brought the two together, and sparked the idea for a fitness technology that could predict and help prevent sports injuries. Gabrielle, a data scientist, and Ivonna, a biomechanics research engineer, combined artificial intelligence and wearable technology to provide recovery, prevention, and exercises to fit an athlete's unique needs. This was the seed for their startup Fathom AI, which is on a “mission is to help people move more and move well.”

To help build Fathom AI, Ivonna and Gabrielle joined American Underground, a Google for Startups tech hub partner housed in a historic tobacco factory in Durham, North Carolina. In addition to tapping in to the vibrant entrepreneurial community in the Research Triangle, “the GFS relationship opened opportunities that have fundamentally changed our outcomes,” says Ivonna. Google for Startups led Fathom AI to the Blackbox accelerator, a Google for Startups partner program at the time, which ultimately helped them raise $3.2 million in funding. “We learned all the skills we needed to raise our first round of venture capital from the Blackbox program,” recounts Ivonna—and it didn’t end there. At Google Demo Day 2018, the duo received coaching that helped them further hone their fundraising chops. “Apparently it worked,” quips Ivonna, as Demo Day directly led to two additional investments in Fathom AI. But the most long-running benefit has been the Google for Startups partner network itself. “Especially early on, collecting and synthesizing data points as rapidly as possible was critical,” Ivonna says, noting that the Google for Startups community gave the team a swift advantage. “I can say with confidence that without Google for Startups partners like Blackbox, we wouldn’t have come close to the $3.2M we’ve raised (if we were able to raise at all given the statistics for female, underrepresented, and low income founders). Blackbox provided the education and quite a bit of network required to bridge the hurdles so many underrepresented founders face to get started!”

Fast-forward to today, with the COVID-19 pandemic upending daily life–and regular fitness routines. Like many companies, the team at Fathom AI had to rethink their assumptions and reposition themselves as a need-to-have product. “We saw these new user personas flocking to digital products that were struggling to engage and retain them,” Ivonna says. “Around the same time, we started to envision our bio-data-driven fitness personalization system as a solution to safely guide users through sustainable at-home fitness while boosting engagement and retention for fitness providers.” Fathom AI quickly began running tests, expedited a sensor-free, mobile-centric version of the system they’d been working on for several months, and within a few weeks they had developed a B2B2C API that fit the market well.

Fathom AI turned to Firebase to serve as the backbone infrastructure for their new mobile application, which was the basis for the consumer testing of the API. “Currently, we have over 3,000 users on our app and usually 500-600 monthly active users that engage with it regularly thanks to Firebase,” says Ivonna. Through it all, Ivonna and Gabrielle have learned to lean into a trait they say is essential for founders: resilience. It's that tenacity that helped them face the new reality for their customers and their business during the pandemic head-on. Ivonna even thinks it may have reignited their competitive spirit: “I think the pressures of COVID have actually pushed us to operate better, smoother, and smarter than ever before.”

This video was filmed in 2019.

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