Commercial viability for an inventor-entrepreneur comes with only about a “one in 1,000” chance of success, said OYO Fitness founder Paul Francis, who was recently inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame for his patented SpiraFlex technology.
“It’s probably much smarter to come up with an app because you don’t have any selling costs or inventory or potential product liabilities — it’s tough developing new hardware and we had a lot of technological hurdles,” said Francis, founder of the Kansas City-based On Your Own Fitness which delivers compact, personal gyms that contain the SpiraFlex tech. “It’s very unusual to invent something and have this kind of success so I was very lucky in that respect.”
“I just happened to be more of a mechanical person and with being an architect, the physical realm was where I started out,” he continued. “[Being able to] launch the company, then grow it, and then get inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame just continues to validate the technology.”
Click here to learn more about On Your Own Fitness and its products.
SpiraFlex was originally developed for a resistance-based exercise device to aid NASA astronauts on the International Space Station in preventing muscle and bone atrophy that can occur because of zero-gravity conditions, Francis explained.
“[NASA] realized that [resistance training] is the closest thing to free weights, which is the gold standard — if you want to build muscle, that’s the best way to do it — but obviously that doesn’t work in space, so they had to find the next best thing,” he said.
Since the NASA collaboration, OYO Fitness has produced varying personal gym products, the most recent being the Personal Gym PRO which connects via bluetooth to their free exercise app that provides follow-along workout clips.
Click here to learn more about Personal Gym PRO release and complete functions of the app.
Originally an architecture student at the University of Kansas, Francis used the skills he gained translating idea plans to drawings to curate lists of potential patentable inventions throughout his career as an architect, he added.
“Just whatever seemed to work I would spend my time on,” he added. “I would come up with maybe 50 ideas and do drawings on 25 of them to research those to see if I could get patents on them, then I would build prototypes and test them. Then about five would be worth taking to market and I would go to trade shows and walk around with it in my pocket showing them to people.”
“Half the time, they would sort of spin on their heels and walk away,” he laughed. “But, a lot of times they would say, ‘Wow, this is interesting,’”
One such encounter ended up getting SpiraFlex licensed for group exercises, Francis said, noting he still receives royalties from the resulting infomercial that gained a lot of attention.
OYO plans to release another “personal gym on steroids” by the end of 2019, he said, with a home gym concept planned for 2020.
Another “wild idea” in a works is applying the Bird scooter concept to OYO products, he added.
“We could have the gyms sitting around in companies’ conference rooms, people’s desks, and semi-public areas where folks could download the app and get a little workout in at their hotel or whatever,” Francis said. “Then of course, like a Bird scooter, you could track it and recover it.”
“If corporations wanted to use it as a fitness device, they could provide them like standing desks to their employees and get workouts in during the day and they could give them a break on company insurance too,” he continued. “Those are the kinds of areas we’re looking at expanding into for potential for the product.”