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The MaxOne app allows coaches to remotely provide training and conditioning workouts to athletes.  The MaxOne app allows coaches to remotely provide training and conditioning workouts to athletes. COURTESY IMAGES

Reporter's Notebook: Sports training app developer soars during shutdown

BY Sunday, April 12, 2020 06:37pm

Jason Mejeur sees his business as one of the outliers right now in the economic carnage from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In just two weeks during March, the app MaxOne LLC developed recorded about 1,000 downloads from sports teams across the country. Grand Rapids-based MaxOne on average gets about 20 downloads a month for its app, which virtually connects high school and college coaches with athletes.

Coaches can buy and use the MaxOne app to deliver customized videos for off-season drills and training and strength and conditioning workouts. Now that schools in many states are closed and sports seasons are cancelled, business has been thriving for MaxOne, especially after Mejeur decided a few weeks ago to allow downloads for free until May 31. The app otherwise costs $8.99 a month.

“There’s a bunch of hungry athletes and good, leading coaches out there that are looking for tools and to stay connected and stay in shape,” Mejeur said during a recent phone conversation. “Our business has accelerated 10 years. The demand and the adoption and engagement has accelerated to where we thought we’d be 10 years from now, and it happened in two weeks.”

A second app the company launched in December, SmartCoach, uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to analyze an athlete’s form and offers suggestions for improvements in shooting a basketball, for example. The app, now selling for a discounted price of $8.99 a month to make it more accessible, quickly moved into the top 15 apps on the Apple App Store in recent weeks.

“Again, I don’t know if that would have happened if people weren’t at home looking for ways to stay active and do things,” Mejeur said.

That large push that MaxOne has experienced sharply contrasts with the overall blow the pandemic has delivered to the economy, especially for small businesses.

However, MaxOne has not been immune from the economic shock or uncertainty about the future from the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the surge in downloads. All of the company’s 15 employees are working at home and putting in 12-hour days, and for half of their prior pay. As a young startup company backed by private capital, MaxOne saw the need to conserve cash and reduce its burn rate.

“Until we know what the certainty is on the other side of this, or until we get a big round of funding, which I think we’re actually going to be pretty close to in the next month based on some of the new things that are transpiring, we’re the oddballs. We’re an outlier,” Mejeur said.

One of the focuses now for MaxOne is to retain those users who downloaded the app for free and transition them into paying customers.

“We continue to engage those users by providing daily workouts customized to their age and stage of development. This makes our product really sticky,” said Mejeur, a former basketball coach at Holland Christian High School who believes that virtual coaching will “become a part of our everyday lives” for people who participate in sports.

“While we meet in person for practice and games, we will be able to take a trainer home with us to supplement our experience, track our data and progress, and ultimately make individualized SmartCoach recommendations for how to improve as an athlete,” he said.

MaxOne not only has garnered far greater market interest recently but also has been getting inquiries from potential new distribution partners and new investors.

As word about MaxOne spread via social media, tech bloggers and sports bloggers (who have little else to write about right now), Mejeur has received inquiries from possible new partners and from venture capital investors interested in the company. MaxOne has been supported by venture capital and angel investors in West Michigan and Mejeur hopes those new inquiries can eventually translate into a capital round to support growth.

“There’s a bunch of opportunities for us to have relationships with other people on the club side of youth and amateur sports,” Mejeur said. “We’re getting a lot of interest from national funds saying, ‘What are the terms? Let’s talk. How can we make this stuff happen?’”

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