TrainerRoad looks to widen its markets
Nate Pearson was feeling pretty confident about the future of TrainerRoad LLC on the day that he was preparing to give notice at his day job.
After all, the Reno-based startup had been signing up 20 or 30 new customers a day within two months after its launch.
But as the 3 o’clock hour approached for Pearson to tell his bosses that he was leaving International Game Technology, the signups stopped.
“This was fate messing with me,” Pearson recalls.
He steeled his confidence, gave his notice and breathed a sigh of relief when signups returned to normal the next day.
As TrainerRoad approaches its third anniversary, the company has grown to 13 employees and is generating profits on more than $1 million in annual revenue.
Pearson and the company’s co-founders — Reid Weber and Chad Timmerman — bootstrapped the company into existence, and now they’re funding its growth out of its cash flow.
The company has carved a leadership position in a niche market.
TrainerRoad’s software provides indoor workouts for cyclists, tracking their heart rate, speed, cadence and power as they work their way through a training program.
Users pay a $10 monthly charge or $99 a year.
Unlike a handful of competitors, TrainerRoad doesn’t try to replicate an outdoors cycling experience with its indoor training program. It simply works to make cyclists faster.
“We’re about structure and focus rather than entertainment,” Pearson says.
And it’s about convenience.
Shortly after he began cycling seriously in 2008, Pearson signed up for wintertime training sessions at a bike shop.
He hauled his bike down the shop, paid $20 a session, loaded his bike back onto his car and drove home.
“The whole process was taking two hours to get a one-hour workout,” he says.
Pearson joined forces in 2010 with Weber, a fellow graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, to launch the company. They brought on Timmerman, an experienced cycling coach, to develop the workouts.
Over the next 18 months, they invested $10,000 in cash — and tens of thousands of dollars worth of their time — into development of the product.
“Every second I could find, morning and night, I was building it,” says Pearson, who was working as a software developer at IGT.
With little money to spend, the company’s founders were forced to focus on the most immediate tasks ahead of them. They didn’t have the resources to get distracted. When a beta version was completed, TrainerRoad’s founders headed off to a trade show. The software got the attention of a high-profile cycling blogger whose strong support spurred early success.
As the company took off, the founders moved their work from home offices into Starbucks stores, and from Starbucks into the Reno Collective before moving into the company’s current quarters at 140 Washington St.
The staff of 13 includes a substantial commitment to customer support, although TrainerRoad also has hired a couple of software developers to take over some of the work that Pearson was doing himself.
Growth of the business presents some challenges of its own to a business that remains highly seasonal. Sales are strongest in the early winter months when cyclists head indoors. Sales in the Southern Hemisphere — where the seasons are reversed — provides some relief.
But the company also is looking at edging into new markets — training programs for runners, for example — to help smooth the peaks and valleys.
While TrainerRoad hits its financial milestones, Pearson says the company also has delivered on more-important goals.
He created the company when his wife was pregnant with their first child.The couple now has two children, and Pearson says the growth of TrainerRoad has allowed him to be the father he wanted to be.
The rate effective Jan. 1, 2020, is 1.65 percent of wages paid to employees. That is two-tenths of a percent lower than the current rate, giving a significant break to businesses that pay the tax.