In a demonstration of video gaming's growing influence in other sectors, gamified fitness brands have featured prominently in investment headlines recently, perhaps most notably in the the USD$450m (£345m) funding round closed by Zwift in September.
Subsequently, after several years in development, gamified combat sports brand JABII launched a crowdfunding campaign via the Indiegogo platform on Tuesday 13th October. In this exclusive interview, TheGamingEconomy speaks to JABII Group Founder and CEO Christian Thostrup (pictured below) on how the Copenhagen-based start-up is staking its claim within the fledgling gamified fit-tech landscape.
How will the funding be used to develop and market the JABII product?
As the hardware and electronics are complete, the funding from the Indiegogo campaign will be used to further develop the app universe. The app is ready in a MLP (Minimum Lovable Product) stage, and will be continuously updated with new features, such as game modes, profile customisation and challenges.
In case we exceed the funding goals tremendously, we might even be able to scale the production and subsequently broaden our focus, from Europe to the rest of the world. Although we have data on pre-launch interest from various global markets, we are looking forward to seeing which countries outside of Europe actually turn into customers now that our campaign is live.
Does the company have plans to export the product for non-European markets following the crowdfunding campaign? Or is this dependent on the success of the fundraising?
The decision to scale JABII from European deliveries to global deliveries depends on the traction and success of the Indiegogo campaign. Our current production capacity of 4,000 units per month does not make it possible to cover multiple global markets from the start.
For a small company the scaling is a significant investment, which comes on top of our initial investments in tooling for the production. The upfront costs of hardware manufacturing is what kills a lot of small startups, and the fact that we have now crossed this threshold is a feat that we are very proud of.
Why did JABII decide to pursue crowdfunding in addition to traditional equity investment?
Up until our crowdfunding campaign, we have raised a total of USD$1.91m (£1.46m) since the company was founded in 2017. The majority of those funds have been invested in the research and development of the product, alongside production costs.
Crowdfunding is a way for us to raise money outside Denmark, while also exposing the product to potential customers who might not otherwise connect with us on other channels. With a list of angel investors on board, we believe that we have the right team to assist us in the journey that has only just begun.
How has the ongoing coronavirus pandemic affected the development of JABII and the launch of the crowdfunding campaign?
We initially aimed for an April 2020 release, but due to the coronavirus pandemic’s spread, different parts of our supply chain have been affected at various stages. To give an example, our electronics are produced in Sweden, so they were hit by a slow-down in the early months of 2020. We are now back on track, and although the production was delayed, we are laying the final hands on the production so we can ship out the first JABIIs in November this year.
Being a physical product that is brand new and hard to compare to anything on the market, the cancellations of events and expos around the world has been a hard hit as well. We usually generate quite a crowd when we are out and display our product, but now we will have to try and convince people who have never tried it to get onboard and believe in it.
What is the future roadmap for JABII should it fulfil its crowdfunding goals?
The initial roadmap includes many feature updates for the app, which increases the value and possibilities of the JABII. We want to release continuous updates with new value-add based on our users’ wishes and activity.
Much like Esports companies, we are able to develop and update our game based on user behaviour and push updates continuously. We believe that this is one of our competitive advantages over other physical activity products, and this has been part of the reason why larger sports organisations and universities have contacted us to gain insights in our activity-based data.
With the development of technologies within augmented reality, computer vision and machine learning, new add-on products will be possible roadmap extensions as well. So, we keep an eye out for interesting new technologies that may be able to be implemented into the JABII and whatever comes next.
In the long run, we want to keep producing games in the new category we call Full Contact Gaming; games that combine physical activity and impact with gaming mechanism and digital play.