Meet Wellbeats, a LifeSpeak Company: A sit-down with Jason Von Bank
Say hello to Wellbeats, the latest addition to the LifeSpeak family of companies.
Wellbeats has been around since 2008, when it pioneered virtual fitness. It grew rapidly—and has only accelerated its pace since LifeSpeak acquired it in early 2022.
“It’s one thing to build a company to sell,” Wellbeats President and CEO and LifeSpeak COO Jason Von Bank says, “it’s another thing to build a company to be proud of. And I think everyone here is really excited about what we’ve done and what we can do collectively with LifeSpeak.”
From virtual fitness pioneer to wellbeing leader
Wellbeats provides a virtual wellness platform that empowers employees and members of organizations to take control of their health and wellbeing. Individuals of every age, interest, body type and ability level can access more than 1,000 on-demand fitness, nutrition and mindfulness classes led by a diverse team of +60 credentialed instructors anytime and anywhere on any mobile or desktop device.
The company has come a long way since it was founded in 2008. It began as a hardware company that provided virtual fitness instruction over video to members of fitness clubs. Its clients included leading clubs like Anytime Fitness, which couldn’t bring instructors in to lead classes all the time.
The company was successful but found itself constrained by its market: there are only so many rooms in so many gyms, and Wellbeats had to ship and install its systems for each one of them.
In 2015, Von Bank joined Wellbeats. He had previously held leadership positions at Schwan’s Cares, a division of The Schwan Food Company, and Life Time Fitness, among others. Two main factors attracted Von Bank to Wellbeats: the chance to be first to market in the new area of employer focused wellbeing education and his personal connection to fitness. He had always been an athlete, playing sports growing up and participating in marathons and triathlons as an adult.
“It was a really exciting opportunity,” Von Bank recalls, “because there was absolutely nothing like it at the time.”
Von Bank led Wellbeats to create the first digital fitness experience for health plans and employers. The shift enabled Wellbeats to reach a broader audience. That way it could help more people improve their wellbeing through the convenience of their phones in the comfort of their homes. In fact, 70% of Wellbeats’ users now access the platform from their homes. On top of that, 80% of them don’t consider themselves fit—which is also a substantial change. Wellbeats was originally designed for fitness enthusiasts. The company spent a lot of time understanding who its users were and revamping everything from the look and feel of the product to the content itself to appeal to them. Now it’s accessible for regular people leading busy lives who need a convenient way to access wellbeing and health support.
“Making that transition changed everything,” Von Banks says. “Obviously from a technology perspective that’s clear, but it also changed the content. We had to provide total body weight classes for people who didn’t have equipment and were working at home.”
In the years before the pandemic, Wellbeats introduced content around nutrition and mindfulness, as well as broader fitness related categories it hadn’t offered before.
As a result, Wellbeats was well positioned to support employees and other users suddenly confined to their homes and seeking wellbeing support. Even though 30% of its revenue at the time the pandemic started was coming from fitness clubs, the company was able to make up for it and continue to grow.
“I think that’s something we’re most proud about,” Von Bank says. “It was a challenge we faced at the time, when no one really knew what was going to happen, but the team really dug-in and we came out better for it with a lot of momentum behind us.”
Since then, it’s continued to evolve with its market. During the pandemic, it added lots of kids’ content for parents who wanted to be able to do things with their children at home, including those living with disabilities. Now it’s expanding its offering for older adults. It sees rising demand within the boomer generation for good quality at home wellbeing content—and it’s responding quickly and effectively, just like it always does. It has become an overall wellbeing company that counts hundreds of leading organizations as its clients.
Von Bank’s life and career have progressed alongside Wellbeats. Fitness related injuries prompted him to explore meditation and more restorative wellbeing practices just as they were being added to the platform. He recently founded a non-profit called Crosswinds that aims to end suicide as a solution for male youths by removing fear, shame and addiction from their lives through educational and inspiring experiences.
For his work guiding Wellbeats, Von Bank won the 2022 EY Entrepreneur of the Year® Heartland Award. He was named a finalist for award in 2019.
A bright future
Though LifeSpeak acquired Wellbeats in early 2022, Wellbeats didn’t have to sell. When exploring opportunities, it was particularly concerned with fit around three key attributes: products that would enhance one another, processes that would synergize and most importantly—people.
“Going through situations like this, it’s very rare that both sides are totally in agreement with each other. But it became very apparent when we met the LifeSpeak leadership that it was just the right fit. It also helps when the acquiring CEO starts the call with, ‘I just have to tell you, I love you guys.’”
Since its IPO in summer 2021, LifeSpeak has acquired three other wellbeing platform providers in addition to Wellbeats, Torchlight, ALAViDA and LIFT session. Those digital platforms allow employers and organizations to support their people through the full range of life challenges, from family caregiving to substance use to mental health and physical wellness. The breadth and quality of that support has Von Bank excited for the future.
“It’s like every client I’m talking to has a need around what all these companies do—all five of them,” Von Bank says. “I can’t wait to reach even more people.”
Learn more about how Wellbeats and the entire LifeSpeak family of companies can help your organization support your people through the full range of family caregiving, mental health and wellbeing challenges.
LifeSpeak provides a premier suite of education-based wellbeing platforms for organizations to support their employees and clients. Our mental health, physical wellness, substance-use and family caregiving solutions serve millions worldwide
Learn more about LifeSpeak by booking a demo today.