After a decade of tinkering and testing, Afterburner Fitness is laying the groundwork to launch its water-powered strength-training system with select partners who will be chosen starting in February.
Co-founder Mike Courchesne, the chief engineer behind the system he's toyed with since 1999, not only has named a president to tackle the business, but has also founded an advisory board and will start conversations in the next few weeks with potential partners. Once a part, partner clubs and studios will use the equipment to fine-tune the technology and user interface.
The Afterburner system (www.afterburnerfitness.com) was in final development stages a year ago when SNEWS® was invited to take a look and a test-run. Click here to see that Feb. 28, 2008, SNEWS story, "Afterburner Fitness' new strength technology offers innovative look at 'weight' training."
"We don't want to just sell pieces of steel," Courchesne said. "We want people to get results."
As of January, Courchesne stepped back to focus on technology as vice president of engineering for Casia Controls Ltd., his company that has the exclusive rights to manufacture and sell the patented Afterburner system, with technology already patented in numerous countries. Stepping into the role leading business development as president will be Natasia Courchesne, his daughter. Mike Courchesne said he realized as an engineer he was not as well-suited at pushing forward the company as a business.
"I'm really excited about this technology, and I believe in it," Natasia said. "I grew up around this, and I remember them planning it."
On the advisory board so far for the Toronto, Canada-based, company are those who have expertise needed as it goes forward, including business attorney Tom Hunter who specializes in small business growth, intellectual property attorney Alex Ross who has focused on mechanical devices, automation engineer Thomas Grochmal who is himself an avid weight trainer and a former Olympic-level coach, and engineer Peter Khan who specializes in scientific research.
Afterburner will be adding fitness professionals to the board in the coming months.
"The idea for Afterburner is bigger than we as a small startup can manage," Mike Courchesne said. "We look at ourselves as a technology business first and then a fitness business."
Ready for launch
With those pieces now in place, Afterburner is launching in February its program to bring in commercial partners who will work with the company in real-world testing and fine-tuning. Those who opt in to what Afterburner is calling its "pre-commercialization" phase, or pilot launch, will earn a piece of the business pie, he said.
"We're going to invite the leaders of the industry, the people who want to take a risk," Mike Courchesne said.
The partners, who will pay the cost of an "Afterburner suite," which includes the technology-equipped gym and full computer system and controls, plus a fee that will go toward additional development of the technology, will include clubs, physical therapists, sports trainers or personal trainers. The buy-in now is estimated to be about $20,000, Natasia Courchesne said, which includes a percent of company ownership and certain marketing rights and exclusivity. No money will be collected until the product is ready to be delivered, she said.
"We have a product and it's fully functional," Mike Courchesne said. "But it's not as good as it could be…. We want to shake out every last bug.
"This will help us make sure," he added, "users get exactly what they need."
Although water-powered strength-training systems aren't totally new, this one has a built-in pump mechanism that allows water to be siphoned in and out of a holding tank not only to accommodate a user's training needs but also to lower the weight during a set as a user's muscles tire. All or just part of a weight stack can be replaced with the fluid system. For more complete technical explanations and diagrams, click here.
He has told SNEWS that research conducted at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, shows a user can accelerate conditioning progress, do fewer sets and workout fewer times during a week for the same results.
For more information or to contact the company, email email@example.com.
SNEWS® View: We're not going to argue that $20,000 may be a lot for a relatively untested and unproved technology, especially in a down economy. But after tinkering for a decade, if it works, it is certainly time to get it out onto the market and used by many more people to determine if it has a future in the real world. Certainly, an empty water tank would lower shipping costs and ease setup, which alone could be two benefits to both retailers and consumers.