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FitXR’s no good, very bad year

In VR, hindsight is 360

Welcome to Lowpass, a newsletter about the future of entertainment and the next big hardware platforms, including smart TVs, ambient computing and AR / VR. This week: FitXR CEO Sam Cole on the VR startup’s challenges with transitioning to a subscription business. Plus: Pay TV is becoming a niche product.

Lessons learned from FitXR’s no good, very bad year

Things didn’t really go as planned for FitXR: The pioneering VR fitness service should have been a big winner of a pandemic-driven trend towards at-home workouts. Instead, in early 2021, FitXR was struggling with bad reviews, upset legacy customers and billing mishaps. Plus, acquisition talks with Meta went nowhere, and the VR giant decided to spend $430 million on FitXR competitor Supernatural instead.

I recently caught up with FitXR CEO Sam Cole, who told me about lessons learned from a rocky transition to a subscription product, the acquisition that wasn’t, how the startup recovered, and why he is excited about mixed reality.

Don’t piss off your best customers. Cole and his team got their start in VR when they launched a VR workout app called BoxVR in early 2019. In those early days, the startup sold its app for $30, and allowed consumers to unlock additional workout content with in-app purchases. The app rebranded to FitXR in 2020 to offer workouts beyond boxing, and switched to a subscription model when Meta added subscription billing to the Quest store in early 2021.

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