How ‘Peloton’ Founder Built Billion-Dollar Bike Company

Peloton co-founder John Foley couldn’t have picked a better time to establish a workout-from-home fitness product, complete with online classes and more. Who knew the world would encounter a pandemic, leaving stores, gyms, and movie theaters empty and Americans sitting at home?

In 2012, Foley, along with several colleagues recognized the frustration of getting to workout classes amidst balancing work, family and other responsibilities. Why not bring those challenging workouts inside the home to do on your personal schedule?

They set to work, bringing together experts in technology, hardware and production to produce an exercise bike with an attached touchscreen and sound system. The Peloton app offers access to thousands of classes, saves your workout history and achievements and gives users a variety of training programs and challenges.

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Pedaling Through The Pandemic

The team sold their first bike in 2013 and the company was doing well, however, as COVID hit the United States, Foley saw business increase to a total of 2.6 million members and for the first time, one year ago, more than 1 million workouts were taken in one day by Peloton members according to TIME.

Shortly after, the company broke their record for largest live class, welcoming 23,000 people to one class.

It hasn’t always been easy.

Bouncing Back

Foley worked his way through college, taking the night shift at a local Skittles factory and in the beginning, he spent weekends selling Pelotons at a New Jersey Mall.

In late 2019, the company released a holiday ad that received backlash from some who found it sexist. The ad shows a man giving a woman a Peloton bike for Christmas and her fitness journey.

Foley said the public’s reaction gets to him at times because their intention was to share how the bike can make anyone feel better, motivated and healthier.

“It’s about those endorphins and being your best self and looking forward to waking up and feeling stronger. Being a better dad or a better mom or a better professional,” Foley said.

With the commercial snafu behind them, company sales have quadrupled, and a new treadmill will hit the market this spring.

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Changing Face Of Fitness

Foley feels confident after the stay-at-home orders and government shutdowns, the fitness industry has changed for good. Once customers see they can get a good workout without leaving the living room, going to the gym will become more challenging.

In response to the pandemic, Peloton offered a free 90-day trial for their app store and the thousands of classes available. It’s not all biking or treadmill. Classes range with a variety of music and pace and offer yoga, strength training and more.

Once the free trial was offered, business jumped from 100,000 subscribers to 1.2 million in just a few weeks. Demand was so large; it sent the company scrambling to satisfy backorders for bikes and caused the team to work overtime in production and response.

Making The Team World Through Teamwork

Foley believes he’s built a team that will one day run a $500 billion company and he’s appreciative of what each expert contributes to the overall success of the company.

Dating back to his days at the Skittles factory and attending Harvard School of Business, he’s learned how to hire good people and then “get out of the way”. He doesn’t consider himself the strength of the team, however, what he does bring to the table is his genuine care for people.

“I care how people are feeling. I care how people are getting along and the team spirit and the intangible of how our team is feeling. It’s something I’m passionate about,” Foley said.

The married, father of two described a typical Sunday for the New York Times last December, with the day starting out on the treadmill.

Working out to Beyonce Bootcamp, he listened to instructor Jess Sims, a former Harlem schoolteacher and principal talk about her experience as she walked (or ran) him through the workout.

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After his daily workout, the day looks like a typical American family weekend; cookouts, friends and running kids from soccer practice to ice skating.

Despite being a billionaire, he hasn’t lost sight of what the family weekend entails and aims to make fitness a part of it.

In the future, Foley has plans to open more store-front locations across the country. When others are closing and downsizing, he sees it as an opportunity to thrive.

The company has continued to sell merchandise and retail with stores closed, and while some suggest the store is not necessary, Foley is excited to invest in premium locations for customers and believes the size of their addressable and serviceable markets can only increase.

The team is also working toward lowering the price of the Peloton, in order to reach all socioeconomic classes. They’ve already come out with two versions of the Peloton bikes and other, more affordable options in equipment.

With a goal of getting costs down to $20 per month, Foley says, he’d no longer be competing with the Planet Fitness franchise and other gyms and that’s a good place to be for the competitive businessman.

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Sources: TIME, New York Times, Peloton

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