Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I am Jose Alvarez originally from Spain. I am a Ph.D. Scientist & Digital Nomad with 25+ years of National and International experience. I studied Biology, Food Technology, Nutrition, Industrial Engineering, and Data Science in different Universities in Spain. I am currently working as an IT freelancer, Research Specialist, and Innovation Consultant. I also manage my digital projects.
My main professional fields are biological sciences and Technology & Innovation, both as CEO and public & private employee. I started my career in Spain working for the food industry as a researcher, and a Quality Engineer for consulting companies while working for the government as a scientist and Ph.D. fellow in Sevilla while having a couple of internships in Mexico and Brazil. Then I moved to the United Kingdom to finish my Ph.D. My first postdoc position took place in Canada, then I moved back to Spain as a Principal Investigator at the University of Malaga. And that is when my adventure as an entrepreneur started back in 2012.
That is the moment when I started conceiving the idea of Virtual Personal Trainer, which was officially launched at the beginning of 2014. Virtual Personal Trainer a free website fully dedicated to weight loss, offering customized programs to achieve the healthiest (so-called ideal) body weight. On average, each month this site attracts about 4K new page views (2.5K new visitors). A second business model uses a bunch of Free and PRO Android mobile applications for which we have already reached more than 100K downloads. A third model uses franchising, and a fourth one uses affiliate marketing. Finally, I recently started a fifth and last model, based on publishing/hosting sponsored weight loss-related articles.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Because of my career, I put sports or workouts a bit apart for a few years. I am much of a world travel person. Perhaps because of my traveling experiences and relationship with different cultures, one day I realized I was getting very fat and consciously unhealthy.
I will encourage people to find partners, as jumping a new idea or business without much help or resources it's quite a very long-term challenge, which makes it easier to quit if things do not go the way you expected.
I could not believe my weight was as much as 223 lbs (101 kgs). Too much business traveling and eating outside with no control over my food habits and spare time made me like that, I thought. But someday in July 2012, I opened my eyes to reality and that day was the beginning of a new resolution for me: "I never thought I would reach three ciphers. I will never be like this again", I promised myself. As of today, I am 65 kg and I’ve been like this, one kg up, one kg down, since then.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I started it up as a blogger beginner writing in Virtual Personal Trainer and engaging visitors through social media platforms, Facebook mostly. My main motivation was to speak aloud my unique weight loss findings. Since then the business has been growing little by little, from very informal blogging to more professional science-evidence writing based on my personal experience, not just theoretical blablabla.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Following Virtual Personal Trainer's most valued proposition “no fake news, no false expectations to users” the site started as a consulting website, providing B2C online personal training and weight loss counseling. But about 2 years after, I realized it was quite difficult to get new customers because of so many competitors, so I decided to pursue five different business models: 1) FREE website and mobile apps, monetized by displaying personalized ads; 2) Customized (and PRO) Android apps, monetized by app paid download; 3) different Franchise Opportunities (from Basic to PREMIUM); 4) Affiliate marketing through affiliate programs and supporting websites; and 5) Weight loss and Personal Training Editorial: publishing sponsored articles that are appealing to my audience. This is monetized by charging publication fees though, upon request, I might wave it, offering free charges to high-quality research studies or trending topics.
The second option was certainly a success, since just one week after creating the mobile Android app called “One-Click-to-Health PRO”, it became viral in Google Play for about 1 week or so thanks to a media influencer, registering about 2-3K downloads per day. It was really a crack experience, keeping me with insomnia for the whole week. But unfortunately, I have never been so lucky again since then.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The most challenging thing has been to find out a very unique and novel service and products. This is where my scientific background came to play. I used all the information recorded during my process of weight loss to scientifically reproduce my findings and get it validated by internationally recognized journals.
- Weight loss and meal frequency: “Consistent weight loss linked to higher meal frequency” (2019).
- Scientifically-Proven methodology: Self-Experiencing “the healthiest weight” (2017).
- Scientific validation of apps & tools: “Long-term weight loss by mobile app” (2017).
Abstracts and articles can be fully accessed here.
As of today, I am not aware of any website or blog that can compete at this level as they are mostly based on theory, rather experimentally proven practice. My most important findings are that: Number one, there is a sort of "biological switch" regulating our bodyweight that is taking memory pictures of our body weight every certain period so we need to set that switch accordingly to be healthy and look healthy.
This effort takes an effort but it is mostly mental, though a minimum of physical activity is necessary due to our most inherent genetic fingerprint. The second finding is that no miracle pills are needed, we can greatly track, control, and manage this “biological switch” by using just a computer or mobile phone.
After these publications, I started to attract more readers all over the world.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The future looks like getting better but very slowly. I seem to be attracting more and more visitors day by day but not yet to make a living out of this only. As soon as I can have a minimum number of stable readers monthly and I can make a decent income, I will make some investments, maybe hire somebody, and probably try to find some partnerships or investors as I am planning to develop further towards a fully automatic website and tool by applying Big Data and Artificial Intelligence technologies.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I learned how to work hard to follow a dream and find the happiest way to make my dream come true. I learned not to quit even during the most difficult times. I learned to believe in myself more. I learned how to ignore those comments or opinions that are not helpful or against my dream.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The most influential source I've ever had is a book called The Selfish Gene. This is an evolution book written by the biologist Richard Dawkins, in which the author builds upon the theory of Adaptation and Natural Selection.
The term "selfish gene" expresses the gene-centered view of evolution quite which was quite shocking at first, but truly reflects the reality of who we really are and what we can expect as human beings populating the same earth.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I will encourage people to find partners, as jumping a new idea or business without much help or resources it's quite a very long-term challenge, which makes it easier to quit if things do not go the way you expected. I think It’s better to start as a team. That way, most likely, will save you time and headaches. But if that is not possible and you believe in yourself and in your idea, you must give it a try, or someone else might do it and, if that happens, you might regret it forever.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Unfortunately, I don't have any big resources or funding right now to hire anyone but I am open to collaborations. However, I have some ideas for people who want to participate in this project or get involved though I can't offer or promise much for now.
Where can we go to learn more?
It’s been a pleasure to have been interviewed ;-)
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