Female Founder Feature: Michele Mehl – Excy

Michele is the founder and CEO of Excy, an innovative exercise device bridging traditional fitness with the outpatient rehabilitation space. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign in late 2015, Excy shipped its first units to customers across the U.S. Now in the hands of hundreds of consumers, Excy marries the power of low impact cardio with resistance training and on-demand coaching to meet the fitness needs of those looking to stay healthy while battling injury, disease, or disability.
Your name & title:
Michele Mehl
Founder & CEO
Your company name:
Excy (short for exercise cycling)
The elevator pitch:
Excy offers people battling injury, disability, or disease more time, places, and flexibility to enjoy the benefits of upper and lower body cycling without the barriers of big, expensive, and socially isolating exercise equipment. We do this with a mobile coaching platform and a 14-pound system that folds for easy storage and transport, yet simulates the same cardio and strength-training movements frequently used by rehabilitation centers. Our approach helps PT patients finally connect their rehabilitation to everyday life at home, work, and on the go to promote health and mobility.
The founding team:
Michele Mehl, Founder and CEO
Michele’s passion for innovation and disruptive technology started over twenty years ago with a fast-paced startup-focused PR firm in San Francisco. She later moved to Seattle and co-founded Buzz Builders, which quickly became one of Seattle’s most respected PR and digital marketing firms, supporting the PR launches of several successful startups, including Cheezburger, CrowdCow, OfferUp, Ritani, Whitepages, and Zulily. Michele holds a B.A. from the University of the Pacific, where she was a two-sport Division I scholarship athlete. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors with her son and husband and tries to mountain bike as frequently as possible.
Mike Rector, Founder and COO
Mike has spent over 30 years at the forefront of technology innovations, being part of the prototyping teams for now-ubiquitous products like tablets, simulators, and robotics. He even helped Johnny Carson, and a national TV audience, get their first glimpse of virtual reality. An early retired wiz kid with a lifelong passion for cycling (he has pedaled over 150,000 miles), Mike’s career spans innovative hardware and software development at Perceptronics, Video Products Group and MRV. He brings tremendous manufacturing, operations, and product development knowledge to Excy. In his free time, Mike exercises to build endurance for backcountry adventures.
The idea:
Excy is a product of my own personal fitness woes. A busy schedule and family history of heart disease got me thinking about a better, more convenient way to exercise for a healthier quality of life. I recruited Mike to begin prototyping a portable stationary exercise bike, one that promoted the same quality of exercises offered at a gym or a spin class, but portable enough to use anywhere.
Just as we were in that phase, I broke my leg. Emergency surgery led to a rod, 10 screws, and a plate to hold it all together, as well as a blood clot. Two additional surgeries followed, leaving me in a boot for five months. To say my morale was low would be an understatement. Yet during these non-weight-bearing months, Mike and I both embraced the injury to rapidly innovate our design. I worked with my physical therapist in the clinic to recover, yet at home was able to keep my upper body strong and burn over 450 calories using Excy’s ergometer features. When my insurance would no longer pay for PT, I continued to manage by leg’s rehab with Excy recumbent bike movements at home. I had an entire rehab facility at my disposal!
After months of physical therapy and relying on caretakers, I got just a small glimpse into the plight of those living with injury, disability, and disease. It was an eye-opening experience that led to a new dialog with potential customers, which inspired us to help those who fall outside of the traditional fitness mold gain unprecedented access to a new way of staying healthy and strong.
The market:
Excy straddles the unique place between the $29.6 billion outpatient rehabilitation industry (Harris Williams LLC) and the $25.8 billion consumer health and fitness market (IHRSA). Within these categories, the rehabilitation equipment market is expected to reach $14.91 billion by 2021 from $9.86 Billion in 2016 (MarketsandMarkets). The U.S. fitness equipment market was valued at $3.6 billion in 2016, and is projected to reach $4.4 billion by 2024. These two categories are expected to grow with aging Baby Boomers being a central piece as they incur more injuries and become susceptible to age-related chronic conditions like
arthritis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and other non-infectious disease where access to exercise can help improve quality of life.
Excy marries these two spaces, intersecting the already-present interest in health and fitness with the reality that physical therapy and outpatient rehabilitation will become a fact-of-life for older Americans to more thoroughly enjoy their later years.
Your unfair advantage:
People love the benefits of physical therapy exercise equipment in a clinic or gym, but buying it for home use is expensive, takes up a lot of room, and it’s socially isolating for usage in a single room. Our bold approach to anytime therapeutic full body cycling eliminates these barriers entirely with a patented approach that helps PT patients finally connect their rehabilitation to everyday life at home, work, and on the go to promote health and mobility. Even while watching TV with the family, at their desk, or on the go. No clunky gym device can compete with us on convenience or in dual-purpose functionality for quality upper and lower body cycling workouts anywhere with a single device. Having a mobile coaching platform that serves up on-demand workouts and tracks results puts a cherry on top.
Your biggest challenge:
According to the CDC, 80 percent of American adults don’t get the recommended exercise and only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day. In other words, there are a lot of people who need to be exercising more to fight preventable disease and create a healthier lifestyle. That’s a little too big for a startup to sink their teeth into. So, it’s been a challenge to narrow down the focus of who truly wants better access to make exercise dramatically easier, more convenient, more productive, less risky and more fun. By taking time to uncover large blocks of customer segmentations who value the utility of our small footprint device to make physical therapy dramatically easier, we’ve been able to bridge traditional fitness with the outpatient rehabilitation, which is exactly where we think we need to be.
Your biggest win:
Shipping our product a mere 5 weeks after our Kickstarter campaign is definitely our biggest win to-date. We’ve certainly had other wins along the way – getting our patent granted, shipping our Android app just on the heels of our iOS app, nailing product market fit in the outpatient rehabilitation space – but Kickstarter was the first point in our company history where people showed us with their wallets how much they believed in the health and fitness promise Excy offers.
Your role models:
Our customers inspire us every day. From the disabled, paralyzed Marine and the former marathon runner diagnosed with Parkinson’s to the young man with a stroke and the double amputee, the list goes on and on. Seeing individuals who fight against all odds find health and happiness in their lives is humbling. It gives Mike and me the strength and motivation to tackle all the big and little hurdles that are part of startup life.
Additional thoughts:
Neither Mike nor I are fitness gurus, but we both highly value our health, quality of life, and keeping our bodies fit and strong. We’re simply average people with busy lives looking for a way to keep healthy as we face the inevitable physical and mental challenges of getting older. It’s why we’re so excited to work on Excy. At only 14 pounds, Excy folds for easy storage and transport, yet matches the quality of exercise equipment found in physical therapy clinics and gyms. I use Excy 5-6 days a week for 20 minutes for post rehabilitation for my leg, but also to build upper body strength and core conditioning to keep up with my son on a mountain bike and skis. Mike uses it for upper body and core exercises at high force twice a week for three minutes to keep his posture straight, back strong, and upper body toned. He has been able to correct a curvature in his spine with these exercises, helping increase his endurance and energy for daily living, but also prepare for his next big backcountry adventure.
Your experience with FFA:
I love how honest the group is in sharing concerns, ideas, articles, asking questions, giving feedback, looking for resources, and even highlighting opportunities that could possibly bring on competition (there can only be so many winners in a pitch contest for example) vs. hoarding opportunities in a protectionist way. Pretty cool and I appreciate being part of the group. Have met some wonderful people and I’m excited to see it grow!
Your website:
Connect with Excy on Social Media
Twitter: https://twitter.com/excyfit
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/excyfit/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/excyfit/
YouTube: www.excy.video
Connect with Michele on Social Media
Follow the Excy Blog
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