Featured Founder: Ed Buckley of Peerfit
Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Ed Buckley, CEO of Peerfit a digital platform for employers, insurance carriers, and brokers to offer wellness solutions to their clients and employees.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
I was in grad school when I started working on Peerfit. With my academic pursuits being on the healthcare policy and health behavior side, and my practical experience being worksite wellness and fitness, it was a natural blend having them all come together. Getting to hear from people in the industry on market policy implications and what larger companies were trying to accomplish, it was a huge motivator for creating Peerfit.
What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
From a value prop perspective, there are big companies, health plans, and employers who want the best for their members and employees. While there is a growing trend to support those members and employees to live a healthier lifestyle and give them the best benefits, it’s been harder than anticipated.
Peerfit provides the ability for those employers and plans to build community and promote physical activity in their population that they wouldn't have been able to do before. Knowing we are able to help both the companies and their people as our overall mission is the thing that motivates everyone to get up out of bed every day.
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?
There have been so many, it’s hard to narrow down which is the biggest. In the course of going from just the founders, to more than 100 people, we have encountered a lot. Everything from major accounts wanting to end their relationships, some of our largest vendors wanting to completely restructure how we do things, all the way to having funding pulled at the 11th hour that we had planned on, hired for and needed to make payroll. There isn’t one that truly sticks out, since the important thing is how the team has responded every time. Not, ‘oh the sky is falling’ but with “what’s wrong?” and “what’s the objective solution to this scenario?” We have always taken the approach of how can we fix this, or, how can we find the right people and resources to solve this problem. A lot of big problems end up having simple solutions if you are willing to evolve with how the situation has evolved. More often we are trying to force the situation back to what it was instead of working towards what it can be.
Where do you see your company headed next?
I don’t think it’s a secret, but we are expanding from just the under 65 population to also include over 65. This move into the Medicare space is certainly not one that has been taken lightly or was a knee jerk decision. It has taken more than a year of planning, strategizing and bringing in outside people, while internal people have simultaneously been picking up more work. This is where we see the largest opportunity - helping the millions of Americans who have Medicare Advantage gain access to more than just big box gyms as their wellness solution.
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.
The piece of advice I’ve been giving out to founders is more on managing your own emotions and communication style so you can help your team manage theirs. It seems like maybe a simplified cliche, but when you are at the top of an org chart, whether 5, 50 or 500 people, you have a butterfly effect with every decision you make or don’t make. From how you convey those decisions, to your facial expressions, it all has an impact. A lot of times founders are so focused on the product and forget to focus on their people and the dynamics between them and other people. It’s really important to know that you will also become a manager of communications and emotions.