Season 3, Episode 5

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This is a transcript of one episode of the Samsung Developers Podcast, hosted by and produced by Tony Morelan. A listing of all podcast transcripts can be found here.


Tony Morelan
Senior Developer Evangelist, Samsung Developers

Instagram - Twitter - LinkedIn


Maria Ly, Skimble
Galaxy Watch, Galaxy Store, Entrepreneurship

Maria Ly, founder of Skimble, the company behind the mobile fitness app Workout Trainer.

Not only do we chat about how Skimble began as a small startup but also their collaboration with Samsung Health and the Made for Samsung team.


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Topics Covered

  • Skimble
  • Rock Health
  • Workout Trainer
  • Publishing on Galaxy Store
  • Marketing
  • Discoverability
  • Monetization
  • Generating Revenue
  • In-App Purchase (IAP)
  • Galaxy Badges
  • Best of Galaxy Store Awards
  • Diversity and Inclusion


NOTE: Transcripts are provided by an automated service and reviewed by the Samsung Developers web team. Inaccuracies from the transcription process do occur, so please refer to the audio if you are in doubt about the transcript.


Tony Morelan 00:01

Hey, I'm Tony Morelan. And this is the Samsung Developers podcast, where we chat with innovators using Samsung technologies, award winning app developers and designers, as well as insiders working on the latest Samsung tools. Welcome to season three, Episode Five. On today's show, I'm joined by Maria Lai, founder of scramble the company behind the mobile fitness app Workout Trainer. Not only do we chat about getting their start through the accelerator program, Rock Health, but also integrating with Samsung health to become a launch partner and collaborating with the made for Samsung team. Enjoy. Hey, Maria, welcome to the podcast. Hi, Tony.

Maria Ly 00:42

Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Tony Morelan 00:44

Yeah, so let me first ask who is Maria Ly?

Maria Ly 00:49

Oh, gosh, let's see, I am a Health Advisor, investor, an entrepreneur. I am Asian Canadian turned American. I live in Salt Lake City and San Francisco part time. And I love to travel around the world whenever I can to rock climb and explore and discover new cultures.

Tony Morelan 01:14

Wow, this is pretty exciting. So I understand that you got involved in tech at a young age. Tell me Tell me about that start.

Maria Ly 01:21

So I got started. I would say mostly when I started high school, and I had access to some of the tech focused groups for youth in Canada. And so I went through and did some of the courses out there started taking my first programming classes. My parents got me my first computer actually when I was in elementary school, and that maybe sparked my interest even earlier. But then eventually, I went to study Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada. And then I took a bunch of different coop internships in the tech field around the world.

Tony Morelan 01:58

So you said that you did some internships during those times? What were some of those industries that you were involved with?

Maria Ly 02:04

Yeah, so there was a Good Friday? I think, for me, I explored different tech verticals. I think I started in a CAD software company, and then moved on to aerospace and automotive. I even dabbled in H fac, and semiconductors. So kind of sampled, which I think you know, while you're young, you might as well and figure out what you're most passionate about.

Tony Morelan 02:28

Sure, sure. Now, obviously, you're very passionate when it comes to having an active lifestyle. Was that the motivation for you to then think, how could I create some sort of active technology company?

Maria Ly 02:40

Oh, absolutely. I was involved in athletics, I suppose. From an early age, I dabbled in figure skating and gymnastics. And eventually I got a chance to represent Canada at the World Cheerleading Championships. Wow. And you know, nowadays, I mentioned, I love to rock climb. So I do that quite frequently. And yes, all of those experiences in living an active lifestyle definitely inspired me to blend my background in technology and health together to form symbol.

Tony Morelan 03:12

Now how long does symbol been around? I've been

Maria Ly 03:14

working on symbol tinkering on fitness applications for about a decade now. We started developing fitness focused applications during the advent of the smartphone and the smartwatches. And you know, those connected devices, really were a critical part in sort of adoption, a mass adoption for Fox because it's not that easy to have a personal trainer day. But you know, having an app you can pull up on your phone is super convenient. And if anything affordable and personal. Yeah,

Tony Morelan 03:49

no, I think your timing was great, because that really was the beginning of the big fitness push when it came to wearables. So let's talk about the beginning of skimble. First, I need to ask the word scramble. I'd love that as the name of the company is that a play off of the word skill in nimble? That's how I see it.

Maria Ly 04:06

At first I wanted to get but truly gone are the days when you get perfect, you know, words, but I thought about scramble because scribble was the name of a nimble cat in a TS Eliot poem scribbled also in Broadway, the Broadway musical Cats, so symbol was actually becoming available. It was on backorder. So I got it on backorder it was expired. And, you know, Sky plus nimble was sort of my blended word. Sure, but yes, skill as well. Sure. Lots of great skim Musker words.

Tony Morelan 04:42

Yeah. So I understand that you guys were part of an accelerated program called Rock Health. Tell me about that.

Maria Ly 04:52

We were we got into rock health during our earlier days, and they provided us with a grant Access to group office space in San Francisco, as well as a mentorship program that was about four or five months long. And during that time, we were able to kind of focus on different aspects of digital health and connect with potential partners and that sort of thing. So I think it's a really amazing ecosystem that has really blossomed in the industry.

Tony Morelan 05:24

Yeah, I'm sure that was a big help for you guys to get things started. So you had mentioned that that program was based in San Francisco, is that where your headquarters is? Now?

Maria Ly 05:32

To some extent, yes. But I would say, we are quite remote and all around before we were located in the Ferry Building, I don't know if you've been there before, but it's pretty iconic. Yeah, we were upstairs there. But then we started thinking about, you know, the lifestyle that our team wanted to pursue, being able to have access to the outdoors and all that good stuff. So we decided to try to make our team as remote as possible. And so we still kept our studio multimedia space in San Francisco in the mission. But then we gave up the very building, and we did a lot of video chats, and you know, team meets wherever we were. And so this was actually pre pandemic, believe it or not. And so when that hit, we were all pretty much set up.

Tony Morelan 06:24

Oh, that was nice. Really, really good timing for such an unfortunate pandemic event.

Maria Ly 06:28

Yeah, right. The silver lining? Exactly.

Tony Morelan 06:32

So how many people work first gimbal.

Maria Ly 06:35

So we have a pretty distributed team of mostly contractors, we work with quite a handful of internal personal trainers. And we have over like 1000 trainers on our platform, who develop the training programming for our team. And we've got different folks across the globe, focusing on various roles in the company, such as we have our marketing manager in Australia, that sort of thing. So sure, I would say we're a lean team. But we have a great network.

Tony Morelan 07:05

So let's talk about your flagship app, Workout Trainer, tell the people out there, what exactly is Workout Trainer,

Maria Ly 07:11

Workout Trainer offers 1000s of follow along multimedia workouts, led by expert coaches. And we also offer a personal training network if you want to find a one-on-one online coach.

Tony Morelan 07:24

Nice, ya know, I have used the app before I love it. Unlike just like clicking play and watching a video. There's a lot more, you know, personal data that you get, I love the fact that you see the in progress, calorie burn, that sort of a fun motivating, you know, piece of data that comes to me as I'm working out.

Maria Ly 07:45

Absolutely. It's funny, you mentioned the heart rate feedback and, and that sort of thing. Some of our most active users are using the application with their connected heart rate devices, mostly the smartwatches that are available on the market today. And it's remarkable to see like the progress people are making by just doing their workouts and coming back to maybe their go to workouts and they can see, you know, their heart rate or the reps chain. You can log all that information in the application. And you get performance stats as you make progress.

Tony Morelan 08:18

That's wonderful. Now, and now it's not just for folks like myself that are wanting to get a great, you know, fitness routine going. But you also are bringing on you'd mentioned contractors. So if you are a trainer that would like to bring your workouts to a larger audience. This is where you guys are inviting trainers could come join the platform, correct?

Maria Ly 08:39

Yes. So when you launch the app, there's actually a little tab called trainers, you tap there, you can follow any of our trainers for free. And if you find, you know, one trainer who particularly inspires you, or has a background and skill set in a specialty that you're looking for, you can recruit that trainer to help you one on one. And they can send messages to you workouts and even a full complete training plan. So that's been really nice to connect these folks together.

Tony Morelan 09:10

That's great. So let's talk about the relationship with Samsung. And in skin. We'll talk about how did that first start?

Maria Ly 09:18

Sure. So a little while ago, Samsung reached out to us interested specifically in our health integrations. And it was the Samsung health team that contacted us. And we became one of their launch partners in their ecosystem with various health app developers. And they came to our office in the Ferry Building and we met several times. Then we actually went to Korea to meet some of the health team there. You know, Samsung has a big headquarters in Mountain View, as well as Korea and Seoul so we were able to kind of meet the key folks there. And since then, we Bit remote and working with the folks at the made for Samsung team and also within the health team.

Tony Morelan 10:07

Now, last year, you guys won the 2021, best of Galaxy store award for best wellness app. What did it mean to win that award?

Maria Ly 10:16

Yes, that award was really, really wonderful to receive. Because, you know, during the time, the last few years, as you guys know, it hasn't been easy. And when folks aren't able to go into their gyms, and meet their favorite trainers, or even their workout buddies at the gym, I was really personally very thankful to be able to offer folks and do our part to give them the workouts they wanted in a in a safe place when life was a bit more unpredictable. So it really was meaningful to receive that award. And we're very grateful for kind of the journey that we have had with Samsung, as an integral partner.

Tony Morelan 10:55

Yeah, I think the timing of that award and where we were at in the pandemic really just showed the value of Workout Trainer, and really what the, you know, what the people out there wanted to see in us. So tell me, are there any unique aspects or optimizations to the galaxy Store version of Workout Trainer? Oh, yes.

Maria Ly 11:12

So we have a special made for Samsung version of Workout Trainer. So if you go on to the galaxy app store, you can just download Workout Trainer for Samsung. And this version of the application is tailored for all the latest Samsung smart devices. You've got a unique offering here. So you can get access to some exclusive content such as workouts as well as oftentimes we do some promotion. So you can actually unlock our Pro Plus membership, if you sign up with your Samsung account. And then further Just to add, because we have such a good relationship with the Samsung health team, all that data that you're doing, you can share between applications, you can have that sort of a large overview of your health profile within the Samsung health application as well.

Tony Morelan 12:08

Oh, that's wonderful. So let's talk a bit about the development of the app. What is the workflow? What is the process for you guys, when you created Workout Trainer?

Maria Ly 12:17

I guess for starters, we use kind of agile development practices and a lot of brainstorming, we currently use Android Studio. And we host all of our contents in the cloud. And on top of that, obviously, we use the latest tools with within the Samsung SDK Id kind of environment.

Tony Morelan 12:40

Sure, sure. So when you first created the app, how long did it take? You know, is this an app that took, you know, a long time to create? Or was this something that came pretty quickly and easily to you,

Maria Ly 12:50

I would say that the first very early version of our app took about six months. But as you guys know, app development is never as straightforward as you would like. And you're always evolving your app and making it better and better. And so throughout the years, we've added more features tightened up our flow improved our UI UX experience. So you know, it all depends on what your app is aiming to do and offer, and try to use, you know, the best tools possible and rev on it. And keep in mind that people like good user experience. So even if it's a utility app, you have to think about your customers and get their feedback early on. Yeah, you

Tony Morelan 13:33

know, the one thing that I will say about when I used to work at trainer was the UI was wonderful. I mean, it's because you're in the middle of a workout. And so you want something that is simple and easy to use with just a nice, clean interface. And that's one of the things that stood out for me with Workout Trainer.

Maria Ly 13:47

Well, thanks. It's always a work in progress.

Tony Morelan 13:50

So let's talk about discoverability. Because I know that is one of the hardest parts. I mean, it's one thing to go and create an app and build it and publish it. But the hardest thing is to get people to actually see it and use it. So what have you guys done related to discoverability?

Maria Ly 14:05

For us, we have different channels to get discovered. A lot of it has to do with be partners with certain Discovery Channels, but also with our community. So for instance, you know, people can do workouts and invite their friends and challenge them to workouts. So sort of creating that, like word of mouth has been very helpful for us get discovered through a grassroot approach. And then also, you know, sometimes we have different partners where we can sell our app into verticals like within health care, or corporations, or specific areas, or times of the year. For instance, Samsung and symbols Workout Trainer can do sort of a collab or a promotion period.

Tony Morelan 14:55

Yeah, yeah. And I'm sure you guys are using the Galaxy store badge. Is that correct to help promote it and weren't people directly to the app on Galaxy store? Yes, we are for sure. Wonderful. And I'll make sure to include a direct link to that in the in the show notes for, not just that for, but for many of the other areas that we're talking about. I loved what you said, as far as you know, inviting a friend and building that community. Because I know when it comes to workouts, a lot of times people don't have the motivation to do it themselves. And they need to be held accountable. So you know, if you find a friend that says, hey, if you work out all workout, and when you guys can work out together, you know, in sort of motivate each other to work out, that's what really gets you into a good routine as far as fitness. So how many people would you say are using Workout Trainer,

Maria Ly 15:43

we've seen over 30 million users come our way. And, you know, on a day-to-day basis, we're seeing 10s of 1000s of workouts being completed. And these are, you know, long form workouts. So people are not just going into our app, and you know, jumping away, they're actually finding good content, relevant content for them to do and play for a long period of time, be it, you know, five to 20, to even, you know, 45 minutes long.

Tony Morelan 16:08

That's wonderful. That is great. And that is one of those key things when it comes to you for app developers, they want to create an experience where someone is not just coming in, you know, and like playing a game for a few minutes, and then they're gone. Retention is such a key component to creating a successful app. How do you guys generate revenue,

Maria Ly 16:29

we're going to trainer is a free application, and we offer in app purchase subscription. That would be the Pro Plus membership option. So that's offered at 699 a month. And it's a reoccurring subscription. And we also offer our one-on-one online training platform. And the trainer sets the price and on average, it's between 50 to $200 a month, and we take a platform fee.

Tony Morelan 16:52

I love that that that you offer that that opportunity for people who want to really, you know, find that personal one on one trainer. But yet your app also is available at an affordable price just for the general community. I think that is that is great, because it makes it easy for people to give it a try and see if they like it and then decide maybe they want to, you know, get more involved with the app.

Maria Ly 17:13

Oh, for sure. And sometimes our trainers offer one on one training with free trials. So we offer a free trial period as well.

Tony Morelan 17:19

Oh, that's great. That is that it's that's wonderful. Yeah. So what advice would you give developers looking to bring their app to Galaxy store?

Maria Ly 17:29

Oh, I would definitely encourage folks to get on the Samsung platform. Because, as you guys know, around the world, like there are so many people that are using Samsung devices, be it the smartphones, tablets, or the smartwatches. And so being on the platform will just bring more visibility to your application. And it's an opportunity to grow your user base naturally.

Tony Morelan 17:52

Tell me what is in the future first gimble.

Maria Ly 17:55

So we've focused on creating great content. And we're going to continue doing that working on providing a platform where people can access more multimedia content from trainer created content workouts created and led by your famous YouTube fitness celebrities, and so forth. So for us with Workout Trainer, we want to create and serve the best content for you. So that personalized experience where you can have instant access to follow along content for your fitness journey.

Tony Morelan 18:28

That's, that's wonderful. You know, this this past year, there's been a really big push for diversity and inclusion. Tell me what is Kimble doing related to that?

Maria Ly 18:38

I think from the start with scramble and growing our early team, I always wanted to have a group of great folks. Not just like industry, people, but trainers and everybody that has been involved to reflect the people who are actually using the application. And so, you know, I was not specifically seeking out extreme diversity, but by just me wanting to talk to all kinds of folks from around the world trainers who had, you know, a focus on high intensity training versus Pilates, yoga studio style backgrounds. And we have so many different trainers demonstrating our exercises, our exercise database library, I believe has grown to be the largest out there with trainers who are very diverse, you know, they look like me and you and all the other folks who use the application. So I hope that the application offers content that feels diverse in the type of content it provides, and also the friendly faces who are demonstrating the exercises.

Tony Morelan 19:47

That's great. So recently, we did a blog feature on you for International Women's Day. You know, being a woman leading a tech company. Tell me what advice would you give young women looking to start a career are in tech,

Maria Ly 20:01

you know, more than ever before, women are breaking barriers. So, you know, having their voices heard within tech within athletics within all sorts of fields, you know, having them be out there doing the work that they love living their best life. And if that means, you know, being a leader in technology, or you know, a developer, an engineering manager, there are so many roles within tech that you could pursue. And if you have an early appetite for some of the math and science classes, you know, a technology career could be for you. So just pursue it and explore it, and you could be your own boss, even, there are so many opportunities now more than ever, I would say, where you can have the mentorship and support and encouragement from not just, you know, the leaders, the your male counterparts, the females in the space, who maybe have been there for a few years, even for me, you know, I do like advising and investing in women led companies in something that inspires me because I want to see the young females take charge and create amazing products for our future generation. And, you know, my children even I'm excited for the future and what it can bring for all folks.

Tony Morelan 21:18

Yeah, no, that's, that's wonderful. In that blog, I'm going to link to it. It was a great interview; you actually went into great detail on some of these areas that would really help inspire women and young women to really get started into this tech industry. So Maria, it was excellent to chat with you and learn much more about you know, Workout Trainer and all the great things that you guys are doing. It's gimble. Let me ask you, what is it that you do for fun when you are not working?

Maria Ly 21:45

Well, I have two kids, they can be quite busy. On my off hours, we are doing a lot of different activities. For instance, over the weekend, I took my son to his first gymnastics class, and then we went skiing because we're in Salt Lake and it's the end of the season, he went out his first black even. So just seeing the young guys, they're leading the charge there. And I'm just trying to keep up. In addition, when there's a little downtime, I do like to have some focus over for home cooked meal and a board game or two. So I actually like playing strategy board games. So that's one of my little-known passions as well.

Tony Morelan 22:25

That's wonderful. That's wonderful. I love a good time with friends, food and fun game activity. Well, hey, Maria, it was great to have you on the podcast, I really enjoy you taking the time to chat.

Maria Ly 22:35

Likewise, Tony.

Closing 22:37

Looking to start creating for Samsung. Download the latest tools to code your next app, or get software for designing apps without coding at all. Sell your apps to the world on the Samsung Galaxy store. Check out today and start your journey with Samsung.

Tony Morelan 22:53

The Samsung Developers podcast is hosted by Tony Morelan and produced by Jeanne Hsu.