Kunal Gandhi was studying on a recent evening when an unexpected message popped up on his LinkedIn: His startup company was being considered for an award by the NFL Players Association.
“They wanted to learn more about our story and the next day, we talked with them,” said Gandhi, cofounder and CEO of SimpL, a fitness technique tracking app.
Gandhi, neuroscience and computer science major at Pitt, was already a participant in Dallas Cowboys player Jaylon Smith’s Minority Entrepreneurship Institute. Smith interviewed Gandhi on behalf of the NFL Players Association, and later that week, learned he had received the Young Entrepreneur Award, which provides funding and mentorship. The announcement was made during a February pitch competition hosted by Magic Johnson.
“We were super excited and grateful for the recognition,” Gandhi said.
Gandhi has been working on SimpL for the past four years, with the app’s beginnings rooted in his time as a master trainer at the University’s Petersen Events Center, where he said he saw athletes’ techniques putting strain on their bodies, resulting in injuries.
SimpL shows people in real time whether their posture or technique is hindering their training.
The app tracks balance and technique through the location of athletes’ hands, hips, shoulders and feet in relation to the rest of their body, either while doing calisthenics or weight-training workouts. When an athlete’s form is incorrect, the user receives auditory and visual feedback alerts until they correct their form.
In the past year, the SimpL has grown from just two people to nearly two dozen spread out across 15 universities around the world. It’s now being used in 17 countries.
Moving forward, the team will focus on studies proving the clinical efficacy of the app and partner with other organizations.
“This app could help people who suffer from low back pain or orthopedic patients, for example,” Gandhi said.
The team is continuing to enter various competitions around the world to fund and advance the app. At Pitt, SimpL was a third place award in the 2020 Randall Family Big Idea Competition, hosted by the Big Idea Center, part of the Innovation Institute. From there, they completed the Blast Furnace accelerator program and are now in the Forge incubator. SimpL also placed third in the 2019 IBM BlueHack competition held at Pitt.
Gandhi said to help with growth, the team has recruited students from Pitt and other universities who had their internships canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We reached out to students and they had this opportunity to help develop an app that can help a lot of people,” Gandhi said. “We now have so many different people from so many different disciplines from tech development to marketing, they bring different skillsets to the table to help with growth. So, the collaboration has been great.
One of those students is Jai Chawla, who studies computer science and mathematics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Chawla spent his freshman year at Pitt, where he met Gandhi, and the two became friends.
“I was looking for something to do since I was free for the entire summer of 2020, and Kunal brought me aboard. I also reached out to friends and we managed to get the app running,” said Chawla, today SimpL’s chief technology officer. “I’m super excited about the direction this company is going in. We made huge progress last year.”