Four years ago, Caroline Pugh seemed like a normal college student.
She woke up every day, went to class, and turned in assignments. Sure, she occasionally dreamed about how she would make her mark on the world, but we all do. Now she is the co-founder and COO of VirtualU, has been profiled in Forbes Magazine, and has raised $1.7 million in venture capital —some of which is going towards launching VFit, a new application developed by her tech startup that tracks health and fitness metrics using non-invasive 3D scanning technology.
VirtualU was among the 150 startups represented at the second annual DC Tech Day, a large science fair for startups, held at the National Building Museum in early October to celebrate entrepreneurs and highlight DC as the next great startup hub.
Venture Capitol had the opportunity to talk with Pugh at DC Tech Day and learn more about her entrepreneurial journey and the evolution of VirtualU.
Pugh’s success can be largely credited to her drive and early trajectory. Freshman year, she began studying business information technology at Virginia Tech. Sophomore year, she took a risk and started her own company. Junior year, she got involved with one of the largest student run, nonprofit organizations for collegiate entrepreneurs, Kairos Society. Senior year, she was named Youth Ambassador for Entrepreneurship for the State of Virginia and became a contributor to the Huffington Post and Under30CEO. Since VirtualU’s founding in 2012, Pugh has guided the company through critical developments, including a shift away from retail to fitness and tough decisions about balancing data privacy and viral social growth.
One of VirtualU’s newest developments is its VFit technology, marketed as the first comprehensive system for tracking health and fitness metrics that uses 3D scanning technology. The brilliance of VirtualU’s business plan is in distinguishing itself as a league of its own. They’re not competing in the wearables market, and they’re not competing with old-school weight scales. They’re going straight to the top with a sleek “welcome to the future” machine.
The VFit will be able to give far more than what competitors, like FitBit and InBody, currently offer. For example, FitBit measurements include heart rate, steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, and hours slept — but these indicators are simply a means to an end and do not provide direct guidance for achieving fitness goals. Using 3D technology, VirtualU is able to create a digital model of your body and accompany it with statistics so that you can monitor specific changes in your body composition over time.
Why does that make a difference? It means you can finally start personalizing your exercise workouts and track the effectiveness of your routines by measuring changes in muscle groups anywhere on your body. You can objectively determine whether barbell curls or bent-over rows are making your biceps grow faster.
So what’s next for VirtualU? Right now they’re hustling on multiple fronts: engaging in direct-to-consumer sales online, pitching their business to universities like Georgetown, building out application features, and planning growth strategy. VirtualU is innovating in a field where there is high demand for an easy-to-use technology that provides detailed health metrics and will eventually provide specific recommendations for fitness improvement. Be on the look out for VirtualU’s newest iPhone application launching in the next few months.