(Photo courtesy Jeff Rizzo)

Startup of the Month: RizKnows

From fitness gear to wearable tech, Rocklin-based vlogger knows the deal

Back Web Only Jan 4, 2017 By Russell Nichols

The start of the year is resolution time, the season when gyms push special deals to lure new customers or pull in old ones. Jeff Rizzo isn’t trying to sell you a gym membership, but if you’re into technology and fitness, he does want to equip you with the latest gear for the lowest price.

Based in Rocklin, Rizzo runs RizKnows, a deals website and YouTube channel where he reviews the newest high-tech gizmos to hit the sports and activewear market: fitness trackers, GPS watches, water bottles, running shoes, headphones and so on. He launched the channel in September 2013, and now about 150,000 subscribers (with 2 million-plus page views a month) log in to see what he has to say.

Rizzo, who was raised in Roseville, had been working in finance before stepping out on his own. But he admits he’s always been a big-time consumer when it comes to fitness gear. He remembers his first step counter back in 2012 and running in parking lots to reach his step goal for the day.

“I preordered the first Nike wearable ever,” he recalls. “The Nike+ FuelBand.”

(Photo courtesy Jeff Rizzo)

He saw all kinds of potential in this burgeoning market of wearable tech. But Rizzo didn’t just want to consume. He wanted to capitalize. He began selling Fitbit, Nike and Garmin products, then launched the YouTube channel to help drive traffic to his retail site. Eventually, he realized he could offer customers something greater, something they would truly value: discounts.

“How can people save money?” he asked himself.

With this question in mind, he started scouring the internet, looking for the best deals for sports and tech customers ages 18 to 44. After studying the market for so long, Rizzo knows the top brands and highlights products based on what he thinks he and his peers would like. One of his top deals on the site is the Garmin fenix 3 HR, a multisport GPS watch, (one of his personal favorite devices of the moment) shoppers can buy for $400 (a $200 savings) from Best Buy.

Rizzo purchases certain products himself. He receives others for free from manufacturers to be reviewed, but he is under no obligation to review these products favorably, as noted in his ethics statement. Regardless of full editorial control, he says the biggest challenge remains getting people to watch the videos. With no previous video training, he had to learn how to film and edit the reviews himself (but he recently brought on a video editor). He says he stays focused by pushing out content that is not only relevant and informative, but also entertaining.

His most popular video to date compares the Fitbit Charge HR to the Fitbit Surge; it has been viewed nearly 770,000 times. The editing is quick, alternating between images of the two wearable devices and shots of Rizzo running, cycling or bench pressing in the background. He compares the prices, comfort and design, and ultimately selects which device he prefers.

“You’ll hate the Surge if you wear long-sleeves a lot,” he says in the video review. “It’s just constantly in the way.”

Rizzo started by himself, but the startup has grown in a short time. Now, he has a partner, an employee, site contributors and an investor in Mark Haney, who hosts a business-advice radio show, Entrepreneurs Unlimited, on KHTK-AM 1140. Last year, Haney invested $50,000 into Rizzo’s business after seeing the channel’s growth. He says he invests in a number of startups, usually basing a company’s potential on its CEO.

(Photo courtesy Jeff Rizzo)

“I chose to invest mainly because of Jeff,” says Haney, who used to run Northern Video Systems, a security company. “I think he’s a rockstar. He has the ‘It’ factor. His company’s growing fast, so I might as well get in at the beginning.”

Haney and Rizzo have known each other for about a year. Haney’s contribution is the only investment Rizzo has received for RizKnows. Rizzo generates the rest of his funding through through ad revenue from his website and YouTube channel.

When Rizzo shared his plans to expand the business, Haney jumped at the chance to contribute, not just with an investment but also space at his Rocklin office so Rizzo wouldn’t have to work out of his house. The support has been paying off. The RizKnows website was recently redesigned to be more mobile-friendly. There’s a companion mobile app set to launch early this year.

“We’ve been stringing together so many wins lately,” Rizzo says. “It seemed like nothing for a very long time, so this feels nice.”

Do you know an entrepreneur who has what it takes? Recommend their company for our “Startup of the Month” here.