Skip Skype, workout with friends online with Wello

The next time you want to catch up with far-flung friends, you can do more than just Skype (s MSFT) with them, you could do yoga or pilates or kickboxing with them via the web, thanks to Wello.

The Kleiner Perkins-backed startup, which is part of health tech accelerator Rock Health’s current class, on Tuesday announced that it had added group lessons to its online training options.

In July, the startup launched live online personal training sessions, in which trainers provide instruction with a webcam, laptop and internet connection for an average of $40. The new group lessons not only enable people to participate in online exercise classes at their convenience (with friends or strangers), they give people an option at a lower price point.  Because the group (of three to five people) shares the cost of the trainer, prices start at $7.50, with most costing around $15.

Wello Class pageOn Wello’s site, customers can search by group workouts or one-on-one sessions and then browse a range of exercise types (from yoga and pilates to martial arts and aerobics), indicating when they want to take a class and what their goals are. When it’s time for the class, the instructor is most prominently displayed on half of the screen, with the client and the rest of the class splitting the other half.

In the past few years, fitness apps, online video exercise classes and even streaming classes have been on the upswing. But co-founder Ann Scott Plante said she and her co-founder Lindsey Silverglide wanted to create a fitness platform that combined the convenience of working from home with the accountability and motivation that comes with a real-life trainer. To test out the idea of live online fitness class, the founders did a workout with a trainer via Skype. After a 30-minute workout, Plante said, they realized they were on to something.

“We believe that trainers are the secret sauce,” she said, adding that the live instruction and commitment to a person mean that customers actually take the classes they sign up for and learn the various techniques.

On the consumer side, the online platform provides convenience and accountability (particularly with the new group option). And it gives trainers the opportunity to book classes during the middle of the day and other traditionally quieter times.

Since launching the startup two years ago, she said more than 1,000 trainers have applied to their marketplace. The 20 percent who get accepted go through a training program to learn how to be most effective over video. While the company declined to share their number of users, they said two-thirds of those who take one class online go on to take another.

To date, the company has raised $1 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Aberdare and others.