Past Issues

The business of fitness and wellness.

Vertically Integrated


With nearly $180M in funding and the ambitious goal of building an all-in-one health and fitness ecosystem, India’s is one of the most innovative companies you’ve never heard of. 

Founded in 2016 by Ankit Nagori and Mukesh Bansal, two former Flipkart executives, launched with $15M in funding (in July 2018, the company closed its $120M Series C). From the start, the company sold investors on a five-year, three-phase plan to vertically integrate every aspect of preventative healthcare. From gyms to healthy food and meditation to primary care clinics, all packaged into one “super app”, aspired to build the health equivalent of Apple. 

As anyone who buys an iPhone or Mac knows, from the App Store to iCloud, life essentially runs on iOS. Similarly,’s founders see themselves as following in Steve Jobs’ footsteps. “We think of ourselves as, DNA-wise, like Apple. Very, very vertically integrated, that’s our core DNA,” Bansal told The Ken (paywall).

Of course, the startup graveyard is littered with companies claiming to be the next Apple or Amazon of ‘X’. And’s critics are quick to point out that the company is actually building four or five separate businesses, where in the current landscape, executing on any one concept would is a longshot. But Bansal, quoting Jeff Bezos, says: “It’s your big vision, you need to be willing to be misunderstood for a long period of time.” “We are comfortable being misunderstood,” Bansal added. 

Now, almost three years later, the company has made serious strides. In all, there are some 130 Cult gyms, 11 meditation centers, one clinic (complete with doctors, diagnostics, and a pharmacy), and the food business that is processing 30,000 orders/day. Plus, thousands more members are accessing the company’s online yoga, fitness, mediation, and healthcare services.* 

After initially acquiring Tribe Fitness and Cult, two Bangalore-based fitness studios, as well as the Fitness First gym chain and a1000yoga studios, the business has turned its attention to hyper-saturation strategy. The goal? According to Nagori, most customers should be able to walk to their gym. At the furthest, there should be a gym within 20 minutes in either direction. 

While most gyms depend on breakage—customers buying a membership that they infrequently or never use— uses its gyms as top-of-funnel customer acquisition. In that way, the company hopes its 60,000 gym members (as of August 2018) also become part of the broader ecosystem — which is where the app comes in. By combining goal setting and management, health education and intervention, and streaming workouts with the ability to order food and book fitness classes, the all-encompassing platform is certainly taking shape. 

For now, is focused on building synergy among its various businesses while expanding across its four verticals. Looking ahead to 2020, the company plans to have 400 gyms and 1M members, 100 kitchens, 100 centers, 100,000 online users streaming content, and 50 centers serving 1M people.

Though, it appears they haven’t wrapped their acquisition spree either. In fact, a new report suggests that is close to picking up another $75M in funding to expand their empire. Just last week, the company acquired cold-pressed juice brand Rejoov and plans to fold it into the platform. The company also announced an incubator program for consumer product startups creating “healthy food and snacks.” will invest $5M across 8–10 startups, co-creating products for the vertical. 

While it’s too soon to tell if can succeed in building a sustainable, interconnected ecosystem, such an ambitious undertaking certainly gets the gears turning. Could a vertically integrated concept take hold in the US — or anywhere else, for that matter? What about a PE-backed roll-up in the health and fitness space?

The Related Companies, owners of Equinox, SoulCycle, Blink Fitness, and Equinox Hotels, as well as investors in Rumble (and a number of other companies), have interests in the fitness space. But Related is a real estate company at its core. Among other examples, Xponential Fitness and their portfolio of eight boutique studios, certainly come to mind. Still, fitness is the sole focus. Then there’s L Catterton. As Brett Bivens of TechNexus points out in The At-Home Fitness Roll-Up , L Catterton led Peloton’s Series D, Tonal’s Series C, Hydrow’s Series B, and they participated in ClassPass’s Series D. Are they, or another PE firms, positioning to form an at-home fitness holding company? 

Given the interest in and growing opportunity around fitness and wellness, the possibility of a super-company in the US seems as likely as it is difficult. But if an industry consolidation plays out,  expect to see health and fitness rolled up, bundled, and repackaged for the wellness consumer. 

*Note: Location and member numbers are based on best-available information. did not respond to a request for up-to-date numbers.

Headlines & Happenings

💅 Beauty HQ  

Having seen its revenue fall for 11 consecutive quarters, including a 5% decline between 2017 and 2018, GNC is in search of a turnaround. In an effort to capitalize on self-care trends, while also attracting female consumers, the vitamin retailer best-known for protein powders and pre-workout supplements is introducing its first-ever beauty end-cap in 6,000 stores. 

Our strength is in sports and performance, and we have a stronghold on that [type of] customer... But the opportunity for us, and where we’re growing much quicker, is the health and wellness space in which beauty lays. We are trying to rid ourselves of the sports and performance image...” 
— John Learish, GNC Senior VP of Marketing

As Glossy noted, in addition to new products and end-caps, GNC will deploy digital ads and influencer campaigns aimed at reaching female customers interested in beauty supplements. Given the competition from direct-to-consumer vitamins and the overlap between self-care, beauty, and wellness, GNC hopes it can become “the headquarters” for beauty ingestibles. At this point, it’s whatever it takes to stay relevant.

🧘 Pyramid [Pose] Scheme

A recent article in The New York Times suggests that CorePower Yoga is running a multi-level marketing scheme of sorts, where its instructors receive financial incentives for recruiting and enrolling new students in the company’s Teacher Training program. The course costs $1,500 for a 200-hour training, and students could end up spending thousands more on additional courses. In some instances, the training might have been promoted under the pretense of placement — i.e. if you’re trained by CorePower, you can be an instructor there too.

Through a spokesperson, CorePower disputed the claim, stressing that instructors are not enlisted as salespeople and are not required to sell Teacher Training. “Teachers are hired for their quality yoga instruction,” the spokesperson said. Additionally, CorePower makes it clear that the Teacher Training is not a job placement program. While CPY’s ‘deception’ seemed to simply be a dedicated marketing push for their pricey Teacher Training program, their approach to get more qualified instructors in their pipeline is just; CorePower is a powerhouse with more than 200 studios in 23 states.

While CorePower certifies students and some rise through its ranks, Equinox, SoulCycle, and Barry’s Bootcamp are building entire talent management platforms for attracting and retaining top instructors. Similarly, Peloton and Rumble are turning their instructors into superstars. And GRIT BXNG, a new concept from Pitbull and Tony Robbins, is planning to pay instructors more than $1,000/hour. As the boutique space becomes more crowded, expect to see more innovative approaches for developing, retaining, and compensating top talent to emerge.

🤣  Fatherly Advice

Earlier this year, we had a good laugh at this Twitter thread from @ClueHeywood, poking fun at Peloton ads. And now, there’s a new tweet about Peloton that will make you laugh out loud. When Bumble editorial director Clare O'Connor‏ told her parents she was thinking about buying one of the company’s bikes, her father responded with a hilarious email:

I have heard of the Peloton, and have concluded that, like the use of cocaine, it's another way of God saying people have too much money… I would implore you not to waste precious after-tax income on this latest attempt to encourage social strivers to show that they live at a more rarified level than the proletariat.

Now we’re wondering what Clare’s dad thinks about the keto diet and other wellness trends.

💰 Money Moves


Direct-to-consumer pharmacy and telehealth startup Ro—best-know for its men's brand Roman—raised $85M in Series B financing at a $500M valuation. This funding comes seven months after Ro closed an $88M Series A. 

From Issue No. 16: We never wanted to build an ED company or a men’s-health company... We wanted to build a health-care technology company.” — Saman Rahmanian, Ro co-founder 

Shedul, a booking platform for beauty and wellness companies, raised $20M in Series B funding at a $105M valuation.

Dig Inn, a vegetable-forward fast-casual chain, has landed $20M in funding led by Danny Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality Investments.

EverlyWell, makers of at-home health and wellness test for everything from food sensitivity to fertility, announced $50M in Series B financing. 

At-home orthodontic startup Candid closed a $63.4M Series B from Greycroft and Bessemer Venture Partners, among others.

Territory Foods, a healthy food delivery service that uses local chefs to prepare fresh meals, raised $4M in new funding. 

Blume, a company providing content, education, and feminine hygiene products, secured $3.3M in seed funding.

Maple Leaf Foods and its Greenleaf Foods subsidiary, a protein alternative company, are planning to open a $310M production facility in central Indiana that will become North America's largest plant-based protein facility.

After investing some $143M in startups over the past year—including sneaker reseller platform GOAT and women’s athleisure brand Carbon 38—Foot Locker is launching a new incubator program called Greenhouse where they’ll build and invest in new brands.

Sunshine Fitness Growth Holdings acquired 13 Planet Fitness clubs in South Carolina and Georgia from Anchor Fitness LLC. In all, Sunshine Fitness now owns 80 clubs.

Butterfly Equity has purchased Bolthouse Farms from Campbell Soup Company for $510M, $1B less than Campbell purchased the company for in 2012.

Danone is selling Earthbound Farms, an organic produce company, to Taylor Farms. Terms were not disclosed, but Danone said Earthbound did around $400M of sales in 2018.

Coca-Cola-backed dairy company fairlife is investing more than $200M to build a new production and distribution facility in Goodyear, Arizona.

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