Past Issues

The business of fitness and wellness.

Selling Sleep


If the headlines are true, we’re living in the age of anxiety. Beset by burnout, wellness has emerged as the antidote to modern times. And now, more than ever, a good night’s sleep is critical to any self-care routine. As a result, selling sleep has become a billion-dollar business. 

Whether it’s falling asleep, staying asleep, or improving sleep quality, getting some shut-eye can be a serious problem. In fact, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said sleeplessness is a public health concern.

As a nation, we are not getting enough sleep.”  
– Wayne Giles, MD, CDC

It’s true that a third of Americans battle some form of insomnia and, diagnosed sleep disorder or not, poor sleep costs US businesses $411B/year, but next to prominently displaying your Peloton bike, the quest for high-quality sleep has become a status symbol of sorts. From bedtime elixirs and sleep tracking tech to comfy bedding, the global market for sleep aids is valued at $69.5B, a number that could reach $101.9B by 2023.

For a time, sleep aid meant sleeping pills. But as the number of startups shipping mattresses in boxes grew, our interest in and accompanying spending on sleep ticked up. Of course, that’s no accident. With $340M in funding and hopes of taking over the $39B global mattress market, Casper helped build the sleep economy. Now, the mattress is just one item in Casper’s ever-expanding sleep suite that includes bedding, pillows, bed frames, and sleep-enhancing night light. And Casper is just one name in the business of selling every aspect of the sleep experience. 

“It’s really hard to put a price on getting a good night’s sleep.
– Kathrin Hamm, founder Bearaby 

Brands like Parachute, Brooklinen, Buffy, Doris Sleep, and Lunya are cornering the market on comfort. Weighted blankets like Gravity and Bearaby are selling for upwards of $250. Equinox recently unveiled “sleep coaching” to help members optimize sleep and achieve their fitness goals. Tim Ferriss has raved about the ChiliPad — a temperature controlled mattress pad. And there’s an abundance of sleep apps, including Calm and Headspace, the popular meditation apps, as well as options like Pillow and Pzizz. 

Predictably, supplement manufacturers are trying to capitalize on this trend. Brands like HUM and OLLY offer “sleep” versions of their vitamin-packs. The same goes for collagen protein maker Vital Proteins and Moon Juice’s Dream Dust. But the practice has also spread to the functional beverage space, with Dirty Lemon, Som, Neuro Drinks, and many others slinging sleep-enhancing drinks. Whether or not the products deliver results is debatable, but there’s no denying the success of their marketing tactics — sleep sells.

More compelling, though, are the high-tech sleep solutions. In 2017, TechCrunch reported some $700M of investment flowing to sleep-related startups. In the time since, sleep-tracking mattress pads and wearables have emerged as the go-to devices. Beddit, a Finnish company acquired by Apple in 2017, offers pads that slip under the sheets, where they collect data like sleep time, heart rate, breathing, and snoring. 

When it comes to wearables, Fitbit tracks sleep stages and duration. Meanwhile, Motiv and Oura have introduced rings that track robust health data, with Oura offering a more expansive look at sleep — including total sleep, sleep efficiency, latency, heart rate variability, and more. But it’s WHOOP, a wrist-worn tracker, that has done the most to shape the sleep narrative and reframe recovery in popular culture. 

Instead of simply tracking activity, WHOOP measures Recovery, Strain, and Sleep to determine “personal readiness to perform each day.” More specifically, by analyzing heart rate variability, resting heart rate, and sleep, WHOOP provides users with a green, yellow, or red recovery score each day. And here’s where things get interesting. 

Whether it’s professional athletes, venture capitalists, or weekend warriors, WHOOP users are sharing screenshots of their personalized recovery score across social media. The goal is to stay in the optimal green zone, and posting your recovery score is a humble brag that you slept eight or nine hours last night. 

That anecdote explains why WHOOP is winning, at least among a highly competitive class. They’re replacing bragging about pulling an all-nighter with sharing social proof that you’re actually sleeping. It’s a shift that’s representative of the broader trend and the same one that explains why we’re spending billions: sleep has become a competitive advantage in everyday life and, damn, do we want to win.

Headlines & Happenings

🚳 For Sale By (New) Owner  

Back in Issue No. 9, one of our headlines, No Fly Zone, hit on the turmoil confronting Flywheel Sports. The topic popped up again in this thread — featuring insights from former Flywheel employees and folks who currently work in the boutique cycling space. And now, Bloomberg is reporting on the continued fallout.

Kennedy Lewis Investment Management, a lender to Flywheel, has seized control of the boutique studio operator and will explore sale options. Kennedy Lewis, which owns roughly 75% of the company, had previously provided a loan to Flywheel before providing another $15M in exchange for majority equity control. This news comes after reports that Flywheel failed to bring on investment in December 2018 and soon after, being unable to find a buyer while exploring a sale in the range of $350M.

Now, a representative from Kennedy Lewis said they’re “excited” to explore growth opportunities for Flywheel’s at-home bike, which sells for $1,699 before tax and delivery, plus a $39/month subscription. According to Bloomberg, Flywheel could potentially sell the at-home bikes and subscriptions via Amazon and Best Buy. Given Flywheel’s stalled grown, and the momentum behind other competitors in the Peloton of ‘X’ category, it could be too late to mount a comeback.

🍵 Bootstrapped Booch

In 1995, George Thomas Dave started brewing fizzing fermented tea. Now, Dave is best known as the GT of GT’s Living Foods, the billionaire who built a bootstrapped kombucha empire.

In the early days, he personally brewed, bottled, labeled, and delivered every batch. Within 10 years, GT’s neared $35M in sales. Now, the company does an estimated $275M annually. Despite willing suitors, Dave has turned down acquisition offers, telling Forbes, “I’m not for sale.” Instead of selling out, Dave is the lone shareholder of a business valued at some $900M. 

Like Dave’s fortune, the market for kombucha has seen massive growth — the US sector could be worth $2B by 2020. Although GT’s still owns 40% of the US market, there are hundreds of competitors ranging from upstarts to brand extensions of Big Soda. PepsiCo shelled out $260M for KeVita back in 2016. Last year, Molson Coors purchased Clearly Kombucha. And Health-Ade has raised $30M from Coke and other investors en route to $50M in sales.

As Dave sees it, his competitors are killing the kombucha category with low-quality products that drive prices down. In response, GT’s is broadening its empire to include CBD sparkling water, hard cider, kefir, and other new products. Reassuring himself while reminding competitors that he’s playing the long game, Dave says: “I’m not in a rush. I don’t have to answer to anybody.”

🗣️ What Say You? 

As we close in on 30 straight weeks of pressing send on the Fitt Insider newsletter, we’re starting to consider some changes, err… upgrades to our operation. But before we get carried away, we want to get your input. So what do you say, could you take a few minutes to help shape the future of Fitt Insider? 

For context, we’re thinking about things like format (whatcha think about the layout and length of the newsletter?), frequency (want more?), platforms (do you keep up with the website or Instagram?), and the looming question… does an interview podcast featuring investors, entrepreneurs, and execs from the worlds of fitness and wellness have an audience? That, plus we’re all ears if you have other thoughts, feedback, or suggestions. Let us know what you think.

💰 Money Moves


Edgewell Personal Care, maker of Schick razors, is buying digitally native shaving company Harry's for $1.37B in cash and stock. Harry’s co-founders Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider will stay on as co-presidents of US operations as, per the press release, Edgewell and Harry’s will work to “create a platform that enables building and scaling the next generation of impactful consumer brands.”

Impossible Foods has landed $300M in new funding, valuing the company at $2B. In addition to institutional investors like Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, GV (formerly Google Ventures), celebrity backers, including Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Serena Williams, Jaden Smith, Trevor Noah, participated in the round. 

Read more >> This financing for Impossible Foods comes on the heels of Beyond Meat's stellar IPO that valued the company at more than $3B. Take a deep dive into Beyond Meat’s IPO and the momentum behind protein alternatives in Issue 27 of Fitt Insider.

Speaking of protein alternatives, Aleph Farms, an Israel-based startup producing real meat from cow cells, raised $12M in series A funding.

Hosain Rahman, founder of the now-defunct Jawbone, has raised $65M for his new company, Jawbone Health. After burning through $1B in funding over a 10-year run at wireless speakers and fitness trackers, Rahman and Jawbone Health are seeking to create a “clinical grade” product that’s more health monitor than fitness tracker.

Urban—a London-based platform for on-demand wellness services like massage, osteopathy, facial, and nail services—has raised $10M in series B funding.

Journey Meditation, a subscription-based group meditation app, raised $2.4M in seed funding.

Daye, makers of female health products, secured $5.5M in funding for new kind of tampon that uses CBD to address dysmenorrhea.

Pearl, a startup applying AI to dentistry, landed $11M in series A funding to create a holistic oral health platform.

rocean, a smart, countertop device that dispenses filtered, carbonated, and flavored water, raised more than $6M in funding.

HATCH, a lifestyle brand and apparel company for new and expecting mothers, raised $5M in series A funding.

Health IQ, a life insurance startup that rewards health-conscious consumers with lower rates, has raised $55M in Series D funding.

DispatchHealth, a provider of on-demand healthcare services, closed a $33M growth financing for its mobile urgent care model.

Lora DiCarlo, a sextech company, announced $2M in funding to support work on “the next level of pleasure tech.”


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