Past Issues

The business of fitness and wellness.

Wellness is Life


Back in Issue No. 8, we hit on Life Time’s plan to expand beyond health clubs. As we pointed out, a 2017 rebrand saw the company drop “fitness” from its name. In 2018, the introduction of Life Time Work signaled a serious move into coworking. Now, with the announcement of Life Time Living—wellness-focused residential developments—their plan for the future is becoming more clear. 

Founded in 1992 by CEO Bahram Akradi, Life Time is best known for high-end health clubs in affluent suburbs. But as the company sees it, they’re building a sprawling empire that “encompasses the entire spectrum of daily life.” 

"Life Time Living presents a complete reimagination of where and how we live." 
— Bahram Akradi, Life Time CEO

Going well beyond a “gym”, the company already has a presence in food services (LifeCafe), personal care (LifeSpa), and coworking (Life Time Work). As one of the largest operators of swimming pools in the US, the company offers swim clubs, lessons, lap pools, and poolside hangouts through Life Time Swim. They’ve even managed to vertically integrate real estate development, construction, and architecture within the Life Time Construction division.

Under Akradi’s leadership, the Life Time empire has grown from a single location in Minnesota to a public offering in 2004, followed by a $4B acquisition by Leonard Green & Partners and TPG Capital in 2015 to take the company private. The numbers for 2019 are equally as impressive: Life Time has amassed 140+ health clubs with 1.7M members and sustained revenues that are expected to top $2B this year. But the plan for the future is even more ambitious. 

In 2020, Life Time Living locations will begin popping up in Dallas, Las Vegas, and Miami. Constructed next to new or existing Life Time Fitness locations, these luxury apartments offer all the finer things in life — with an emphasis on convenience and well-being. On Life Time’s website, the headline reads: “It’s more than a home. It’s a lifestyle.” Of course, that lifestyle includes a membership to the onsite Life Time health club, plus access to the Life Time network of clubs in the US and Canada.

Looking further ahead, Akradi imagines a world where Fitness, Work, and Living unite to form a Life Time Village — a walkable, wellness-inspired community where convenience makes living a healthy lifestyle easier. 

However, Life Time isn’t alone in its under-one-roof approach. In addition to operating nearly 100 fitness clubs around the world, Equinox is also moving beyond fitness. The company’s first boutique hotel is set to open this summer. Plus, the brand recently announced a nationwide partnership with Industrious to bring coworking to its clubs. Both initiatives will debut at Hudson Yards, a $20B real estate development from The Related Companies — the parent company of Equinox. 

“Ninety percent of the members said if they could, they would stay in an Equinox hotel because they like the idea of the extension of their lifestyle into their travels.” 
— Christopher Norton, Equinox Hotels CEO

In an ad campaign, Equinox once proclaimed, “It’s not fitness. It’s life.” Now, the company is doubling down on that statement by pushing beyond fitness centers to become a full-fledged lifestyle brand. As Christopher Norton, CEO of Equinox Hotels, told Skift, it’s a lifestyle built around being “healthy, fit, and strong.” As a result, the hotel embodies three pillars: movement, nutrition, and regeneration to create a “total and complete synergy” between fitness club and hotel stay.

As a promotional video for Equinox Hotel states, the company’s foray into hospitality is, “For those who want it all.” This sentiment will likely be carried over to its new coworking initiative (Fun fact: Katharine Lau, the senior director of real estate at Industrious, was previously the manager of development at Equinox). With additional hotels and coworking spaces set to open across the country, we’ll have to wait and see if Equinox apartments await. 

Of course, there’s an obvious competitor in the space. WeWork—recently renamed The We Company—is the elephant in the live-work-play category. The company has raised $6.5B in funding, has been valued a $47B, and recently filed paperwork to go public. 

The company’s vision for the future isn’t dissimilar from that of Life Time or Equinox. From WeWork offices to WeLive apartments and the Rise By We wellness concept, The We Company is emphatic that they sell “community”. Given a plan that’s ambitious as it is vague, skeptics have criticized the company’s business model and valuation. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying to vertically integrate our lives.

Whether its Life Time Village, Equinox Hotel, or The We Company, we’re willing to pay a premium for an elevated experience and convenience from a brand that just gets us. As we move connected equipment into our homes and move ourselves into homes built atop high-end health clubs, wellness has moved beyond how we eat or sweat to define how we live.

Headlines & Happenings

☕️ Becoming Bulletproof

From butter coffee and a devoted online following to a venture-backed supplement company (with $68M in funding), Dave Asprey has succeeded in bringing his Bulletproof lifestyle into the mainstream. Heralded as a guru among the biohacking crowd, who literally eat—or drink—up what he’s selling, Asprey has his fair share of detractors who brush him off as “broscience”. But that hasn’t stopped him from trying to bring the results of his self-experiments to the masses. 

“[Upgrade Labs is] more space age laboratory than a health club. Highly-trained “biohackers” use cellular-level data to develop individualized custom plans for high performance in brain, body and recovery.” 

— Amanda McVey,  Upgrade Labs VP

Enter Upgrade Labs, Asprey’s take on a gym. As the story goes, Asprey spent years testing the newest fitness and wellness equipment on himself before making it available to the public. Now, at a 6,000-square-foot facility in Santa Monica, celebrities, elite athletes, “high performers”, and “very affluent professionals” pay $500–$3,500/month for a futuristic workout. According to Amanda McVey, vice president of Upgrade Labs, the gyms adaptive resistance technology and vibration plates can “induce the benefits of three hours of exercise in just 30 minutes.” 

Is that claim too good to be true? Probably, definitely yes. But Asprey is ready to put his lab to the test. Eyeing the success of HIIT studio Orangetheory Fitness, McVey said Upgrade Labs has a “pie-in-the-sky” goal of opening 1,000 locations worldwide. Currently, there are two Upgrade Labs — the flagship in Santa Monica and a second in Beverly Hills. The company said it has 200 interested franchisees and plans to introduce a 2,500-square-foot concept that’s less expensive than the 4,000–6,000-square-foot footprint.

🍳 The End of Eggs

While companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are on a mission to replace animal protein, the race is on to replace eggs.

Among the contenders, VeganEgg by Follow Your Heart has used soy to formulate its powdered egg substitute. Then there’s Spero Foods, a startup using pumpkin seed protein to make liquid eggs. And Clara Foods, a cellular agriculture company, uses cell culture to make egg whites. But, even as more startups join in, JUST Inc. has quickly become the dominant player in the space. 

Since introducing its mung bean-based egg substitute last year, JUST Inc. says it has sold the plant-based equivalent of 6.3M chicken eggs in the US. That’s quite the accomplishment, but there’s still a lot of ground to make up — total US egg production for only February 2019 was 8.5M, according to the US Department of Agriculture. 

Nielsen data puts the traditional egg market valued at some $7B, marking fertile ground for disruptive startups. But at the moment, egg substitutes are where fake meat was a few years ago; they haven’t quite cracked the taste and texture for everyday use, like whipping up some scrambled eggs. Still, with momentum behind protein alternative and innovation ramping up, this could be the beginning of the end for eggs.

💰 Money Moves

Daxko, a technology company serving health and wellness centers, acquired SugarWOD, a software for affiliate and boutique gyms. Combined with Daxko-owned Zen Planner, the SugarWOD acquisition gives Daxko an end-to-end solution for CrossFit gyms.

Purple Carrot, the plant-based meal kit company, was acquired by Japanese e-grocer Oisix ra daichi for $12.8M, with an additional $17M coming if the company hits unspecified financial goals by 2021.

Motionsoft, a SaaS provider for fitness and wellness centers, raised $17M in funding.

Calm Radio, a Toronto, Canada-based provider of “life-enhancing music” for focus, relaxation, mindfulness, and sleep, secured $1.25M in financing.

Jour, an app for guided journaling, raised $1.8M in seed funding from True Ventures’ Kevin Rose. Rose, a founder of Digg, has waded into wellness recently founding Oak, a guided meditation app, and Zero, an app for tracking intermittent fasting.

Future, an app-based fitness coach offering one-on-one training, raised $8.5M in Series A funding led by Kleiner Perkins.

Livekick, a startup connecting customers to one-on-one personal training and yoga via live video, raised $3M in seed funding.

Kombucha maker Tribucha closed a $1.5M Series A funding round.

Sun Basket, a “healthy” meal kit delivery startup, closed a $30M Series E.

FreshToHome, a Banglore India-based platform for fresh and chemical-free seafood, closed $11M in Series A financing.

Modern Health, a mental well-being benefits platform for employers, raised $9M in Series A funding led by Kleiner Perkins.

Beautystack, a UK-based booking app for beauty professionals, landed £4M in seed funding led by Index Ventures.

Silo, a marketplace for perishable food producers and distributors, secured $3M in seed funding led by Initialized Capital.

Natural Partners Fullscript, a nutraceutical prescribing platform for healthcare practitioners, closed $25M Series B financing.

Bonne O Holdings Inc., developer of innovative beverage systems, announced $7.5M in Series B financing.

Naturally Slim, a weight management company, received an undisclosed capital investment from private equity firm The Riverside Company.

The Latest on Insider

🎙 Goop Goes After Guys

Love it or hate it, Gwyneth Paltrow has built a wellness empire under the Goop banner. Now, after building a business that’s worth upwards of $250M, Paltrow is fixing Goop’s crosshairs on guys. Introducing: Goopfellas. Starting with a podcast before launching a newsletter and dedicated section of the website, the guys will soon get the Goop treatment… whatever that means.

Read More


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