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03/05/19

Past Issues

The business of fitness and wellness.

Reinventing Your Workout

 

For the foreseeable future, the Peloton of “X” will come to define the fitness industry. With word that Peloton could go public at a value north of $8B, they’ve become the fitness equivalent of Uber, Airbnb, Warby Parker, or any other category-defining startup. And the impact is already being felt.

Piggybacking on Peloton’s success, would-be entrepreneurs will now point to the company as the shining example of what could be. As a result, investors can expect to encounter pitches with a similar refrain, “we’re like Peloton for [activity]”. However, these pitches are not unwelcome; many of those same investors are actively searching, checkbook in hand, for a concept with Peloton-like potential.

Michael Farello, a managing partner at L Catterton—a private equity firm with a reputation for backing disruptive fitness companies like Equinox, Peloton, and ClassPass—has said as much. Farello told Business Insider that, although the firm has invested broadly in health and wellness, they’re honing in on differentiated concepts within fitness. As more consumers seek out connected fitness experiences that provide a personalized, convenient, and efficient workout, Farello thinks the current stable of fitness startups is only the beginning.

"Artificial intelligence is really bringing the personal trainer into the home. I think that is the next big wave." - Michael Farello, L Catterton

To date, a number of tech-enabled fitness concepts have tapped this trend. Drafting off Peloton, Zwift has raised $164.5M to develop their gamified, virtual cycling platform. According to Zwift’s PR manager Chris Snook, “users have created over 1.1M Zwift accounts and, since launching their paid service three years ago, revenue has been “growing at an average of 2.5X year on year.” 

Going beyond the bike, a growing list of competitors are hoping to become the Peloton of rowing, weightlifting, boutique studios, and more. 

By combining an interactive LED screen and electromagnetic weights with a fold-out bench and cables, Tonal has managed to pack an entire gym and an AI-powered personal trainer into a wall-mounted strength training system. Similarly, Mirror is beaming boutique fitness classes into the home by way of a sleek, mirror-like (go figure) display that’s actually an interactive LED screen. Then there’s Hydrow, a connected indoor rower that recently raised $20M from L Catterton. And, as the up-and-comer of the bunch, FightCamp by Hykso is bringing boxing into the home with punch-tracking sensors to measure the count, type, speed, and “intensity” of your jabs. 

Still, these companies only represent a small segment of startups aspiring to be the next Peloton. Studios like Flywheel Sports, Rumble, and CityRow have also thrown their hats into the connected fitness space. While the former developed its own bike, the latter two studios have partnered with equipment manufactures—Technogym and WaterRower, respectively—to offer at-home options. 

At the same time, countless other companies, including Aaptiv, Freeletics, NEO U, FORTË, and the like, have taken the “Netflix of fitness” path by building streaming platforms.

What’s the punchline, then? It all comes full circle when you realize that Peloton CEO John Foley refers to his company as the “Apple of fitness.” Meaning, as the guy everyone else is chasing sees it, the opportunity presented by connected equipment and on-demand fitness is much bigger than anyone thinks. Thus, be forewarned: the level of impending disruption may far exceed expectation.

Headlines & Happenings

🤩 Under The Influencer 

In 2019, using social media means encountering “influencers” — content creators who monetize their audience through brand partnerships. Essentially, brand “x” pays influencer “y” to feature their product in a post. For examples, look no further than wellness communities on Instagram. From micro-influencers (a few thousand followers) to Instagram celebrities (millions of followers), the platform is packed with paid endorsements for “skinny tea”, skin cream, and supplements. 

Of course, none of this should come as a huge surprise. After all, the Fyre Festival debacle was enabled by the effectiveness of influencer marketing. And despite criticism of scammy wellness influencers, we may have reached a red flag moment. Say hello to Big Pharma influencers.

From pharmaceuticals to medical devices, more companies are turning to influencers for help reaching the next generation of consumers. With limited oversight and little consequence, pharma influencers have carte blanche to push their products. This begs the question, whether it’s an unproven supplement or a prescription medication, do these tactics raise any ethical concerns? Or does anything go in the pursuit of “wellness”?

☠️ Big Food = Big Tobacco

A new report from the Lancet Commission on Obesity likens Big Food to Big Tobacco based on the “damage they induce and the behaviors of the corporations that profit from them.” The report went on to criticize food and beverage giants for pushing empty calories onto consumers, misusing land and energy resources, and lobbying to create one-sided laws, policies, and health guidelines. All told, Big Food is identified as a contributing factor to the global obesity epidemic, malnutrition, and climate change.

This report is an important reminder. Despite the hype surrounding wellness, plant-based “meat”, and boutique fitness, every nation on Earth is getting fatter. When it comes to widespread improvements to our collective health, you have to wonder: are we trying to come up with solutions to the wrong problems?

🌻 Happy Plants

As part of the Fitt Insider Outlook for 2019, we predicted more brands would “pivot to wellness.” Already, a few short months into the year, this trend has taken over. Now, a growing number of startups like The Sill, Bloomscape, and Horti are tapping the wellness craze by mailing house plants to millennials. 

"[The Sill] has focused on creating a plant brand, one that appeals to consumers’ desire for all the wonderful things that plants can bring–health and environmental benefits, plus relief from the modern anxiety afflicting millennials. In essence, The Sill is a wellness brand." 

In a callback to Issue No. 17, mail-order house plants have found a sweet spot as a form of self-care aimed at alleviating anxiety. As The Sill founder Eliza Blank believes, we’re all under a great deal of stress and “plants really can be part of the cure,” she told Fast Company.

In related news: the pivot to wellness hasn’t gone as planned for WW who, following the rebrand of Weight Watchers and a renewed focus on wellness, has seen its membership and stock drop off. The resulting dip cost Oprah—an investor in WW—$58M on paper over the course of a few days.

💰 Money Moves

Activewear retailer Bandier raised $34.4M from C Ventures and Eurazeo, among others. Read more >> Issue No. 12, The Evolution of Athleisure.

Ginkgo Bioworks announced the launch of new subsidiary Motif Ingredients, a food engineering company that secured $90M in Series A funding to develop alternative protein ingredients for the next generation of plant-based and healthy food companies. Read more >> Issue No. 5, The Meat-Free Future.

Venture capital firm Boulder Food Group raised $100M in its second funding round and plans to invest in early-stage food and beverage companies.

Two Chairs, a mental health startup combining telemedicine and in-person therapy, raised $7M led by Maveron.

Beanfields, makers of better-for-you bean chips, secured an undisclosed amount of Series B funding led by PowerPlant Ventures.

Good Culture, maker of cultured dairy foods, closed $8M in a funding round led by CAVU Venture Partners.

Moringa-based food and beverage brand Kuli Kuli announced $5M in Series B financing.

Zone7 raised $2.5M for its AI-powered platform that calculates sports injury risk. 

The Good Food Institute awarded $3M in grant funding to be shared among 14 universities and startups working on plant-based and cell-based meat research.

RightRice, a chickpea-based rice alternative closed $5.5M in funding. 

NotCo, a Chile-based startup that uses AI to create plant-based foods, has raised $30M from investors including Jeff Bezos

Softbank is leading a $190M investment into Gympass, with plans to invest up to $500M in future rounds. These investments value Gympass at more than $1B. Similar to ClassPass, Gympass is a gym subscription service active in 10 countries with over 25,000 partner gyms. However, Gympass focuses on corporate contracts, not individual plans.

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