Zwift's Virtual Running, Biking Software Gets a Multimillion Dollar Lift
Rachel Uranga covers the intersection of business, technology and culture. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.
The pandemic has forced many gyms to close and emptied others, catapulting the at-home fitness industry.
Zwift, a social fitness application that lets users virtually train together on their treadmills and bikes, is taking advantage of the shift.
The Long Beach-based company announced Wednesday it raised $450 million to build out Zwift-branded "hardware' for fitness buffs that uses the company's 3-D generated worlds to ride or run alongside others. It's also looking to expand into esports as it builds out the 10 virtual worlds it offers in the platform. In the summer, Zwift hosted a virtual Tour de France in July.
But its growth has been hampered. Right now, users pay $14.99 a month for Zwift's software but must pair it with a third-party stationary bike or treadmill such as Bkool, Elite, Cylotronics. The company hasn't specified what hardware it aims to create, but offering a treadmill or cycle could help it go head-to-head with companies like Peloton, which last week reported its first quarterly profit after sales surged 172% as homebound customers stocked up.
Peloton recently dropped the cost of its basic bikes, which sell for $1,895. Their accompanying app costs $39 a month, although a $12.99 membership is available for those without the equipment.
"With this investment, Zwift is primed to operate in a broader fitness market and deliver on our ambition to provide gamified fitness through integrated software and hardware, to anyone who wants to have fun while getting fit at home," said Zwift CEO Eric Min in a statement.
The competition is heating up. This week, Apple announced that it will release Fitness Plus for $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year. The service offers workouts from the "world's best trainers" in yoga, cycling, dance and more with Apple Music integrated.
Since it launched in 2015, Zwift has registered more than 2.5 million accounts, according to the company.
The round was led KKR, accompanied by other investors including Permira, Specialized Bicycle Components' venture capital fund, Zone 5 Ventures and the Amazon Alexa Fund and existing investors including True, Highland Europe, Novator and Causeway Media.
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