In recent weeks, there has been an endless list of new fitness and wellness companies, features, and products announced. As expected, CES produced a PR blitz. But the conference was only one part of the equation. While Peloton’s success opened the connected fitness flood gates, upgraded wearables, sleep tech, and even sex tech have emerged as the next evolution of digital health.
If you’re keeping score at home, here’s a rundown of the news and announcements to have on your radar.
The Battle For Your Spare Room
Remember when working out at home meant following along with your favorite fitness DVD? Maybe, if you were particularly ambitious, you picked up (and never used) a treadmill, weight bench, or elliptical. Now, the fitness equivalent of keeping up with the Joneses requires a spare bedroom, thousands of dollars, and multiple pieces of high-tech exercise equipment. With that, countless companies are trying to capitalize on this trend.
As we’ve previously mentioned, almost every fitness company—from Flywheel and SoulCycle to ICON (parent to NordicTrack and Free Motion), Technogym, and Life Fitness—is making a play for the at-home market. Among the established players, a few new developments have emerged.
For starters, Peloton is set to introduce a rowing machine, a new, more-affordable treadmill, and an updated monitor. Additionally, the company recently lowered the price of its digital-only subscription while also launching Fire TV and Apple Watch apps.
Meanwhile, Echelon, the mid-market competitor to Peloton, released a number of new “connected” products and on-demand content, including a treadmill, rowing machine, and a line of commercial products. Of note, the company also offers a Mirror-like competitor called Reflect, featuring streaming content and at-home instruction from celebrity trainers.
The growing number of Mirror competitors is worth exploring further. While the company was first to market, copycats have been fast to follow their lead. In addition to Echelon, China’s Fiture, Berlin-based VAHA, and San Francisco’s Pivot have similar products. But this trend isn’t limited to fitness, Samsung recently launched a vertical TV that could evolve into an interactive device.
For its part, Mirror believes it’s building “the next iPhone” capable of delivering immersive experiences across any vertical, like beauty, fashion, or telemedicine. But for now, the product itself hasn’t proven to be especially defensible.
Rounding out the fitness category, a few upstarts have entered the space. Ergatta unveiled a connected rower and “game-based platform”. MYX Fitness introduced a connected bike billed as the “Un-Peloton”. And lastly, Chinese wearable company Huami and fitness startup Studio teamed up on the Amazfit HomeStudio — an open-front treadmill and full-length display screen intended to create a personalized and immersive exercise experience.
Get Your Mind Right
Among the new entrants to the meditation space, Core introduced a handheld device used to guide and track meditation sessions. With a built-in EEG sensor, Core can provide insights into focus and calm levels, as well as heart rate and heart rate variability, helping users track progress over time. Like Core, WAVE Meditation isn’t focused on a meditation app and content alone. The company’s vibrating pillow syncs with the beats of its music-based meditation content to create a more immersive experience.
As Mindspace and Calm have demonstrated en route to becoming a billion-dollar industry, meditation has become synonymous with sleep. Similarly, whereas initially we pegged wearables as “activity trackers”, WHOOP, Oura Ring, and the Apple Watch are proving that “sleep” is the new “steps”. Looking ahead, a number of new product launches signal the staying power of this convergence.
New from Withings, the ScanWatch is capable of detecting sleep apnea while also tracking the length, quality, and depth of sleep. Moving beyond the wrist, a number of headbands hope to become the next frontier of sleep — see Muse S, URGONight, Ebb Therapeutics, and Philips SmartSleep Deep Sleep. However, to date, headbands haven’t quite caught on as a silver bullet sleep solution.
Say Hello to Sex Tech
Sexual wellness has found a home as part of the broader self-care movement. In fact, the global sexual wellness marketing is expected to reach $64.6B in value by 2023. And now, sex tech is gaining traction.
As the de facto leader of the movement, Lora DiCarlo has given rise to a growing number of companies offering hands-free, high-tech, app-powered sex toys. Meanwhile, startups like Maude and Dame have co-opted the DTC playbook and design aesthetic, applying it to sex toys, lubricants, condoms, and other accessories. Then there’s Dipsea, an erotic audio app that’s branding could easily be mistaken for a meditation app. Looking ahead, sex and tech will continue to merge with wellness and self-care, reducing the stigma associated with what has traditionally been a taboo subject.
Love it or hate it, Gwyneth Paltrow is on quite a roll. The actress turned wellness guru has built a $250M empire by combining celebrity and pseudoscience. Now, Paltrow is bringing her Goop-approved lifestyle and products to a screen, store, or ship(?) near you.
- Launching January 24, Netflix will play host to the goop lab, a six-part series on what appears to be total nonsense, hosted by Paltrow herself and Elise Loehnen, Goop’s chief operating officer.
- On Feb. 28, Goop’s skincare line will be sold at select US Sephora stores. The company’s wellness products recently went live on Sephora.com.
- A few days ago, Paltrow posted a video to her 6.7M Instagram followers promoting goop at Sea, a $5,000-per-person “wellness cruise” in partnership with Celebrity Cruises.
Being Bulletproof. By now, Paltrow and Goop are used to the criticism. In fact, they embrace it, playing up and into the controversy. For her part, Paltrow said she can “monetize” the eyeballs focused on Goop as the result of any backlash. That might help explain why the Netflix trailer for her forthcoming show alludes to the “dangerous” and “unregulated” wellness topics to be explored.
Punchline. As Vox suggests, unless consumers rebel against Goop, Paltrow is essentially trolling us and making a fortune in the process.
💸 Investors? Possibly You!
Equinox, the upscale fitness company and SoulCycle’s majority owner, is looking to bring on new funding to support the expansion of its digital platform and connected equipment initiatives. According to Bloomberg, the company is in “advanced talks” with private equity firm Silver Lake to secure an investment.
- Of note, Equinox executive chairman Harvey Spevak told Dan Primack of Axios that Peloton “has done a good job”, but “there’s no replacement for community and experience, and you can’t get that at home no matter how great the execution is”.
- Primack poses the Peloton question at the 30-minute mark in this video.
ICYMI: Over the summer, Equinox attempted to launch its own exercise equipment and streaming content for the at-home market. But the ill-timed announcement went by the wayside when news broke that Stephen Ross, the billionaire owner of Equinox and SoulCycle, was hosting a fundraiser for President Trump.
The Equinox of ‘X’. While the ensuing boycott and media firestorm caused quite a frenzy, the company appears to be regrouping on its original plan. And it’s not a moment too soon. As countless connected fitness companies piggybacked on Peloton, Equinox could leapfrog the entire category.
📰 News & Notes
- The joys of Dry January.
- CBD-infused olive oil is now a thing.
- Duncan Hines wants to sell you keto cake mix.
- The countertop matcha maker you’ve been searching for.
- Inside the new coworking space from Equinox and Industrious.
- Be on the lookout for Hilma’s “natural remedies, launching soon.
- Peloton could reach 150+ showrooms, doubling its retail footprint.
💰 Money Moves
- ClassPass closed a $285M Series E funding round, vaulting the company to unicorn status with a billion-dollar valuation. L Catterton and Apax Digital led the investment, with existing investor Temasek participating. In all, ClassPass has raised $549M in total funding. For more: read our report on fitness booking platforms and multi-studio memberships.
- Procter & Gamble bought Billie, a direct-to-consumer maker of women’s shaving and personal care products. Terms were not disclosed.
- Ritual Zero Proof, makers of alcohol-free spirit alternatives, received an investment from alcoholic beverage company Diageo via Distill Ventures. More on this trend: The Rise of Mindful Drinking
- Women’s health startup Advantia Health secured $45M in new funding. Go deeper: The Women’s Health Revolution
- New Age Meats, a cultivated meat company, closed $2.7M in seed funding.
- Plant-based meat alternative producer THIS raised £4.7M in seed funding.
- Honors Holdings, a leading Orangetheory Fitness franchisee, expanded into the Northeast with the acquisition of 12 corporate-owned studios, area development rights for both MA and RI, plus 20+ sub-franchised locations.
- Private equity firm The Halifax Group made an investment in Maverick Fitness Holdings, an Orangetheory Fitness franchisee with 30 studios in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
- LoveRaw, a vegan confectionery brand, secured a “7-figure investment deal” from Blue Horizon Ventures, a backer of Beyond Meat.
- USA Soccer’s Julie Ertz and her husband, NFLer Zach Ertz, invested in Tiesta Tea.