Issue No. 111: Year-End Review

Courtney Powell

Welcome to the final issue of Fitt Insider for 2020. What a wild year it has been.

Next week, we’ll publish our annual outlook, exploring what’s next in fitness and wellness. If you’re interested, past editions can be found here: 2019 and 2020.

Today, we’re closing out the year with some thoughts on the future of Fitt Insider.

Quick Backstory 

Initially, this newsletter wasn’t a newsletter at all. What began as an informal email among friends and colleagues quickly took on a life of its own.

Each week, as the email made its rounds, would-be subscribers asked to join the nonexistent mailing list. When adding people by hand proved futile, we formalized the process and committed to publishing a weekly digest.

Nearly two years later, we’re proud to say that Fitt Insider is widely read among industry operators. Better still, the community forming around the newsletter and podcast is incredible. Going forward, we hope to add significantly more value to the broader ecosystem.

Thinking Out Loud

Content. Each issue of the newsletter follows a similar template, but we’re kicking around new formats. For instance, we heard from a number of readers who enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at Levels. The same goes for this write-up featuring takeaways from interviews with investors on our podcast.

Speaking of the podcast, the new Startup Spotlight featuring interviews with early-stage founders was a hit. Beyond interviews, round-table discussions, news briefs, and open-ended jam sessions are all on the table for next year.

Community. The people who subscribe to and engage with Fitt Insider are, by far, the best part of what we do. To date, most of the connections and collaborations resulting from this network have been one-off and/or behind the scenes. Now, we’re experimenting with ways to expand its impact.

For starters, creating a two-way dialogue has been critical. That’s why we invite you to email us at insider@fitt.co with any feedback, input, or just to connect. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram work great too.

In conversations with subscribers, increasing access to talent, potential partners, and capital are high atop their wishlist. How best to alleviate these pain points is a problem we’re working through.

Sure, a Slack channel or Telegram group could work. But the challenge is making them feel intimate and additive as opposed to noisy and overwhelming. Stay tuned!

Monetizing. No, we’re not moving to a paid subscription. The content will remain free. All we ask is that if you find value in the content, share the newsletter and review the podcast.

Ultimately, we’re operators. More than observing what’s happening, we like to be in the trenches, helping shape the future of fitness and wellness. So, in addition to producing in-depth content and building this community—which will always be a priority—we’re also working with founders, investors, and other builders to move the industry forward.

Next year, we’ll be sharing more about the various projects that are underway, running the gambit from advising to consulting and investing.

Better Days Ahead 

We want to extend a huge thank you for following along with Fitt Insider.

We’re incredibly grateful you chose to spend a few minutes with us each week during a year that was among the most trying we’ve ever known.

We know the same is true for many of you. If you were affected by the pandemic, our hearts go out to you.

It’s impossible to know what 2021 has in store for us, but we’re optimistic. Here’s to better days ahead!


🎙 On the Podcast

This week, on the Fitt Insider podcast, we’re joined by John Burns, CEO of TB12 — a health and wellness company founded by NFL quarterback Tom Brady and Alex Guerrero, Brady’s longtime trainer and business partner.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Helping people perform better and live pain-free
  • Developing an education and certification program based on the TB12 Method
  • Scaling a business that encompasses physical locations, digital content, nutritional supplements, and more.

Listen to the full episode here.

💸 Fitness Funding

Connected equipment maker Echelon Fitness raised $65M in a funding round led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from existing investor North Castle Partners.

Accelerated by the pandemic, a shift to home fitness has attracted a growing list of competitors. Hoping to stand out, Echelon sought to differentiate itself on price, product assortment, distribution, and its target consumer.

Along with a collection of smart bikes, Echelon offers rowers, fitness “mirrors”, and a treadmill that vary in price, from $500 to $2000. In addition to selling online, the company also has a retail presence at Walmart, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Costco, and Amazon.

A point of emphasis, Echelon CEO Lou Lentine credits the company’s “down-to-earth” instructors and attainable approach to fitness as keys to its success.

By the numbers. Echelon’s revenue is up more than 500% to $100M, and the Echelon Fit app has more than 100K users, according to Bloomberg.

Zooming out: This year, the connected fitness gold rush reached new heights. Next year, as gyms and studios reopen, we’ll be watching as at-home equipment companies navigate an omnichannel environment. Another thing to keep an eye on, lawsuits involving Peloton, Echelon, and ICON Health & Fitness remain unsettled.

🏆 MasterClass For Sports

Combining beautifully produced content with celebrity instructors, online education startup MasterClass has popularized the concept of “edutainment.” Its model certainly seems to be working; the company has raised more than $230M and was recently valued at more than $800M.

Be on the lookout: Startups focused on sports performance are applying the MasterClass model.

The Skills. Featuring courses from sports icons, including Michael Phelps, Larry Fitzgerald, and Megan Rapinoe, this online education upstart recently secured $5M in seed funding led by Will Ventures.

SportsIcon. Still in the early stages, SportsIcon describes itself as “Masterclass for sports and eSports.” The company’s website includes photos of Pelé, Ronaldinho, and Andy Murray, suggesting they’ll lead courses.

ProClass. This yet-to-launch sports training platform will include content from athletes like Chris Paul, Allen Iverson, Tyler Herro, and Aerial Powers. Of note, ProClass is the latest venture from Players Media Group, a sports-centric media and entertainment company with more than 25 athlete-investors, like Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Bauer, and Travis Kelce.

Looking ahead: Like digital and connected fitness companies who are competing for top-tier trainers, star athletes could become highly coveted instructors themselves. Similarly, mirroring the shift of fitness from gyms to the home, there’s a massive opportunity to reimagine coaching in a remote environment.

📰 News & Notes

💰 Money Moves

  • Connected fitness equipment manufacturer Echelon Fitness secured $65M in a funding round led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from North Castle Partners.
    More from Fitt Insider: Goldman’s Aarti Kapoor and NCP’s Jon Canarick on the podcast.
  • Empire Holdings and Investments, a wholly owned subsidiary of Town Sports International, received a $100M strategic investment from Kennedy Lewis.
    More from Fitt Insider:
     On the Other Side.
  • Athlon Acquisition, a SPAC formed by owners of the San Francisco 49ersBoston Celtics, and Leeds Unitedfiled for an IPO seeking to invest $200M into health, wellness, and fitness sectors.
    More from Fitt Insider: The SPACs Are Coming
  • Israeli fitness tech startup BlazePod, creators of an athletic training system improving reaction time, raised $8.5M in a funding round led by AP Partners.
  • Canadian mental health company MindBeacon, providers of digital and in-clinic cognitive behavioral therapy, raised $65M through an IPO.
    More from Fitt Insider: Erasing Stigmas
  • Matrix Meats, maker of proprietary technology used in the production of cultivated meat, secured undisclosed seed funding.
  • California-based organic baby food delivery service Little Spoon landed $22M in a funding round led by Valor Equity Partners.
  • DTC personal genomics company 23andMe secured $82.5M in a Series F round co-led by Sequoia Capital and NewView Capital.
  • A business group led by NBA star Baron Davis and hip-hop mogul Master P expressed interest in acquiring Reebok from Adidas for an estimated $2.4B.
    More from Fitt Insider: The Athlete VC
  • Hooked Foods, a Swedish producer of plant-based tuna, raised 5M kr ($610K) to launch its product in Swedish restaurants.
  • Certor Sports, a subsidiary of Innovatus Capital Partnersacquired all assets of Kranos Corporation, including sporting gear brands SchuttPro Gear Sports, and others.
  • Sustainable snack brand Goodfish, creators of chips made from upcycled salmon skin, closed a $4M Series A led by AF Ventures and Siddhi Capital.

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