Issue No. 124: Investor Insights Vol. II

Courtney Powell

Investor interviews are a mainstay of the Fitt Insider podcast. And every so often, we revisit past episodes, turning isolated conversations into actionable insights.

A favorite among readers, Issue No. 106 featured insights gleaned from our interviews with top venture capitalists, investment bankers, and private equity investors.

Taking a similar approach today, we’re breaking down more investor interviews to uncover the ideas and opportunities driving the industry forward.

All-Encompassing

For consumers, the pursuit of well-being knows no bounds. In turn, investors are taking an expansive view of the category.

Initially, Brett Thomas, co-founder and managing partner of CAVU Venture Partners, was focused on backing better-for-you brands like Beyond Meat, Thrive Market, and Vital Proteins.

Now, as our definition of health evolves, Brett says CAVU is following suit:

“In 2015, I would’ve said health and wellness was primarily food and nutrition. Fast-forward to today: We’re looking at human performance, personal care, beauty, digital/connected fitness, and mental health. And so, I think you have to evolve or you die…”

Along those lines, the firm backed telehealth brand Hims and wearable maker WHOOP.

Looking ahead, CAVU wants to partner with brands that, as Brett sees it, are ever-present in the pursuit of well-being:

“Think about who the consumer is. Then think about the day of a consumer. We want to intersect that consumer as many points as possible along their journey.” 

Where To?

The question of how we got here—and where we’re going—is a recurring theme from investor interviews.

Taking inspiration from the world of sports, Will Ventures partner Brian Reilly sees trickle-down health as a factor driving fitness and wellness forward:

“A lot of innovation pressure-tested in elite sports ends up impacting consumer trends in fitness and nutrition.”

At FitLab, Brian Kirkbride has taken a portfolio approach to target niches across the performance lifestyle, from fitness to supplements and recovery:

“We think niche offerings can be multi-billion-dollar brands. We’re able to provide depth and authenticity and speak to very specific consumers.”

Sitting at the intersection of consumer products and healthcare, Canaan’s Byron Ling has a unique perspective on the landscape:

“A larger trend is the broad consumerization of healthcare. Not just direct consumer products like Ro, but the consumerization of tools used in the healthcare system.”

In a forthcoming episode, Jared Stein of Monogram Capital talks about tracking a shift in consumer habits moving toward health-conscious choices:

“We’ve seen a shift in diet toward plant-based, gluten-free, and cleaner ingredients… if version 1.0 was removing all the bad ingredients, version 2.0 is adding functional ones.”

Echoing this sentiment, CAVU’s Brett Thomas sees the shift toward better-for-you options in a similar light:

“I think it’s an evolution, not a revolution of being able to change consumer habits. It has to be a natural progression.”

Top of Mind

Following up on his “evolution” comment, Brett said identifying winning concepts is more art than science, plus a lot of luck.

His advice for increasing the odds of success? As the Gretzky euphemism goes: “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it is.”

To give you a better sense of where the puck might be heading, here’s what’s top of mind among leading investors…

Human-in-the-loop: Brian Reilly of Will Ventures and Byron Ling of Canaan both spoke about the opportunity in connecting consumers with experts.

Citing his investment in Uniform Teeth, Byron doesn’t think practitioners will be replaced. Instead, they’ll be enabled by technology that puts them at the center of the experience.

Similarly, Brain Reilly pointed to Will’s investment in Future, the remote personal training app, as a successful example. Further, he said the model could be applied to physical therapy, nutrition, and other aspects of consumer health.

Personalization: Every investor we spoke to hit on the need in creating highly personalized offerings.

As FitLab’s Brian Kirkbride put it, “[The industry] hasn’t done a good job of personalization. There are onboarding questions… but it’s just so thin.” Related, Jared Stein said we’re only in the first innings of personalization, leading him to focus on at-home lab testing and invest in Vessel.

Likewise, Brain Reilly said precision wellness and personalized nutrition are two areas he’s following closely. This is reflected in his decision to back Elo, maker of personalized supplements.

Increasing access: A topic we return to on a regular basis, the reality of who the health and wellness industry serves, and who it doesn’t, is of critical importance.

To that end, Byron Ling said: “The reality is, not everyone can afford a Peloton. I think there’s still a white space for more accessible solutions.” From kids to seniors, he continued, “it’s less about the brand and more about the impact.”

Redefining Well-being

Executing on the next phase of the Fitt Insider game plan, we’re actively investing in early-stage companies across health and fitness.

Taking lessons learned as operators in the industry and aligning with topics we write about each week, we’re partnering with ambitious founders who are redefining every aspect of well-being.

When the time’s right, we’ll share more details on these deals. And in the weeks ahead, we’ll lay out the broader vision for the Insider platform.

Until then, if you’re raising funding for a health and fitness startup or want to hear more about what we’re working on, email me: insider@fitt.co


🎙 On the Podcast

This week, on the Fitt Insider podcast, we’re joined by Jeff Morin, CEO of Liteboxer — an interactive at-home boxing experience.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Building a gaming-inspired platform
  • Competition in at-home fitness equipment
  • How mixed reality will reimagine exercise
  • Designing an experience so people want to work out

Listen to the full episode here.

🥊 In This Corner…

Xponential Fitness acquired boutique boxing brand Rumble.

Adding to its boutique fitness portfolio, Xponential now owns nine concepts in all, including Pure Barre, Club Pilates, CycleBar, YogaSix, StretchLab, Row House, AKT, and STRIDE.

Best known for influencer instructors, celebrity members, and high-profile investors—like Justin Bieber, Slyvester Stallone, and Equinox—Rumble was a buzzy studio with big plans. Then the pandemic hit.

During the lockdown, the company transitioned leadership, with Ashley Camerini taking over as chief executive. And they rolled out Rumble TV, offering live and on-demand workouts.

While the terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, Xponential likely got a great deal on a stellar brand.

Looking ahead, don’t be surprised to see Xponential pursue a public offering. Pre-COVID, they were exploring an IPO. And in today’s market, a SPAC could be too compelling to pass up.

In other boxing-related headlines: 

BoxUnion recently acquired TITLE Boxing Club. The deal aims to create an omnichannel boxing offering, combining BoxUnion’s three studios and digital subscriptions with 166 TITLE locations.

Peloton could enter the ring. Selena Samuela, an instructor on the platform, recently dropped a hint — telling her Instagram followers to “stay patient” when asked about boxing classes.

On the connected fitness front, keep an eye on FightCamp. After a year of record growth, look for the company to step on the gas and keep the momentum going.

🚨 Warning Signs

The pandemic has been rough on everyone. But younger generations have been hit especially hard.

A Sapien Labs study on the Mental State of the World said individuals between the ages of 18–24 are suffering, with nearly half of the demographic reporting clinical levels of risk, compared to 6% for people over the age of 65 years old.

Speaking to Axios, Sapien founder Tara Thiagarajan warned: “If this group comes into middle age and instead of having an average of 15% with mental health issues you instead have 40%, that’s a fundamentally different society.”

Similarly, lululemon’s 2021 Global Wellbeing Report found that optimism for the future had fallen 19% among all age groups. Specific to young people, citing difficulty coping with COVID-19 and stress, Gen Z reported the lowest well-being score.

In addition to taking a toll on mental health, the pandemic has led to unwanted weight gain.

A February 2021 survey by the American Psychological Association found that 42% of US adults gained unwanted weight during the pandemic. Of note, 52% of Gen Z adults report undesired weight gain, with an average gain of 28 pounds. Worse, 48% of millennials report undesired weight gain, with an average gain of 41 pounds.

Zooming out: From mental wellness to weight gain, and a host of other factors, the pandemic’s impact on our collective well-being will linger long after the virus is contained.

🎶 Quick Hit

Peloton is teaming up with Verzuz TV, the musical battle series created by producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz.

The Peloton Verzuz series will feature the music of two artists during fitness classes, creating “face-off” workouts. And Verzuz music playlists will be available to all Peloton subscribers.

Why it matters: Peloton’s SVP of Music, Gwen Bethel Riley, said: “We’re kind of a new version of a record label.”

In Issue No. 118: Music as a Moat, we wrote: “As music becomes inseparable from the modern-day fitness business, fitness companies will become media platforms in their own right.”

Punchline: Beyond the bike, Peloton is a media company. And in pursuit of compelling content, Peloton Music isn’t out of the question.

📰 News & Notes

💰 Money Moves

  • Redesign Health, a healthcare innovation platform and venture studio, raised $250M to create 50 health and wellness startups in the next five years.
    More from Fitt Insider: The DTC Healthcare Report 
  • Million Lives Fund launched a $100M venture capital fund to invest in commercial-stage healthcare technology companies.
  • Crossover Health, a relationship-based healthcare company, raised $168M in funding led by Deerfield Management Company.
  • Ginger, an on-demand mental health company, landed $100M in Series E funding led by Blackstone Growth.
    More from Fitt Insider: Work-from-home Wellness
  • SteadyMD, a telehealth company with roots in the CrossFit community, raised $25M in Series B funding led by Lux Capital.
  • UK-based men’s wellness brand Manual raised $30M in Series A funding from Sonoma BrandsWaldencast, and others.
    More from Fitt Insider: The Next Wave of Men’s Wellness
  • Sakara Life, a plant-based meal delivery service and wellness brand, closed $15M in Series B funding.
    More from Fitt Insider: What’s Next for Meal Kits
  • Motosumo, an at-home indoor cycling platform, secured $6M in Series A funding led by Magenta Partners.
  • Foodsmart, a personalized telenutrition platform, secured $25M in Series C funding led by Advocate Aurora Enterprises.
    More from Fitt Insider: The Future of Personalized Nutrition 
  • LIVEKINDLY Collective raised $335M to accelerate the adoption of plant-based living and sustainability in the global food system.
    More from Fitt Insider: Meat vs “Meat”
  • Meatable, a Dutch cultivated meat startup, closed a $47M Series A funding round.
  • AppliedVR, a provider of virtual reality-based digital therapeutics, raised $29M in Series A funding.
    More from Fitt Insider: Connected Mindfulness
  • Everlywell, an at-home diagnostics company, acquired PWNHealth and Home Access Health Corporation to form parent company Everly Health.
  • UK-based Yoppie, a women’s health company, extended its seed round, adding £2.2M ($3M) from Vostok New Ventures and Colle Capital.
    More from Fitt Insider: 
    Femtech 2.0
  • Sweden-based sports fishing app Fishbrain closed a $31M funding round.
    More from Fitt Insider: Wellness in the Great Outdoors
  • Better Health, an eCommerce-focused medical supplier, closed $3.5M in seed funding.
  • Abby’s Better, a better-for-you nut butter and snack brand, raised $1M in seed funding.
  • Plant-based energy bar maker Quantum Energy Squares raised $2.5M in seed funding.
  • Vegan fried “chicken” brand VFC Foods raised £2.5M ($3.4M) in seed funding led by Veg Capital.
  • Bluu Biosciences, makers of cell-based fish, raised a €7M ($8.2M) round of funding.
  • Australia-based Nourish Ingredients, makers of plant-based fats, secured an $11M investment led by Horizon Ventures and Main Sequence Ventures.
  • Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez invested in Goli Nutrition, makers of apple cider vinegar gummy vitamins.
    More from Fitt Insider: In Supplements We Trust

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