Issue No. 98: Cashing In on the High-Performance Lifestyle

Courtney Powell

In Issue No. 78, we introduced a framework for the high-performance lifestyle. Today, we’re revisiting the topic to discuss business opportunities in this space.

To Review

Combining elements of technology, fitness, medicine, and mindfulness, the high-performance lifestyle (HPL) has taken hold.

The goal is simple, albeit idealistic: to optimize performance.

Health is central to this objective, but it extends beyond diet and exercise. Here, sleep and recovery are essential. Mindfulness is an unlock. And self-mastery is a parallel pursuit, where excellence is the endgame regardless of the domain.

The desire to increase longevity plays a role. But, depending on the individual, life extension can be the basis for or a by-product of the HPL. More practically, the overarching aim is enhancing one’s ability to achieve and maintain “flow”.

By honing health, fine-tuning energy levels, and calming the mind, the brain and body will be primed for optimal performance in physical endeavors, creative projects, business ventures, personal relationships — you name it.

“A calm mind, a fit body, and a house full of love. These things cannot be bought — they must be earned.” – Naval Ravikant 

The Pillars of High-Performance

Surveying the landscape, countless companies are seizing on the HPL. To Naval’s quote above, the outcome can’t be bought. But brands can sell tools to accelerate the process.

Health trackers: Forget counting steps. HPLers are monitoring sleep, recovery, strain, heart rate variability, resting heart rate, and more. Among the preferred devices, WHOOP and Oura Ring lead the way, with Apple Watch and Garmin in the mix.

Sleep: Eight Sleep’s smart mattress is an all-in-one sleep solution. Remrise landed $8M for plant-based sleep aids. Proper, a sleep wellness company, raised $9.5M. And Calm’s Sleep Stories helped it outpace rival Headspace.

Nutrition: The keto diet (or at least aspects of it) is popular with high-performers. Brands like Bulletproof, HVMN, and LMNT cater to this consumer. Big Sky Health, makers of wellness apps Zero and Less, helps users fast and avoid alcohol. Elsewhere, there are bold ambitions for personalized nutrition.

Recovery: Hyperice has taken a high-tech approach to recovery. Myodetox is elevating physical therapy. Backed by Lance Armstrong, PowerDot is mainstreaming muscle stimulation. Not forgotten, analog options like the sauna, float tank, or ice bath still do the trick.

Fitness: CrossFit could have cornered the HPL market but faltered. Instead, Laird Hamilton’s XPT Life is building a comprehensive protocol. Tonal, not Peloton, is well-positioned to win this consumer. For purists, Rogue Fitness is the equipment provider of choice.

Flow: Headspace and Calm are well known, but Waking Up stands out. For clarity of thought, Jour and The Five Minute Journal are useful. For flow, Berlin-based Endel just raised $5M to enhance focus. And is perfecting functional music.

Be on the Lookout

Continuous glucose monitoring is gaining steam. But as heart rate variability and resting heart rate become key metrics, breathwork will be a bigger deal. Right on time, aptly named Breathwrk recently secured seed funding.

Related to recovery, mobility will be a big business — ROMWOD and Ready State have a head start. Targeting bio-hackers, two former Freeletics execs hope to push the limits of performance with Unfair, a newly announced startup.

Further afield, psychedelic wellness upstarts like Third Wave will break through. And anti-aging companies are chasing immortality. On that front, Humanity Inc. secured $2.5M in funding to increase immune health and slow aging.

Opportunities Ahead

On their own, the pillars of the HPL represent billion-dollar verticals within fitness and wellness.

Still nascent, many of these categories are growing quickly. As it continues to evolve, the pursuit of optimal performance will produce industry-defining brands.

[Editor’s note: If you’re a founder building for the HPL, let us know how we can help.]

Lifestyle brand: Love it or hate it, Goop is a $250M lifestyle brand. Combining content with commerce, the company built a cult-like following. The same playbook could be applied to the high-performance lifestyle.

Nothing new, Bulletproof was born out of Dave Asprey’s blog. And folks like Ben Greenfield have built personal brands in the space. But there’s not an aspirational lifestyle brand that fully encapsulates the category.

Apparel: When it comes to performance, depending on the sport of choice, there’s a premium brand for that. Runners have Tracksmith. Rapha is for cyclists. And Salomon or Arc’teryx epitomize the outdoors.

Nike or lululemon could lay claim but don’t quite capture it. Ten Thousand and Outlier are much closer. But we’re imagining something akin to Madhappy for the HPL.

Reviews: Simply put, think of this as Wirecutter for HPL products.

To get started, write reviews, explore use cases, do head-to-head comparisons, and break down every feature. To monetize, consider a paid subscription on Substack. Affiliate links for products discussed are a no-brainer.

A different take, the HPL is wide open for a Marques Brownlee-like YouTube channel.

Research: Similar to reviews, a newsletter, podcast, and/or YouTube channel dedicated to deciphering the latest research on fasting, fitness routines, and nutrition protocols are much-needed.

Here again, this isn’t a totally original idea. But no one is doing it in a way that’s easily consumed by a layman — like, say, the way Morning Brew has done for business.

The Future of the HPL

With opportunities abound, there’s no shortage of ideas for capitalizing on this category.

A mix between Forward and Vault Health, HPL clinics are inevitable. As we’re inundated with more health data, a performance dashboard—much like Gyroscope—will become invaluable. The same goes for a coach or concierge to help navigate the various products and data available.

Meanwhile, on the tech side, new sensors and AI will reimagine performance as we know it — unlocking even more potential for the future of the HPL.

🛑 Backpedal

Last week, the newly announced Amazon “Prime Bike” quickly sold out, causing Peloton’s stock to drop. But this stationary bike wasn’t what it seemed.

Perception: With the launch of the $499 Echelon EX-Prime Smart Connect Bike, Amazon was seen as making a foray into connected fitness. News traveled fast — the bike sold out, Peloton’s shares dropped 6.7%, and countless headlines were written about Amazon’s push into at-home exercise.

Reality: As word spread, Amazon distanced itself from Echelon’s so-called Prime Bike. Soon, the bike was removed from the Amazon site. Later, Amazon release a statement, saying:

“This bike is not an Amazon product or related to Amazon Prime… Echelon does not have a formal partnership with Amazon.” 

Behind the scenes: Initially, Echelon marketed the EX-Prime as “Amazon’s first-ever connected fitness product” that was “developed in collaboration with Amazon.” That positioning seemed to rub Amazon the wrong way.

Echelon CEO Lou Lentine offered a different view of the debacle. According to Lentine, the collaboration started at CES. Amazon was excited to sell Echelon products, and wanted an offering at the $500 price point. Echelon obliged.

The plan was always to call it the “Prime Bike”, Lentine said, noting: “We have emails, we have correspondence, everybody was onboard in the buying department.”

Between the lines: That last bit about the buying department might explain the miscommunication. When the rest of the company caught wind of the messaging, Amazon backpedaled.

Punchline: For now, there’s no Prime Bike to speak of. But, Amazon is tip-toeing around the fitness space. Maybe they dive in? Until then, there’s a growing competition for more-affordable Peloton lookalikes among Echelon, MYX Fitness, Schwinn, NordicTrack, and others.

🚴‍♂️ Ride On

New data from Strava shows the impact of COVID on cycling in major cities around the world.

In the US, Houston and Los Angeles saw the total volume of cycling trips in May jump 138% and 93%, respectively, over last year. In July, New York City saw a nearly 80% YoY growth in cycling trips, while Chicago saw a 34% bump that same month.

In the UK, active, human-powered travel has increased by 162% in 2020, with London seeing an increase of almost 120% from May 2019 to May 2020.

Across Europe, cities are seizing the moment to make cities more bike-friendly. During and after the coronavirus lockdown, Rome added 150km of bike lanes; Bologna 94km; Lisbon 77km; and Paris 69km.

Looking ahead: As we pointed out in Issue No. 80, COVID led to a biking boom and increase in outdoor recreation. Now, the challenge will be enacting lasting change that keeps people physically active. Or as we put it:

“At a moment when we’re compelled to rethink nearly every aspect of our lives, championing a simpler, accessible, and more sustainable approach to physical activity—not just exercise—could have a lasting impact on public health, beyond those who are already fit.”

📰 News & Notes

💰 Money Moves

  • Munich-based Freeletics, an AI-powered fitness app, raised $25M in a Series B round led by JAZZ Venture Partners and Causeway Media Partners.
  • Chinese fitness tech company FITURE landed $65M in a Series A round led by Tencent.
  • hims, a DTC men’s health company, is expected to go public with SPAC Oaktree Acquisition Corp. at a valuation of $1.6B. More from Fitt Insiderhims & hers CEO Andrew Dudum on the Fitt Insider podcast
  • Laird Superfood, makers plant-based and functional beverages and additives, debuted on the public market.
  • Sustainable footwear brand Allbirds landed $110M in Series E funding at a valuation of $1.7B.
  • Kitu Life Inc., makers of ketogenic coffee beverage Super Coffee, received an undisclosed investment from Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, valuing the company over $240M.
  • German tech startup Endel secured $5M in Series A funding to further its science-backed relaxation app.
  • Liquid Death, producers of still and sparkling canned water, raised $23M in a Series B round.
  • LARQ, makers of an insulated, self-cleaning water bottle, secured $10M in Series A funding.
  • Dutch cultured beef maker Mosa Meat added $55M in Series B funding. More from Fitt InsiderMeat vs “Meat”
  • DTC personal care company Beast Brands closed a $3M Series A round. More from Fitt Insider: The Next Wave of Men’s Wellness
  • Non-alcoholic spirit maker Lyre’s secured £9M ($11.5M) in a seed round. More from Fitt InsiderSober is the New Cool
  • UK-based The Clean Liquor Co., a distiller of low-alcohol spirits, raised £7M ($9M).
  • daring, plant-based chicken maker, raised $8M in a Series A round led by Maveron with participation from GoodFriends and Stray Dog Capital.
  • UK-based Meatless Farm banked $31M in new funding to fuel global expansion for its pre-packaged plant-based products.
  • Urban, a UK platform for on-demand wellness appointments, raised €6.5M ($7.6M).
  • TOCA Football added $15M in new funding for its tech-enabled soccer training centers.
  • Green Monday Holdings, a plant-based pork producer and vegetarian cafe chain, raised $70M from TPG’s The Rise Fund and Swire Pacific.
  • Bellway, makers of an all-natural fiber supplement, raised $2M in new funding from Five Four Ventures and others.
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