Zwift, maker of a popular indoor training app, just landed a whopping $450 million in funding led by KKR

Zwift, a 350-person, Long Beach, Calif.-based online fitness platform that immerses cyclists and runners in 3D generated worlds, just raised a hefty $450 million in funding led by the investment firm KKR in exchange for a minority stake in its business.

Permira and Specialized Bicycle’s venture capital fund, Zone 5 Ventures, also joined the round alongside earlier backers True, Highland Europe, Novator and Causeway Media.

Zwift has now raised $620 million altogether and is valued at north of $1 billion.

Why such a big round? Right now, the company just makes an app, albeit a popular one.

Since its 2015 founding, 2.5 million people have signed up to enter a world that, as Outside magazine once described it, is “part social-media platform, part personal trainer, part computer game.” That particular combination makes Zwift’s app appealing to both recreational riders and pros looking to train no matter the conditions outside.

The company declined to share its active subscriber numbers with us — Zwift charges $15 per month for its service — but it seemingly has a loyal base of users. For example, 117,000 of them competed in a virtual version of the Tour de France that Zwift hosted in July after it was chosen by the official race organizer of the real tour as its partner on the event.

Which leads us back to this giant round and what it will be used for. Today, in order to use the app, Zwift’s biking adherents need to buy their own smart trainers, which can cost anywhere from $300 to $700 and are made by brands like Elite and Wahoo. Meanwhile, runners use Zwift’s app with their own treadmills.

Now, Zwift is jumping headfirst into the hardware business itself. Though a spokesman for the company said it can’t discuss any particulars — “It takes time to develop hardware properly, and COVID has placed increased pressure on production” — it is hoping to bring its first product to market “as soon as possible.”

He added that the hardware will make Zwift a “more immersive and seamless experience for users.”

Either way, the direction isn’t a surprising one for the company, and we don’t say that merely because Specialized participated in this round as a strategic backer. Cofounder and CEO Eric Min has told us in the past that the company hoped to produce its own trainers some day.

Given the runaway success of the in-home fitness company Peloton, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a treadmill follow, or even a different product entirely. Said the Zwift spokesman, “In the future, it’s possible that we could bring in other disciplines or a more gamified experience.” (It will have expert advice in this area if it does, given that Swift just brought aboard Ilkka Paananen, the co-founder and CEO of Finnish gaming company Supercell, as an investor and board member.)

In the meantime, the company tells us not to expect the kind of classes that have proven so successful for Peloton, tempting as it may be to draw parallels.

While Zwift prides itself on users’ ability to organize group rides and runs and workouts, classes, says its spokesman, are “not in the offing.”

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Sketchfab launches team platform to share and collaborate on 3D models

Sketchfab is enabling multiplayer mode today with a new Sketchfab for Teams feature. The startup lets you share 3D models with other people in your company so that they can view, edit and download models. It could be particularly useful for companies working on augmented reality products, video games or even e-commerce websites with 3D configurators or visualizations.

Sketchfab has been working for years on a 3D model viewer for web browsers. It now works really well on both desktop and mobile. You can also import and export 3D models in many different file formats in order to reuse them in your favorite tool or engine — Sketchfab can convert files for you. That’s why 3D artists have been using the platform to share their work but also to sell 3D models, just like on a stock photography site.

The new team feature is essentially a sort of Google Drive specifically tailored for 3D — instead of opening spreadsheets and documents, you open 3D models. For instance, people working in marketing or communications could use 3D models to showcase products.

Even if your company uses a cloud storage system, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, to share files across the organization, people who are not 3D designers don’t necessarily want to use Blender to check if it’s the right file. Combining a shared drive with Sketchfab’s viewing and sharing tools becomes a compelling use case.

Like traditional cloud storage systems, you can manage permissions on a file-by-file basis. For instance, you could allow someone in your company to edit a 3D model while the rest of the team can only view the item. It works pretty much like the sharing menu in Google Docs.

You can also use Sketchfab for Teams with external collaborators. You can invite contractors to upload 3D models to your Sketchfab account or, if you’re a 3D designer, you can share 3D assets with a client to let them review your work. And if you want to share your 3D assets publicly, you can embed models on your website or use it in a 3D configurator.

The other advantage of switching to Sketchfab for Teams is that you get a central repository for all your 3D files. You can search, filter your assets by polycount, format and size, inspect 3D models in your browser and convert assets to multiple file formats.

Sketchfab recently launched another feature that could become quite popular on e-commerce website. The company added an AR button in its viewer, which lets you use your iPhone or Android phone to view a 3D object at scale through your camera before buying it.

Thanks to recent iOS and Android updates, you don’t need to install an app. It leverages the USDZ and glTF file formats that are natively supported by iOS and Android, respectively.

The company is launching Sketchfab for Teams with clients paying for the Enterprise plan. Eventually, the startup plans to roll it out to customers with a more limited feature set (Premium and Business customers).

#3d, #ar, #augmented-reality, #developer, #sketchfab, #startups, #virtual-reality, #vr

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