The “Peloton of boxing” is fun, challenging, and better IRL than in VR

The “Peloton of boxing” is fun, challenging, and better IRL than in VR

Enlarge (credit: Liteboxer)

The melding of fitness and video games has never been more natural than in the expanding realm of virtual reality.

I’ve been a fan of fitness games since the days of boxing with nunchucks in Wii Sports and the tethered play of All-In-One Sports VR for the Oculus Rift. Now, there’s a totally wireless boxing experience in Liteboxer VR, exclusively on the Meta (née Oculus) Quest 2.

Liteboxer is one of the newest VR games to put the gym and personal trainers right in front of you. It’s a boxing class experience that’s fun, engaging, and challenging, even for an intermediate-level boxer like me. The company is hoping to be the Peloton of boxing, but VR may not be the best place for its software, at least not yet. We took the pre-release version of Liteboxer VR for a spin to see how far we are from real gym experiences in the metaverse.

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#ars-shopping, #boxing, #features, #fitness, #liteboxer, #peloton, #tech, #vr

Peloton launches a $90 forearm-worn heart-rate monitor with LED indicators

Promotional image of a man wearing a Peloton arm band working out.

Enlarge (credit: Peloton)

Peloton has just launched a new forearm-worn heart-rate band that will replace the company’s current chest-strap monitor. The $90 heart-rate monitor (HRM) uses optical sensors rather than the electrodermal ones found on the chest strap it will soon replace.

Meant for use with the Peloton suite of exercise equipment, the original HRM retailed for $50 and is now being sold for $34 while supplies last. It uses ANT+ and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to connect to equipment and track effort levels. The new strap lacks ANT+, but it will have the same functions and log heart rate and heart-rate zones while contributing to Peloton’s proprietary Strive Score metric. The exclusion of ANT+ means that some third-party equipment (particularly those that lack Bluetooth) won’t be compatible with the latest strap.

The new heart-rate band adds five multicolor LEDs to relay information about your heart-rate zones, the strap’s battery level, and connectivity status. The battery is also now rechargeable, unlike its predecessor, and it’s rated for about 10 hours of use.

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#ars-shopping, #heart-rate-monitor, #peloton, #tech

Peloton’s CEO and chief content officer are coming to Disrupt

It’s been a wildly unprecedented year and a half by any metric. The pandemic has utterly transformed many industries and made or broken others. In the world of technology, however, few categories were as well positioned to embrace a changed world than connected fitness.

The space was well on its way prior to the arrival of COVID-19, of course, and Peloton was largely seen as the tip of that spear. Founded in 2012, the company’s connected stationary bicycles have redefined the landscape for home workouts, through instructor-led live courses.

Demand for Peloton’s growing selection of fitness equipment saw a sharp spike as gyms all over the world shut down for indefinite periods, leaving many stuck at home to reimagine their workout experience.

But the period arrived with its share of challenges for Peloton’s executives. Increased demand saw the company battling supply chain issues, while in May, its treadmills were met with a pair of recalls over injury concerns.

On September 21-23 at Disrupt, Peloton CEO John Foley and Chief Content Office Jennifer Cotter will join us to discuss the company’s rise and successes and struggles amid the pandemic.

Foley is the former CEO of Evite.com and Pronto.com, and former president of BarnesandNoble.com. He co-founded Peloton in June 2012 and has served as CEO since its inception. Cotter joined the company in 2019 to oversee Peloton’s streaming content. Her background in television programming includes stints at the Home Shopping Network and Oxygen Media.

Foley and Cotter join a growing list of great guests, including Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, investor Chamath Palihapitiya, Calendly CEO Tope Awotona and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield. Get your ticket for less than $100 for a limited time!

#connected-fitness, #events, #hardware, #health, #home-fitness, #peloton, #tc, #tc-disrupt-2021

The DOJ and DHS subpoenaed Peloton over treadmill injury reporting

On Tuesday, Peloton announced the upcoming release of its entry-level Tread device. The news came ahead of a disappointing earnings report and after recalls of both of its treadmill products. Today, the connecting fitness company noted in a filing with the SEC that it has been subpoenaed by both the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.

Both subpoenas are part of  investigations around the way the company reported injuries from its treadmills. It’s seemingly another sign that, in spite of the return of one of its two Tread products to market, the larger implications are far from over for the company.

Peloton writes in the filing,

Injuries sustained by Members or their friends and family members, or others who use or purchase our Connected Fitness Products, could subject us to regulatory proceedings and litigation by governance agencies and private litigants brought against us, that regardless of their merits, could harm our reputation, divert management’s attention from our operations and result in substantial legal fees and other costs. For example, we are presently subject to a CPSC investigation and other litigation related to injuries sustained by Members and others who use or purchase the Tread+, and we have reporting obligations to safety regulators in all jurisdictions where we sell Connected Fitness Products, where reporting may trigger further regulatory investigations.

The company declined to comment further on the investigations.

Peloton was, notably, at odds with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)’s initial warning to stop using its treadmill products after an accident with the Tread+ resulted in a child’s death. At the time, Peloton said it was “troubled” by the reporting and insisted that “there is no reason to stop using the Tread+, as long as all warnings and safety instructions are followed.” In May, CEO John Foley apologized for the pushback and agreed to work with the CPSC on a recall.

The Commission cited more than 70 incidents in all, noting, “a six-year-old child recently died after being pulled under the rear of the treadmill. In addition, Peloton has received 72 reports of adult users, children, pets and/or objects being pulled under the rear of the treadmill, including 29 reports of injuries to children such as second- and third-degree abrasions, broken bones, and lacerations.”

The cheaper Tread model, meanwhile, was at the center of separate issue wherein the product’s touchscreen could detach and cause injury during use. The new version of the device features a reinforced screen. The recalls impacted around 125,000 Tread+ systems and more than 5,500 Treads, which were in early release.

#dhs, #doj, #hardware, #health, #peloton, #recall, #tread

Peloton Tread arrives next week with enhanced safety features, following recall

During a banner year for connected fitness, Peloton stumbled, as its two treadmills – the Tread+ and Tread – drew the scrutiny of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The two eventually collaborated for the planned recall of 125,000 Tread+ units, while offering fixes to 6,450 Treads – the budget model had a pre-launch go out in limited quantities (largely in Canada).

Today the company is announcing the full launch (or re-launch) of the Tread, which will hit the U.S., Canada and U.K. on August 30 for $2,495 USD /$3,295 CAD / £2,295. It will also arrive in Germany for €2495, this fall. Following the recall, the press release for the Tread features no fewer than eight instances of the word “safety” – clearly a big focus this time around.

The new Tread requires a four-digit safety code to unlock a new workout, as well as a physical safety key that can be pulled out for a quick stop. Users can also remove the key and take it with them to avoid unauthorized usage. The Tread is compact at 68 x 33 x 62 inches and features a 28.8-inch touchscreen that tilts 50 degrees.

Image Credits: Peloton

After initial pushback, Peloton agreed to the recall of the Tread+ after, “a six-year-old child recently died after being pulled under the rear of the treadmill. In addition, Peloton has received 72 reports of adult users, children, pets and/or objects being pulled under the rear of the treadmill, including 29 reports of injuries to children such as second- and third-degree abrasions, broken bones, and lacerations.”

The Tread, meanwhile, suffered an issue with a touchscreen that could potential detach, fall off and injure users while running. Those who purchased the early version of the tread are entitled to a free repair of the touchscreen. Those changes will be incorporated into new units to avoid the initial issue.

Owners of the Tread+, meanwhile, have until November 6, 2022 for a full refund.

#hardware, #peloton, #peloton-tread, #recall, #tread

Peloton’s Android app hints at long-rumored rowing machine

Conducting an APK teardown of the latest version of the Peloton Android app, 9to5Google found evidence the company is preparing the software to support a rowing machine in the near future. The outlet found various code snippets that mentioned a device codenamed “Caesar” and “Mazu.” The latter is a reference to a Chinese sea goddess. Like the company’s stationary bike, it appears the rowing machine will include a “scenic rides” feature that will showcase waterways from around the globe. And if you want to just row, that will be an option too.

Another set of snippets reference the four positions of a proper rowing technique. “This is the drive position of your stroke,” the app explains. “Sit tall on the rower with your arms straight and your back upright. Your knees should be just above the ankles.” Digging deeper into the updated software, 9to5 also found code suggesting the app will track metrics like your average and max stroke rates.

A rowing machine is something Peloton has been rumored to be working for a while now, with a recent job listing mentioning the device. We’ve reached out to Peloton for confirmation, but we’ll note here what we say with all APK teardowns: the fact there’s code pointing to a new hardware release doesn’t mean a company will follow through on that work or that a launch is imminent.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#column, #connected-fitness, #exercise, #health-tech, #peloton, #tc, #tceng

Peloton and Echelon profile photos exposed riders’ real-world locations

Security researchers say at-home exercise giant Peloton and its closest rival Echelon were not stripping user-uploaded profile photos of their metadata, in some cases exposing users’ real-world location data.

Almost every file, photo or document contains metadata, which is data about the file itself, such as how big it is, when it was created, and by whom. Photos and video will often also include the location from where they were taken. That location data helps online services tag your photos or videos that you were at this restaurant or that other landmark.

But those online services — especially social platforms, where you see people’s profile photos — are supposed to remove location data from the file’s metadata so other users can’t snoop on where you’ve been, since location data can reveal where you live, work, where you go, and who you see.

Jan Masters, a security researcher at Pen Test Partners, found the metadata exposure as part of a wider look at Peloton’s leaky API. TechCrunch verified the bug by uploading a profile photo with GPS coordinates of our New York office, and checking the metadata of the file while it was on the server.

The bugs were privately reported to both Peloton and Echelon.

Peloton fixed its API issues earlier this month but said it needed more time to fix the metadata bug and to strip existing profile photos of any location data. A Peloton spokesperson confirmed the bugs were fixed last week. Echelon fixed its version of the bug earlier this month. But TechCrunch held this report until we had confirmation that both companies had fixed the bug and that metadata had been stripped from old profile photos.

It’s not known how long the bug existed or if anyone maliciously exploited it to scrape users’ personal information. Any copies, whether cached or scraped, could represent a significant privacy risk to users whose location identifies their home address, workplace, or other private location.

Parler infamously didn’t scrub metadata from user-uploaded photos, which exposed the locations of millions of users when archivists exploited weaknesses on the platform’s API to download its entire contents. Others have been slow to adopt metadata stripping, like Slack, even if it got there in the end.

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#api, #computing, #data, #data-management, #gps, #health, #information, #peloton, #pen-test-partners, #privacy, #security, #social-networks

Echelon exposed riders’ account data, thanks to a leaky API

Image Credits: Echelon (stock image)

Peloton wasn’t the only at-home workout giant exposing private account data. Rival exercise giant Echelon also had a leaky API that let virtually anyone access riders’ account information.

Fitness technology company Echelon, like Peloton, offers a range of workout hardware — bikes, rowers, and a treadmill — as a cheaper alternative for members to exercise at home. Its app also lets members join virtual classes without the need for workout equipment.

But Jan Masters, a security researcher at Pen Test Partners, found that Echelon’s API allowed him to access the account data — including name, city, age, sex, phone number, weight, birthday, and workout statistics and history — of any other member in a live or pre-recorded class. The API also disclosed some information about members’ workout equipment, such as its serial number.

Masters, if you recall, found a similar bug with Peloton’s API, which let him make unauthenticated requests and pull private user account data directly from Peloton’s servers without the server ever checking to make sure he (or anyone else) was allowed to request it.

Echelon’s API allows its members’ devices and apps to talk with Echelon’s servers over the internet. The API was supposed to check if the member’s device was authorized to pull user data by checking for an authorization token. But Masters said the token wasn’t needed to request data.

Masters also found another bug that allowed members to pull data on any other member because of weak access controls on the API. Masters said this bug made it easy to enumerate user account IDs and scrape account data from Echelon’s servers. Facebook, LinkedIn, Peloton and Clubhouse have all fallen victim to scraping attacks that abuse access to APIs to pull in data about users on their platforms.

Ken Munro, founder of Pen Test Partners, disclosed the vulnerabilities to Echelon on January 20 in a Twitter direct message, since the company doesn’t have a public-facing vulnerability disclosure process (which it says is now “under review”). But the researchers did not hear back during the 90 days after the report was submitted, the standard amount of time security researchers give companies to fix flaws before their details are made public.

TechCrunch asked Echelon for comment, and was told that the security flaws identified by Masters — which he wrote up in a blog post — were fixed in January.

“We hired an outside service to perform a penetration test of systems and identify vulnerabilities. We have taken appropriate actions to correct these, most of which were implemented by January 21, 2021. However, Echelon’s position is that the User ID is not PII [personally identifiable information,” said Chris Martin, Echelon’s chief information security officer, in an email.

Echelon did not name the outside security company but said while the company said it keeps detailed logs, it did not say if it had found any evidence of malicious exploitation.

But Munro disputed the company’s claim of when it fixed the vulnerabilities, and provided TechCrunch with evidence that one of the vulnerabilities was not fixed until at least mid-April, and another vulnerability could still be exploited as recently as this week.

When asked for clarity, Echelon did not address the discrepancies. “[The security flaws] have been remediated,” Martin reiterated.

Echelon also confirmed it fixed a bug that allowed users under the age of 13 to sign up. Many companies block access to children under the age of 13 to avoid complying with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, a U.S. law that puts strict rules on what data companies can collect on children. TechCrunch was able to create an Echelon account this week with an age less than 13, despite the page saying: “Minimum age of use is 13 years old.”

#api, #chief-information-security-officer, #computer-security, #computing, #cyberwarfare, #echelon, #facebook, #founder, #health, #peloton, #pen-test-partners, #security, #software, #software-testing, #technology, #united-states, #vulnerability

Peloton projects $165M revenue impact from treadmill recalls

What would have been a celebratory earnings call in just about any other quarter ended on a somber note today, as Peloton CEO John Foley kicked things off with an apology.

“We are a members-first organization,” the executive stated. “And that means for all of us at Peloton, the safety of our member community comes first. I want to be clear, though. Peloton made a mistake in our initial response to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Request that we recall our Tread+ product. We should have been more open to a productive dialogue with them from the outset.”

The tone marks something of a 180, from the company that pushed back against CPSC statements last month, when Foley said the company was “troubled” by the commission’s “inaccurate and misleading” filings. Yesterday, Peloton and the CPSC issued a joint announcement of a voluntary recall for the Tread+ product, which has been linked with 72 reported incidents, including 29 injuries to children and one death.

The company also agreed to an additional recall for the lower-cost Tread, which thus far has only officially launched in Canada and the U.K., with availability to “select users” in the U.S. The recall will result in a delayed launch of the product in the States.

The issue, while potentially serious, has thus far amounted to far less than the Tread+’s belt issues. “While the new Tread as been well received, there have been some minor quality issues related to how the tablet console is attached to the Tread,” Foley explained. “The touchscreen attaches to the tread with screws. In a handful of cases, we’ve had reports of the screws loosening, causing the console to detach from the unit.”

While the company reported more excellent financial news, amid strong lockdown home fitness growth and a loosening of the supply chain constraints that hampered delivery early on the pandemic, the massive recall had an almost instantaneous impact on the company’s stock price. Alex noted late yesterday a 13.6% dip in shares.

Following Foley’s presentation, CFO Jill Woodworth laid out the expected impact to company revenue. “We estimate the revenue impact of Tread and Tread+ recall will be approximately $165 million,” the executive noted.

The figures include $105 million for ending deliveries on the impacted products. The offer of a full refund on the products will hit the company’s return reserves next quarter to the tune of $50 million, while the decision to waive three months of monthly fees for the All Access subscription to Tread and Tread+ users will make up the remaining $10 million. The company says it will continue to produce content while the CPSC evaluates the product.

The company is working on a hardware fix to the Tread’s dislodging tablet. Foley says the process generally takes six to eight weeks, but could take longer.

 

#earnings, #hardware, #peloton, #recall, #treadmills

Data leak makes Peloton’s Horrible, No-Good, Really Bad Day even worse

Data leak makes Peloton’s Horrible, No-Good, Really Bad Day even worse

Enlarge (credit: Peloton)

Peloton is having a rough day. First, the company recalled two treadmill models following the death of a 6-year-old child who was pulled under one of the devices. Now comes word Peloton exposed sensitive user data, even after the company knew about the leak. No wonder the company’s stock price closed down 15 percent on Wednesday.

Peloton provides a line of network-connected stationary bikes and treadmills. The company also offers an online service that allows users to join classes, work with trainers, or do workouts with other users. In October, Peloton told investors it had a community of 3 million members. Members can set accounts to be public so friends can view details such as classes attended and workout stats, or users can choose for profiles to be private.

I know where you worked out last summer

Researchers at security consultancy Pen Test Partners on Wednesday reported that a flaw in Peloton’s online service was making data for all of its users available to anyone anywhere in the world, even when a profile was set to private. All that was required was a little knowledge of the faulty programming interfaces that Peloton uses to transmit data between devices and the company’s servers.

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#biz-it, #data-leaks, #peloton, #personal-information, #tech

Peloton stock crashes following recalls, security report

Shares of home-exercise giant Peloton are falling today, off some 13.6% as of the time of writing. This comes after the company announced a recall of its treadmill product, and TechCrunch reported that the company failed to fix a security issue regarding user data.

The value of Peloton shares soared during the pandemic, as the company’s product found itself in secular updraft driven by a move to working, and working out, from home in the face of COVID-19’s spread. Worth around $30 per share at the start of 2020, Peloton’s stock price shot more than $150 per share by the end of the year.

Today, after losing more than $13 per share in value, Peloton equity is worth just $83.50 per unit.

The company’s decision to recall its “Tread+” and “Tread” treadmills comes with a warning that those who had bought the devices should “immediately stop using it and contact Peloton for a full refund or other qualified remedy.” The decision to stop selling the devices, and finance a recall of all units comes after a child died after an incident involving one of the treadmills. Other injuries have been reported.

The American Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, wrote that accepted the recall and sale-cessation decision, adding that the agreement came after “weeks of intense negotiation and effort.” The CPSC had warned consumers earlier this month about “the danger of popular Peloton Tread+ exercise machine after multiple incidents of small children and a pet being injured beneath the machines.”

Peloton fired back at the time saying that it was “troubled by the [CPSC’s] unilateral press release about the Peloton Tread+ because it is inaccurate and misleading.” The company added that there was “no reason to stop using the Tread+, as long as all warnings and safety instructions are followed.”

Whoops.

The company’s backtrack is not only incredibly embarrassing from a public perception perspective — Peloton got into a scrap with the CPSC about whether or not it was trying to impede its investigation, which was a very bad look — but perhaps even more destructive to its brand than making the same decision earlier would have proved.

But for Peloton, the day’s bad news was hardly monotopical. Instead, TechCrunch reported this morning that “Jan Masters, a security researcher at Pen Test Partners, found he could make unauthenticated requests to Peloton’s API for user account data without it checking to make sure the person was allowed to request it.” As we reported, given the known high-profile politicians who are Peloton users, this is more than a mere consumer data-breach matter.

Even worse, Master had told Peloton about the matter:

Masters reported the leaky API to Peloton on January 20 with a 90-day deadline to fix the bug, the standard window time that security researchers give to companies to fix bugs before details are made public.

But that deadline came and went, the bug wasn’t fixed, and Masters hadn’t heard back from the company, aside from an initial email acknowledging receipt of the bug report. Instead, Peloton only restricted access to its API to its members. But that just meant anyone could sign up with a monthly membership and get access to the API again.

Between the death of a child, a failed attempt to attack critics, a massive recall, the cessation of sales of a product line, and a self-induced privacy fiasco, it’s a bad day for Peloton. Not that I won’t ride my own Peloton later today, I’ll just do so while shaking my fist at the corporate overloads who pay the instructors that actually make their entire business function.

#peloton, #tc

Peloton recalls treadmills after 6-year-old’s death, CEO admits “mistake”

The running deck of a Peloton Tread treadmill during CES 2018 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 11, 2018.

Enlarge / The running deck of a Peloton Tread treadmill during CES 2018 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 11, 2018. (credit: Getty | Ethan Miller)

Interactive fitness company Peloton has agreed to recall two treadmills nearly two months after the company reported that a 6-year-old child died after being pulled under one of the devices.

Peloton has received at least 72 reports of adults, children, pets and/or objects getting dragged under their Tread+ treadmill. In those incidents, 29 children suffered injuries, which included second- and third-degree abrasions, broken bones, and lacerations, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission noted.

In February, a father reported to the CPSC that his 3-year-old son was pulled under a Tread+ and trapped. When the father discovered his son and was able to free him, the toddler was pulseless and not breathing, according to the report. Fortunately, the boy was resuscitated, but he “now has significant brain injury.” The boy had tread marks on his back matching the slats of the Tread+, as well as a neck injury, and petechiae (small blood spots) on his face, presumably from blood flow being cut off.

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#children, #consumer, #cpsc, #injuries, #peloton, #safety, #science, #treadmill

Peloton apologizes, agrees to treadmill recall

Peloton today announced that it will be cooperating with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), agreeing to two voluntary treadmill recalls for the Tread+ and Tread versions of its home treadmill system.

Those who have purchased the systems can contact the connected fitness company for a refund. The company has also agreed to stop selling and distributing both models in the U.S. Last month, CEO John Foley said the company was “troubled” by the CPSC’s decision to go public with its findings, calling them “inaccurate and misleading.” Today’s news finds the executive offering a much more contrite statement.

“The decision to recall both products was the right thing to do for Peloton’s Members and their families,” Foley says. “I want to be clear, Peloton made a mistake in our initial response to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s request that we recall the Tread+.  We should have engaged more productively with them from the outset. For that, I apologize. Today’s announcement reflects our recognition that, by working closely with the CPSC, we can increase safety awareness for our Members.”

The voluntary recalls are a response to on-going safety concerns around the fitness equipment. The CPSC cites more 70 incidents in total, including the death of a young child. Previous reports put the number at 39, including 23 incidents involving children, 15 with objects and one with a pet.

“I am pleased that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Peloton have come to an agreement to protect users of the Peloton Tread+ and Tread products,” CPSC acting chairman Robert S. Adler said in a statement. “The agreement, which the Commission voted this morning to accept, requires Peloton to immediately stop selling and distributing both the Tread+ and Tread products in the United States and refund the full purchase price to consumers who wish to return their treadmills. The agreement between CPSC and Peloton is the result of weeks of intense negotiation and effort, culminating in a cooperative agreement that I believe serves the best interests of Peloton and of consumers.”

The recall includes some 125,000 Tread+ (the older system, renamed with the arrival of a new budget device) and 1,050 Tread models in the U.S., along with an additional 5,400 in Canada. The warning issued alongside the Tread+ recalls states, “Adult users, children, pets and objects can be pulled underneath the rear of the treadmill, posing a risk of injury or death,” while the Tread’s notes, “The touchscreen on the treadmill can detach and fall, posing a risk of injury to consumers.” 

Consumers will have until November 6, 2022 for a full refund. After that, the company will only issue an undetermined partial refund.

The company’s initial pushback owed, in part, to the fact that home fitness equipment has long been known to present safety concerns — particularly with small children and pets present. It seems likely that we’ll hear more on Peloton’s stance during tomorrow’s earnings call. The company had a banner 2020, due to the pandemic, but shares have dropped 8% on the news. Today also saw some key security concerns with its platform go public earlier today.

 

#cpsc, #hardware, #health, #peloton, #tread, #treadmill

Peloton’s leaky API let anyone grab rider’s private account data

Halfway through my Monday afternoon workout last week, I got a message from a security researcher with a screenshot of my Peloton account data.

My Peloton profile is set to private and my friend’s list is deliberately zero, so nobody can view my profile, age, city, or workout history. But a bug allowed anyone to pull users’ private account data directly from Peloton’s servers, even with their profile set to private.

Peloton, the at-home fitness brand synonymous with its indoor stationary bike, has more than three million subscribers. Even President Biden is even said to own one. The exercise bike alone costs upwards of $1,800, but anyone can sign up for a monthly subscription to join a broad variety of classes.

As Biden was inaugurated (and his Peloton moved to the White House — assuming the Secret Service let him), Jan Masters, a security researcher at Pen Test Partners, found he could make unauthenticated requests to Peloton’s API for user account data without it checking to make sure the person was allowed to request it. (An API allows two things to talk to each other over the internet, like a Peloton bike and the company’s servers storing user data.)

But the exposed API let him — and anyone else on the internet — access a Peloton user’s age, gender, city, weight, workout statistics, and if it was the user’s birthday, details that are hidden when users’ profile pages are set to private.

Masters reported the leaky API to Peloton on January 20 with a 90-day deadline to fix the bug, the standard window time that security researchers give to companies to fix bugs before details are made public.

But that deadline came and went, the bug wasn’t fixed, and Masters hadn’t heard back from the company, aside from an initial email acknowledging receipt of the bug report. Instead, Peloton only restricted access to its API to its members. But that just meant anyone could sign up with a monthly membership and get access to the API again.

TechCrunch contacted Peloton after the deadline lapsed to ask why the vulnerability report had been ignored, and Peloton confirmed yesterday that it had fixed the vulnerability. (TechCrunch held this story until the bug was fixed in order to prevent misuse.)

Peloton spokesperson Amelise Lane provided the following statement:

It’s a priority for Peloton to keep our platform secure and we’re always looking to improve our approach and process for working with the external security community. Through our Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure program, a security researcher informed us that he was able to access our API and see information that’s available on a Peloton profile. We took action, and addressed the issues based on his initial submissions, but we were slow to update the researcher about our remediation efforts. Going forward, we will do better to work collaboratively with the security research community and respond more promptly when vulnerabilities are reported. We want to thank Ken Munro for submitting his reports through our CVD program and for being open to working with us to resolve these issues.

Masters has since put up a blog post explaining the vulnerabilities in more detail.

Munro, who founded Pen Test Partners, told TechCrunch: “Peloton had a bit of a fail in responding to the vulnerability report, but after a nudge in the right direction, took appropriate action. A vulnerability disclosure program isn’t just a page on a website; it requires coordinated action across the organisation.”

But questions remain for Peloton. When asked repeatedly, the company declined to say why it had not responded to Masters’ vulnerability report. It’s also not known if anyone maliciously exploited the vulnerabilities, such as mass-scraping account data.

Facebook, LinkedIn, and Clubhouse have all fallen victim to scraping attacks that abuse access to APIs to pull in data about users on their platforms. But Peloton declined to confirm if it had logs to rule out any malicious exploitation of its leaky API.

#api, #gadgets, #hacking, #peloton, #pen-test-partners, #privacy, #security, #vulnerability

Consumer agency warns against Peloton Tread+ use, as company pushes back

Almost exactly a month ago, Peloton CEO John Foley wrote an open letter about the the company’s treadmill. “I’m reaching out to you today because I recently learned about a tragic accident involving a child and the Tread+, resulting in, unthinkably, a death,” it begins. “While we are aware of only a small handful of incidents involving the Tread+ where children have been hurt, each one is devastating to all of us at Peloton, and our hearts go out to the families involved.”

Today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning, telling users to stop using the Tread+. Citing 39 incidents, included the aforementioned death, the CPSC writes, “The Commission has found that the public health and safety requires this notice to warn the public quickly of the hazard.”

Peloton followed up with its own strongly worded statement writing, “The company is troubled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) unilateral press release about the Peloton Tread+ because it is inaccurate and misleading. There is no reason to stop using the Tread+, as long as all warnings and safety instructions are followed.”

The commission’s warning includes multiple injuries involving small children and a pet. Specifically, the note calls for users with children at how to cease using the product, a more stern warning than the initial suggestions outlined by Foley back in in March, who at the time told users to keep children and pets away from the system and store the device out of reach after using. Peloton has since added that there have been 23 incidents involving children, 15 with objects and, as the CPSC noted, one with a pet. The company added that it had not revealed the specifics previously out of privacy concern.

“If consumers must continue to use the product, CPSC urges consumers to use the product only in a locked room, to prevent access to children and pets while the treadmill is in use,” the organization notes. “Keep all objects, including exercise balls and other equipment, away from the treadmill.”

For its part, the connected fitness maker adds,

Peloton invited CPSC to make a joint announcement about the danger of not following the warnings and safety instructions provided with the Tread+, and Foley asked to meet directly with CPSC. CPSC has unfairly characterized Peloton’s efforts to collaborate and to correct inaccuracies in CPSC’s press release as an attempt to delay. This could not be farther from the truth. The company already urged Members to follow all warnings and safety instructions. Peloton is disappointed that, despite its offers of collaboration, and despite the fact that the Tread+ complies with all applicable safety standards, CPSC was unwilling to engage in any meaningful discussions with Peloton before issuing its inaccurate and misleading press release.

#cpsc, #hardware, #health, #peloton

Peloton responds to concerns over Apple GymKit integration

Third-party hardware integration can be a tricky thing. Peloton this week raised some eyebrows by dropping Apple GymKit compatibility for its Bike Bootcamp program. Users were, naturally, quick to react. The situation left some wondering whether the move was a direct response to Apple’s recent entry into the home exercise market with Fitness+.

A Peloton spokesperson offered the following statement to TechCrunch, “Apple GymKit is designed to work with equipment-based cardio workouts. However, Peloton recently implemented GymKit with Bike Bootcamp, a multi-disciplinary class type that combines strength and cardio, which the feature does not support. Members can still use GymKit to sync their cycling-only workouts to their Apple Watch from the Bike+.”

The comment appears to reflect one of the bigger issues with its initial GymKit implementation. Designed with the gym in mind, Apple’s program engages with specific exercise equipment. In other words, use the integration on the treadmill and the Watch specifically goes to work tracking run metrics. Use it with a bike and it tracks cycling.

A program like Bike Bootcamp complicates things, adding to the mix things like weightlifting. Likely that didn’t quite mesh with the third-party guidelines around GymKit implementation. The bigger issue for Peloton owners is that GymKit was a primary distinguisher between the standard Peloton bike and the Bike+ — two products with a $500 gulf between them.

Truth is, for now at least, working together is still a net positive for both parties. Apple may have its own fitness platform, but Peloton has a huge footprint — one that likely has significant overlap with Apple Watch users. GymKit may have been developed with gyms in mind, but people haven’t visited the gym much in the past year, and there’s a reasonable expectation that the industry might never entirely bounce back.

For Peloton’s part, it’s probably good to play nice with the company that utterly dominates the smartwatch category.

 

#apple, #apple-watch, #fitness, #gymkit, #hardware, #health, #peloton

As working out goes virtual, Moxie raises $6.3M Seed+ round led by Resolute Ventures

With the pandemic sending the planet indoors to workout, the at-home fitness market has boomed. It was only in October last year that three-year-old Future closed $24 million in Series B and Playbook (streaming for personal trainers) raised $9.3 million in a Series A. Into this market launched Moxie, a platform that allowed fitness instructors to broadcast live and recorded classes, access licensed music playlists and deploy a CRM and payment tools. Classes range from $5-$25 and various subscriptions and packages are offered.

Moxie has now raised a $6.3M ‘Seed+’ funding round led by Resolute Ventures with participation from Bessemer Ventures, Greycroft Ventures, Gokul Rajaram, and additional investors. With the $2.1M Seed round from last October, that means Moxie has now raised a total of $8.4M.

With the funding, Moxie now plans to better optimize the user experience with a curated selection of top Moxie classes; new tools that help connect users to instructors; and the ability to preview classes before attending.

The company claims to have experienced “exponential growth” because of its convenience in the pandemic era, with 8,000 classes and 1 million class-minutes completed in March. Moxie’s independent instructors set their own schedules and prices, and get to keep 85% of what they earn on the platform.

The company will also now launch ‘Moxie Benefits’ in partnership with Stride Health, provide instructors with access to health insurance, dental and vision plans, life insurance, and other benefits.

Also planned is ‘Moxie Teams’, enabling groups of instructors to join together to form small businesses on the platform, not unlike the way some Uber drivers form teams.

Jason Goldberg, CEO and founder said in a statement: “Moxie was born during the pandemic alongside thousands of independent fitness instructors who were forced out of gyms and studios and suddenly had to become entrepreneurs and navigate the new frontier of virtual fitness. Now we are seeing widespread adoption of online fitness into people’s lives, and Moxie’s growth proves that these shifts in consumer behavior have staying power. We know that 89% of Moxie users plan to continue virtual workouts post COVID — they love the convenience.”

Resolute Ventures Partner & Co-Founder Raanan Bar-Cohen said: “Our investment theory has always been to identify entrepreneurial founders solving for today’s problems. With Moxie, we saw an experienced operator in Jason, with a product that solved for the issues that instructors and consumers had experienced in the shift to online fitness, as well as a clear roadmap for continued success.”

So why has Moxie managed to cleave to the new virtual workout culture? Goldberg tells me it’s down to a range of factors.

For starters, it’s a two-sided fitness marketplace that has live interactive group fitness classes, unlike VOD apps, and, crucially, unlike Peloton. Additionally, any instructor can teach on Moxie, rather than wait to be picked as a ‘star’ by Peloton. Since 90% of classes are live group fitness classes, they are effectively replacing yoga studios and HIIT classes, rather than personal training. He says many top instructors are now earning $6-figures on the platform.

Certainly, Moxie has managed to capitalize on the fact that while gyms are closed, it’s easy to do virtual classes. Will they still stick around when the pandemic is over? Presumably many will find it more convenient than schlepping to the gym and less intimidating than joining classes in person. Additionally, users can switch classes as easily as switching TV channels.

As Goldberg told me via email: “Covid forced everyone to try virtual fitness for the first time. Guess what? People found it more convenient and more connected than going to offline gyms. And guess what? Peloton is not for everyone.”

#3m, #bessemer-ventures, #ceo, #co-founder, #companies, #crm, #drinks, #education, #future, #gokul-rajaram, #health-insurance, #jason-goldberg, #life-insurance, #moxie, #online-fitness, #peloton, #playbook, #resolute-ventures, #tc, #uber

Motosumo scores $6M to spin up a challenge to Peloton

Denmark-based Motosumo has scored a $6M Series A raise led by London’s Magenta Partners, alongside existing investors. The new funding will go on doubling its network of spin class instructors across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, expanding its tech team and upping its marketing.

The 2015-founded fit-tech startup has developed a system for measuring cycling cadence without additional sensors — users need only affix their existing smartphone or tablet to a stationary exercise bike to get real-time feedback on their performance. No expensive Peloton-style connected bike required… Just strap on your smartphone and pedal away on that ancient exercise bike you found gathering dust in the loft.

The startup’s focus to-date has been more on the b2b side — selling its software to fitness instructors and gyms hosting spin classes who are looking to upgrade the experience with real-time tracking. But it’s now set to ramp up it b2c business, seizing the opportunity to build at home fitness business as the coronavirus pandemic continues to make life challenging for traditional gyms.

“We’ve recently made the move to our B2C offering (Motosumo),” CEO Kresten Juel Jensen tells TechCrunch. “On the B2B side (Momentum), we have over 2,500 users and, over the last year, we passed 100,000 downloads. As we launch the B2C version with Motosumo, we are making an upfront investment in attracting users to become active members.

“The B2C marketing is just kicking in now and the performance with our early members is very positive over the past few months with an average session rating of 4.9 out of 5. We expect our Motosumo member base will grow very quickly from here.”

Motosumo applies its mobile-based quantification tech — which measures cadence, speed, distance and calorie burn — in a cycling training app that also offers interactive 3D games, team challenges and international leaderboards to up the motivational energy.

“Our movement technology is a unique enabler for Motosumo –- we empower any bike owner with the ability to get on the leaderboard, join competitions, and get feedback from our instructors,” says Jensen. “We process signals from accelerometers and gyroscopes inside smartphones or tablets to calculate your regular cycling performance metrics such as cadence (repetitions-per-minute), calories, and distance. We are not relying on any proprietary hardware, bike sensors, or heart rate monitors.

“All of these sensors can be connected for additional data, if desired by the user but it is not required. Even users with 20 year-old spin bikes with no sensors whatsoever can participate, climb the leaderboard, and race with our community. Motosumo algorithms are proprietary and trained by a machine learning loop. This has taken years to reach the accuracy, which is similar to built-in bike sensors, and this will remain a massive barrier to entry for competitors.”

Motosumo combines proprietary tracking tech with a platform that streams a schedule of live spinning classes hosted by a global network of fitness instructors. Pricing starts at (an equally Peloton-undercutting) $13 per month for unlimited access to its content.

Aside from (relative) affordability for its fit tech, it points to interactivity as a differentiator vs other offerings, touting zero delay in the livestream of classes which it says allows its instructors to give genuinely real-time feedback. Currently it has five coaches active on its platform. Another five will be onboarded over the next six weeks, per Jensen

“The Motosumo live fitness experience makes a big difference,” he argues. “With the live experience, our coaches personalize the workout, the sense of community is stronger, and the experience is more interactive.

“Motosumo offers more than 40 live workouts per week which we will grow along with our new coaches and members. On many other platforms, the live experience means 15-60 second buffered streams. We have worked relentlessly to reduce our delay to 0.5 seconds. We made that investment to provide the real studio experience, where instructors react to numbers, emojis, or whatever happens right in the moment. It’s not just greetings for anniversary ride celebrations. It’s the true studio live experience we are on a mission to deliver in all aspects.”

#europe, #fit-tech, #fitness-tracking, #fundings-exits, #motosumo, #peloton, #tc

Peloton will pump $100M into delivery logistics to ease supply concerns

This probably falls under “good problems,” in the grand scheme of things. After another record quarter, Peloton has announced that it will invest more than $100 million in air and ocean freight deliveries due to “longer-than-acceptable wait times for the delivery of our products.”

The fitness company is among those tech firms that have seen a tremendous rise in interest amid the pandemic. In fact, it seems these days that VCs can’t pump money into at-home fitness solutions quickly enough to appease their interest. 2020 was a banner year for home workout solutions, from LuluLemon’s $500 million acquisition of Mirror to new platforms from Apple and Samsung.

In all, Peloton pulled in $1.06 billion in revenue last quarter, marking a more than 200% increase, year over year. The numbers beat Wall Street expectations and are showing no sign of slowing, with another massive quarter expected for the connected fitness brand.

The market did balk slightly at Peloton’s admission that, “While this investment will dampen our near-term profitability, improving our member experience is our first priority.” Clearly this big spend on reducing supply bottlenecks is a longer-term play.

Of course, it remains to be seen how the company’s earnings will stabilize after the pandemic. I’d anticipate there will be some slowing for Peloton and other brands when vaccines make returning to gyms a more widescale phenomenon. Still, home workouts — like remote work — may well be an aspect that is fundamentally transformed even with COVID-19 in the rearview.

#connected-fitness, #earnings, #fitness, #hardware, #peloton

Expectful’s new chief executive experienced the trauma she just raised millions to solve

Nathalie Walton almost didn’t become a mother. Her risky pregnancy caused her placenta to burst during childbirth, almost killing her and her son last year. Walton, who feels lucky to have survived, says the haunting experience made her an example of a reality she had long known: To be a pregnant Black woman is to be at risk, regardless of economic background.

The stress of her pregnancy led Walton to download Expectful, a meditation and sleep app for new mothers. She recalls stabilizing, emotionally and physically, within a week, bringing an otherwise “soft landing” to a volatile pregnancy.

Weeks after delivering her son, Everett, Walton just so happened to hear of an advisory role opening at Expectful. Even though she was mid-maternity leave from her managerial role at Airbnb, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I definitely had a full-time job, I had a newborn baby,” Walton said. But, she says, it was an opportunity to be entrepreneurial in a sector she cared about. Even if it was just for a few months.

And now, Walton is the chief executive of the company. The business is pivoting its product strategy to grow beyond recorded meditations. Walton helped it raise its first millions in venture capital, making her one of the few dozen Black female founders to do so. New financing and the boom of the mental health focus amid the coronavirus pandemic puts Expectful in a coveted spot. And it puts Walton, who is at the helm of a company for the first time, in a pressure-cooker spotlight.

Even in the world of startups, going from user to chief executive in less than a year is a remarkable feat. But it’s not one that she rushed.

A quarter-life crisis

Walton graduated from Georgetown and immediately joined the New York banking world. After a few years as an analyst at JP Morgan, though, she became unsatisfied with the work.

“I think I had a quarter-life crisis,” Walton said. Searching for new opportunities, she ended up at a prospective students day at Stanford University in what would become a pivotal moment in her life.

“For the first time, I met entrepreneurs and saw an actual concept that you can pursue a career you like, be successful and make a difference in the world,” she said. Walton eventually applied, and got accepted, to Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), a prestigious program that produces founders and top executives. It was then that she realized she wanted to be a chief executive one day.

“I admired them, but I just didn’t see the pathway for me to get there,” she said, of the entrepreneurs she met, who were then largely white and male. “I didn’t have the confidence.”

So, she set that hope aside and pursued intrapreneurship, which would let her join a stable organization and act as a mini-founder within it. Employees in this role are tasked with building a startup within a startup, whether that is rooting an innovative idea or leading an experiential team. Corporations have long embraced this idea to bring momentum to otherwise red-tapey processes.

Walton joined eBay and soon rose to work as the head of business operations and development. Her work helped the company break into 3D printing.

Over the years, this has been the defining characteristic of Walton: join an organization, build a scrappy idea from scratch, and then do it all over again. She has held roles in Airbnb and Google that all required her to have the agility of a founder convincing people on a moonshot vision, and the rigor of a manager who can get a deal done.

She had the same vision heading into an advisory role at Expectful. But when Walton landed a key Expectful partnership with Johnson & Johnson, then-CEO and founder Mark Krassner had an idea.

‘It was on my mind from day No. 1’

Before starting Expectful, Krassner experienced the benefits of meditation firsthand. He also saw his mother face depression, which made him realize how meditation could have a positive impact on others. After seeing research that showed how meditation could positively impact a pregnancy, he began thinking of a solution in this cross-section. He eventually started a course on Teachable, a startup that lets anyone create and monetize an online class, with 15 moms and a guided meditation.

Over time, the idea stuck. Krassner eventually turned his course into a 12-person startup. Under his leadership, Expectful grew to profitability and over 13,000 paid users. Its conversion rate from free to paid users was five times higher than industry standards, the company claims.

That said, from the moment Mark Krassner started Expectful, he knew he was an unlikely founder. He doesn’t have any children, so leading a meditation and sleep app for new mothers comes with its own hurdles.

“As a male founder with no kids, it was on my mind from day No. 1,” Krassner said. He eventually wanted to put a female at the head of the company, he says. Walton was the obvious choice.

Walton returned to Airbnb after her maternity leave right as Airbnb had aggressive COVID-19 layoffs. While her job was saved, her team disappeared as part of the cuts. She started looking for jobs, and received lucrative offers from Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon. When she told Krassner she was leaning toward a lead product manager position at Amazon, he replied with an offer to take over Expectful’s entire business.

“I think it caught her off guard,” Krassner said, who is still a board member at the company. “Usually you don’t think a CEO is looking for [a new CEO] unless things are going to hell in a handbasket.”

The new Expectful

Expectful began as a guided meditation library, which will continue to be its core. But now, Walton wants to take advantage of that momentum and evolve the company into a “go-to wellness resource for hopeful, expecting and new parents.”

The language suggests that the startup is evolving in how it markets itself. Right now, the site has a number of references to “motherhood” and women. But Walton says Expectful defines a mother by anyone who identifies themselves as one. While the startup primarily has content geared toward the gestational parent, or the one who gives birth to the child, Walton says they have a “a partner’s library for non-gestational parents that identify as non-gestational mothers, fathers, or however they choose to identify.”

Walton plans to pivot the startup in three phases: content, marketplace and community.

For content, Expectful wants to organize pregnancy-related information. Currently, a lot of information or advice around pregnancy lives in books or in-person classes. But the learning experience, which Walton says is similar to middle school-style lectures, doesn’t feel built for this century.

The next step in her plan is digitizing the service providers that help women through pregnancy. In simpler words, replace the disorganized recommendations in Facebook groups for parents.

“When I went to ask my OB-GYN for recommendations for a doula, she gave me a sheet of paper with the names of 10 doulas,” she said. “You have to text the doula, ask them questions and if they want to meet up — it all feels yucky.” Expectful wants to put all that information in one platform so moms can access tips and recommendations from the ease of their homes.

The end-product here would be a peer-reviewed platform that can help a mom find everything from a therapist to a live-in nanny, with reviews built-in.

Finally, Walton wants to invest in the community. Expectful recently launched Mother Circles, which connects postpartum mothers into support cohorts led by a doula facilitator. The circles include six weekly video calls, a group chat and 500 hours of on-demand doula support.

Image Credits: Expectful

Part of Walton’s focus through all of these priorities is to invest in Black maternal health outcomes. Her own experience, she says, showed her how even a “Stanford-educated wellness junkie” such as herself can be at a high-risk for pregnancy because of her skin color.

It’s a lofty goal, even with the promising growth and strong library of guided meditations. The competition is steep. One of Expectful’s closest competitors is Peanut, a social network for moms used by over 1.2 million people. Mahmee, a digital support network for postpartum mothers, has raised $3 million and views itself as complementary to Expectful. Headspace has launched its own motherhood meditation series, but it is not as comprehensive as Expectful’s.

“I think we’re able to connect with women in a way that some of these other companies aren’t,” Walton said. “People are paying for the service, so they clearly need it.”

While Walton declined to share new user metrics, she said that the company’s revenue has grown 100% since March 2020.

Long-term, Expectful wants to mimic Peloton’s playbook in terms of getting premium content and community to the right audience. Still, growing from a startup to a venture business requires more than just ambition and market fit. It requires the ability to exponentially grow and keep growing.

A handful of investors believe that Walton’s Expectful can do it. Expectful raised $3 million in a seed financing round led by Harlem Capital. Indicator Ventures, Sequoia Scout Fund, Joyance Partners, Break Trail Ventures, Chinagona Ventures, Powerhouse Capital, AVG Basecamp Fund and Babylist also participated. Angel investors included Ellen Pao, Mike Smith and Ashley Mayer. The round also included $1.2 million in convertible SAFE notes, making the financing round a total of $4.2 million.

“Historically when I look at what black women raise fundraising, I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to raise this round,” Walton said.

Harlem Capital founding partner Henri Pierre-Jacques said that “obviously, given our focus we weren’t going to invest in a white male.” Walton’s “founder-market fit” is what made the firm invest, even with the hairy dynamic of an exiting CEO.

Mayer, head of communications at Glossier, was the one who introduced Walton to the woman who told her about the advisory role of Expectful. She says that Nathalie’s “path to entrepreneurship feels inevitable.

“It was always just a question of finding the space where her passions collided,” Mayer said.

As a new mother and new founder, Walton has had a busy balancing act of a year.

“I’m working more now than I have really in the last decade,” she said. “But I’ve never been more fulfilled because, as someone who went through this, and I’m still going through this, I feel so personally the level of pain that so many women suffer through.”

#calm, #expectful, #harlem-capital, #headspace, #health, #mahmee, #nathalie-walton, #peanut, #peloton, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

Stay gold, ‘Plaid for X’ startups

A failed acquisition usually triggers the same series of questions: What does this mean for early-stage startups in the sector? Will a chilling effect occur and hurt valuations? Will VCs stop funding this category? How will the exit environment look going forward?

This week gave that narrative a bullish twist. Visa and Plaid announced that they have reached a mutual agreement to no longer pursue a merger. The $5.3 billion deal had been under antitrust scrutiny from the DOJ, and eventually ended amid these regulatory challenges.

Fintech VCs and startups alike reacted to the fallen deal with aggressive optimism about Plaid’s future as an independently-owned fintech startup.

The most common arguments?

  • Plaid’s price in this current moment is far beyond $5.3 billion, so now that it is a free bird it will pursue a much larger exit
  • Plaid will go public through SPAC because it is in charge of its own destiny.
  • And my favorite: One day, Plaid will buy Visa.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Plaid CEO Zach Perret wouldn’t give too many details on the future (and whether a SPAC is involved), but he did say he has new ‘clarity’ going forward.

The fact that fintech is bullish on the future of fintech isn’t quite surprising. I will say that while one deal can never make or break a sector, a flopped merger certainly can surface the current temperature in the market. Startups Weekly readers will remember last week’s edition about how P&G’s decision not to acquire Billie could hurt DTC exit opportunities. Fintech seems unbothered and, in fact, celebratory. The only counterargument I got, via Twitter DM, is that it could set a bad precedent on big fintech mergers.

“Or maybe…corporations learn from this and look to make riskier acquisitions earlier in a company’s lifecycle because they know that if they let the company get too big they’ll lose the chance,” Rami Essaid, founder of Finmark, told me.

Only in 2021 could a $5.3 billion break-up and a DOJ investigation be considered a blessing. Rock on, ‘Plaid for X’ startups.

Before we go on, make sure to follow me on Twitter for my bad jokes and early-stage startup coverage. You can also always reach me at natasha.m@techcrunch.com.

Columbus is the new Miami which is new the San Francisco

I hope that sub-hed gave you a headache, because that’s exactly what debates about where the best place to start a company do to me. The rise of Work From Anywhere has emboldened VCs to leave San Francisco for markets such as Miami or Austin in search of the next unsung hero of their portfolios.

For investors, though, the financial benefit of moving to an emerging market might not be apparent within months, but instead years. Venture is a long game (at least most of the time).

Here’s what to know, per Silicon Valley editor Connie Loizos: Drive Capital, a venture capital firm based in Columbus, Ohio, and started by two ex-Sequoia investors now has over $1.2 billion in assets. But before it had breakout companies like Root and Olive AI, Drive had to play the unusual role of investing in a region without key investing infrastructure.

Etc: Founding partner Chris Olsen explained how they set up their roots:

“We’ve had to spend a lot of time going into the universities and putting new seed managers in business and helping them fundraise and sort of building all of this infrastructure from scratch so that the next entrepreneur is out here [versus moves away], and it works. In our first year, we had inbound interest from 1,800 [startups], then it went to about 3,000 and now it’s up to about 7,000, which is more than I’ve heard any other venture firms say that they see in California. And I don’t think it’s because we’re great. I think that’s more [a reflection of the] scale of the opportunity that’s here now. One of the things that we would love to see more of is more venture capitalists coming here, because there’s certainly more opportunity than we can invest in.”

Ideal paper world powered with alternative wind and solar energy. environmental concept.

Image Credits: Paula Dani/ABlse (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The CFO Tech Stack

If you want to start a company, go to a startup and look where employees are still using an Excel sheet. The best products are the ones fueled by frustrations, right?

Here’s what to know per managing editor Danny Crichton: For a trio of Palantir alums, 15 collective years at the now-public government tech company showed a huge gap in technology for CFOs. So, they started Mosaic, a techstack to help financial officers better communicate and perform their jobs.

Etc: Co-founder Bijan Moallemi describes the mistake other platforms are making:

“Everyone wants to be strategic, but it’s so tough to do because 80% of your time is pulling data from these disparate systems, cleaning it, mapping it, updating your Excel files, and maybe 20% of [your time] is actually taking a step back and understanding what the data is telling you.”

GettyImages 946391800

Image via Getty Images / alashi

The future of consumer hardware startups beyond Peloton

Are wearables still exciting? Is consumer hardware ever going to get easier to pull off? What was the strategy that made Peloton so successful?

These questions and more are answered in the latest consumer hardware-focused Extra Crunch Survey, which brings together VCs from SOSV, Lux Capital, Shasta Ventures, and more.

Here’s what to know: Everyone is studying the Peloton success recipe. But the big question for consumer hardware startups is if the at-home fitness market’s boom is translating to other use cases.

Etc: Cyril Ebersweiler of SOSV noted that supply chain distribution disruption during COVID-19 has been difficult for category startups, but the need for innovative solutions has never been more clear.

“Everybody is waiting for new and mind-blowing experiences, and I guess we’ve all experienced the shortcomings or the magic of some IoT products over the shelter-in-place [orders]. Spatial and ambient technologies that work well will be in demand (audio or visual), while “holographic Skype” will invade households thanks to Looking Glass.”

Also: In another investor survey, five VCs weighed in on the future of cannabis in 2021.

3D render, visualization of a man holding virtual reality glasses, electronic device, head surrounded by virtual data with neon green grid. Player one ready for the VR game. Virtual experience.

Pop goes the public market

We had yet another noisy week of privately-held startups going public to a Very Warm Wall Street reception. The most opulent story of the week was definitely Affirm’s debut, which doubled its already-increased price when it started to officially trade.

Here’s what to know, per our resident IPO reporter Alex Wilhelm, who writes The Exchange:

Etc:

GettyImages 1155292858

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 11: PayPal Co-Founder & Affirm CEO Max Levchin visits “Countdown To The Closing Bell” at Fox Business Network Studios on June 11, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Around TechCrunch

Extra Crunch Live is returning in a big way in 2021. We’ll be interviewing VC/founder duos about how their Series A deals went down, and Extra Crunch members will have the chance to get live feedback on their pitch deck. You can check out our plans for ECL in 2021 right here, or hit up this form to submit your pitch deck. Episodes air every Wednesday at 3pm ET/12pm PT starting in February.

And if you’re feeling extra generous, take this survey to help shape the future of TechCrunch

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Glassdoor: Best tech companies to work for in 2021

Signal’s Brian Acton talks about exploding growth, monetization and WhatsApp data-sharing outrage

Two-year-old NUVIA sells to Qualcomm for $1.4 billion

Loop launches out of stealth to make auto insurance more equitable

Nuclear fusion tech developer General Fusion now has Shopify and Amazon founders backing it

Seen on Extra Crunch

Lessons from Top Hat’s acquisition spree

12 ‘flexible VCs’ who operate where equity meets revenue share

Dear Sophie: What’s the new minimum salary required for H-1B visa applicants?

Equity (and a bonus Equity)

The news keeps coming so we keep recording. This week, the trio chatted about the Plaid-Visa deal, but also about the Palantir mafia‘s next big bet. In early-stage news, I covered a fintech accelerator that pivoted into an edtech accelerator and a new startup coming out of Austin that makes car insurance more equitable. We also debated SPACs for a bit, and Danny was…optimistic?

Listen to our episode, follow the pod on Twitter, and if you so please, tune into our bonus Equity episode that just came out today. It’s an episode dedicated entirely to the barrage of payments and e-commerce funding that came out this week.

Until next week,

Natasha 

#austin, #doj, #early-stage, #fintech, #hardware, #palantir, #peloton, #plaid, #startups, #startups-weekly, #tc, #visa

Tiger Global is raising a new $3.75 billion venture fund, one year after closing its last

According to a recent letter sent to its investors, Tiger Global Management, the New York-based investing powerhouse, is raising a new $3.75 billion venture fund called Tiger Private Investment Partners XIV that it expects to close in March.

The fund is Tiger Global’s 13th venture fund, despite its title — the partners might be superstitious — and it comes hot on the heels of the firm’s 12th venture fund, closed exactly a year ago, also with $3.75 billion in capital commitments.

A spokesperson for the firm declined to comment on the letter or Tiger Global’s broader fundraising strategy when reached this morning.

It’s a lot of capital to target, even amid a sea of enormous new venture vehicles. New Enterprise Associates closed its newest fund with $3.6 billion last year. Lightspeed Venture Partners soon after announced $4 billion across three funds. Andreessen Horowitz, the youngest of the three firms, announced in November it had closed a pair of funds totaling $4.5 billion.

At the same time, Tiger Global has seemingly has a strong case to potential limited partners. Last year alone, numerous of its portfolio companies either went public or was acquired.

Yatsen Holding, the nearly five-year-old parent company of China-based cosmetics giant Perfect Diary, went public in November and is now valued at $14 billion. (Tiger Global’s ownership stake didn’t merit a mention on the company’s regulatory filing.)

Tiger Global also quietly invested in the cloud-based data warehousing outfit Snowflake and, while again, it didn’t have a big enough stake to be included in the company’s S-1, even a tiny ownership percentage would be valuable, given that Snowflake is now valued at $85 billion.

And Tiger Global backed Root insurance, a nearly six-year-old, Columbus, Oh.-based insurance company that went public in November and currently boasts a market cap of $5.3 billion. Tiger owned 10.3% sailing into the offering.

As for M&A, Tiger Global saw at least three of its companies swallowed by bigger tech companies during 2020, including Postmates’s all-stock sale to Uber for $2.65 billion; Credit Karma’s $7 billion sale in cash and stock to Intuit; and the sale of Kustomer, which focused on customer service platforms and chatbots, for $1 billion to Facebook.

Tiger Global, whose roots are in hedge fund management, launched its private equity business in 2003, spearheaded by Chase Coleman, who’d previously worked for hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson at Tiger Management; Scott Shleifer, who joined the firm in 2002 after spending three years with the Blackstone Group; and, soon after, Lee Fixel, who joined the firm in 2006.

Shleifer focused on China; Fixel focused on India, and the rest of the firm’s support team (it now has 22 investing professionals on staff) helped find deals in Brazil and Russia  before beginning to focus more aggressively on opportunities in the U.S.

Every investing decision was eventually made by each of the three. Fixel left in 2019 to launch his own investment firm, Addition. Now Shleifer and Coleman are the firm’s sole decision-makers.

Whether the firm replaces Fixel is an open question. Tiger Global is known for grooming investors within its operations rather than hiring outsiders, so a new top lieutenant would almost surely come from its current team.

In the meantime, the firm’s private equity arm — which has written everything from Series A checks (Warby Parker) to checks in the multiple hundreds of millions of dollars — is currently managing assets of $30 million, compared with the $49 billion that Tiger Global is managing more broadly.

A year ago, Tiger Global, which employs 100 people altogether, was reportedly managing $36.2 billion in assets.

According to the outfit’s investor letter, the firm’s gross internal rate of return across its 12 previous funds is 32%, while its net IRR is 24%.

Tiger Global’s investors include a mix of sovereign wealth funds, foundations, endowments, pensions, and its own employees, who are collectively believed to be the firm’s biggest investors at this point.

Some of Tiger Global’s biggest wins to date have include a $200 million bet on the e-commerce giant JD.com that produced a $5 billion for the firm. According to the WSJ, it also cleared more than $1 billion on the Chinese online-services platform Meituan Dianping, which went public in 2018.

Tiger Global also reportedly reaped $3 billion from majority sale of India’s Flipkart to Walmart in 2018,  though the Indian government has more recently been trying to recover $1.9 billion from the firm, claiming it has outstanding tax dues on the sale of its share in the company.

Not last, Tiger Global owned nearly 20% of the connected fitness company Peloton at the time of its 2019 IPO (a deal that Fixel reportedly brought to the table, along with Flipkart).

Peloton, valued by private investors at $4 billion before doubling immediately in value as a publicly traded company, now boasts a market cap of $48.6 billion.

Tiger Global has invested its current fund in roughly 50 companies over the last 12 months. Among its newest bets is Blend, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based digital lending platform that yesterday announced $300 million in Series G funding, including from Coatue, at a post-money valuation of $3.3 billion.

It also led the newly announced $450 million Series C round for Checkout.com, an eight-year-old, London-based online payments platform that is now valued at $15 billion. And it wrote a follow-on check to Cockroach Labs, the nearly six-year-old, New York-based distributed SQL database that just raised $160 million in Series E funding at a $2 billion valuation, just eight months after raising an $86.6 million Series D round.

Another of its newest, biggest bets centers on the online education platform Zuowebang, in China. Back in June, Tiger Global co-led a $750 million Series E round in the company.

Last month, it was back again, co-leading a $1.6 billion round in the distance-learning company.

Pictured: Scott Shleifer, managing director of Tiger Global Management LLC, right, speaks with an attendee during the UJA-Federation of New York Wall Street Dinner in New York, on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011. 

#chime, #credit-karma, #flipkart, #kustomer, #lee-fixel, #peloton, #postmates, #recent-funding, #snowflake, #startups, #sumo-logic, #tc, #tiger-global-management, #venture-capital

Companies rush to replace the gym at CES

The year of the first-ever all-virtual CES is, unsurprisingly, the year of the virtual gym. The past 12 months have seen most of our fitness routines completely transformed — speaking for myself, my Apple Watch step count shows two big empty spots where March and April are.

Fitness startups have seen unexpected windfall in all of this. In June, Lululemon announced plans to acquire Mirror for $500 million, while competitors like Tonal saw a 7x increase in sales for the year. In December, Apple launched Fitness+, its own on-demand service designed to take on the Pelotons of the world.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re starting to see a streaming service-style land rush on the fitness side of things. It’s a massive industry, of course, and odds are things will never return exactly to “normal” in the wake of all of this, but unlike movie services, it’s hard to imagine people subscribing to more than one at a time.

Perhaps the biggest name to enter the market thus far at CES is Samsung. The electronics giant announced Smart Trainer, an addition to its growing line of fitness-focused apps. The system is designed specially for Samsung’s Smart TVs, using a webcam to track exercises. On that front, at least, it seems to be a bit more in-depth than Apple’s Watch-only tracking, which relies on an accelerometer and heart-rate monitor for feedback. Like Fitness+, it will employ trainers to lead exercises, including workout celebrity Jillian Michaels.

Ultrahuman is another major fitness video platform making its debut this week. The startup recently closed an $8 million round. Like Fitness+, its biotracking is built around the Apple Watch, showcasing heart rate and calories burned, among other metrics. The service compares its offering to a “masterclass” for fitness.

Partners include leading athletes and celebrities like Crossfit champion Kara Saunders, fitness celebrity Amanda Cerny, coach Johannes Bartl, hybrid athlete and coach Kris Gethin and MindSize CEO Christian Straka to name a few. Available on iOS and Android devices, the app also integrates biofeedback via its Apple Watch integration to measure and improve the efficacy of meditation and workouts. Compared to Calm and Headspace’s celebrity content approach, Ultrahuman uses a technology platform-based approach to improve experience and long-term results.

These services set themselves apart from the likes of Mirror, Peloton and new offerings from the likes of NordicTrack, in that these technologies ditch the heavy exercise equipment, lowering the barrier of entry (though I suppose Samsung’s does require a big, expensive TV). The fact is that demand will decrease when people feel more comfortable going to the gym. That will certainly shake out the industry to a certain extent.

For many people, however, once the secrets of home fitness have been unlocked, they may never want to visit the gym again.

#apple, #apps, #ces, #ces-2021, #health, #peloton, #samsung

Vision Fund backs Chinese fitness app Keep in $360 million round

As Chinese fitness class provider Keep continues to diversify its offerings to include Peloton-like bikes, health-conscious snacks among other things, it’s bringing in new investors to fund its ambitions.

On Monday, Keep said it has recently closed a Series F financing round of $360 million led by SoftBank Vision Fund. Hillhouse Capital and Coatue Management participated in the round, as well as existing investors GGV Capital, Tencent, 5Y Capital, Jeneration Capital and Bertelsmann Asia Investments.

The latest fundraise values the six-year-old startup at about $2 billion post-money, people with knowledge told TechCrunch. Keep said it currently has no plans to go public, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Keep started out in 2014 by providing at-home workout videos and signed up 100 million users within three years. As of late, it has served over 300 million users, the company claims. It has over time fostered an ecosystem of fitness influencers who give live classes to students via videos, and now runs a team of course designers, streaming coaches and operational staff dedicated to its video streaming business.

The company said its main revenue driver is membership fees from the 10 million users who receive personalized services. It’s also expanding its consumer product line. Last year, for instance, the firm introduced an internet-connected stationary bike that comes with video instructions like Peloton . It’s also rolled out apparel, treadmills and smart wristbands.

The company launched foreign versions of its Keep app in 2018 as it took aim at the overseas home fitness market. It was posting diligently on Western social networks including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter up until the spring of 2019.

According to Keep, the purpose of the latest funding is to let it continue doing what it has focused on in recent years: improving services and products for users and serving fitness professionals against a backdrop of the Chinese government’s campaign for “national fitness.”

“We believe fitness has become an indispensable part of Chinese people’s everyday life as their income rises and health awareness grows,” said Eric Chen, managing partner at SoftBank Vision Fund .

 

#5y-capital, #asia, #china, #coatue-management, #fitness, #funding, #ggv-capital, #health, #hillhouse-capital, #keep, #peloton, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund, #tencent

Peloton to acquire fitness equipment maker Precor in $420M bid to grow commercial business

Peloton has announced that it intends to acquire Precor, one of the world’s largest suppliers of commercial fitness equipment. You probably recognize the Precor brand name if you’ve ever spent time in a hotel or standalone commercial gym, which is exactly why Peloton making this purchase makes a ton of sense at this particular time for the hot home workout brand.

The Precor acquisition will be made via a deal that’s valued at a total of $420 million, and in addition to expanding its commercial business, this also helps Peloton bring on a lot more manufacturing capability in a time when its order queue for its Tread and Bike hardware is deeper than ever, thanks to the increase in demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Precor already maintains a significant U.S.-based manufacturing operation, as well as dedicated research and development teams and facilities. In total, Peloton says in a press release that it’ll be adding 625,000 square feet of manufacturing facility in the U.S., between Precor facilities in both Whitsett, North Carolina, and Woodinville, Washington.

While the near-term use of the acquisition, which is set to close in 2021 if it meets all approvals, is to speed up delivery times for customers of existing equipment, long-term this deal sets Peloton up nicely for greater commercial market expansion – once the commercial market returns to growth. While the pandemic has been a clear boon for Peloton’s at-home equipment and fitness subscription service, it’s also been devastating for gym chains and hoteliers, meaning that it’s likely Precor’s primary business was taking a considerable hit over the past few months.

This is the largest deal that Peloton has made thus far, but it’s possible it picked up Precor for a relative bargain; Precor owner Anta Sports was said to have been seeking a potential sale fo the company for around $500 million last November. Peloton will be installing Precor President Rob Barker as GM of Peloton Commercial as part of the new deal, and that should help it accelerate the infiltration of its connected equipment in commercial gyms globally once people feel more comfortable about returning to them safely post-pandemic.

#companies, #fitness, #hardware, #health, #ma, #north-carolina, #peloton, #precore, #president, #tc, #united-states, #washington

Salut raises $1.25M for its virtual fitness service

This morning Salut, an app-based service that allows fitness trainers to host classes virtually, announced that it has raised $1.25 million in a new financing event. The round was led by Charles Hudson, an investor at Precursor Ventures.

Founder Matthew DiPietro, formerly of Twitch, told TechCrunch that Salut soft-launched in mid-September, with a wider release coming today.

DiPietro thought up the concept behind Salut before the pandemic hit, he said during an interview, but after COVID-19 appeared the idea took on new urgency. The company put together what DiPietro described as a no-code alpha version of the service in May to test the market, allowing the then-nascent startup to validate demand on both sides of its marketplace — it’s famously difficult to jumpstart two-sided marketplaces, as demand tends to follow supply, and vice-versa.

The test allowed the company to get to confidence on demand existing from both trainers and exercise fans, and in its initial economic model.

With the new round in the bank and its product now formally launched, it’s up to Salut to scale rapidly. The company currently has 55 registered trainers on its platform, a reasonable start for the seed-stage startup. It will need to grow that figure by a few orders of magnitude if it wants to generate enough revenue to reach an eventual Series A.

But Salut is not focused on early-revenue generation, taking no cut of trainer revenue today. Indeed, per an email the company sent out to its users this morning, the startup is passing along 100% of post-Apple income that trainers generate, or 85% of the gross.

Currently users can donate to, or tip, trainers that host classes. DiPietro told TechCrunch that subscription options are coming in a quarter or two. The startup also announced today that trainers can now allow their classes to be replayed, what the startup called one of its “most requested features.”

Anyone familiar with Peloton understands why this matters; only a fraction of classes on the Peloton ecosystem are live at any point in time, but the bike comes with a library of content that users can simply load up whenever they like. This also allows Peloton to release more niche content than it otherwise might, as even the heavy metal-themed rides can accrete a reasonable ridership over time (something they might not be able to manage if all classes on the platform were only live once and then gone forever).

DiPietro is bullish on building income streams for trainers, especially during a pandemic that has locked many gyms, leaving fitness processionals with little to no income in many cases.

There’s some early signal that users are willing to pay, the company said, with early users willing to pay $5 or $10 for an hour of fitness training. And with a focus on the long-tail of trainers who can’t attract 10,000 fans to a single class, Salut thinks there are a large number of trainers who have enough pull to generate more income from its service, in time, than they could at a traditional studio.

Salut supports group video classes, of course, so trainers can collect monies from cohorts of users at a time.

The company’s fundraising is largely earmarked for engineering, with the company having what its founder called an ambitious product roadmap.

The startup also announced a new project with Fitness Mentors, a company that helps trainers get certified, to create what the two companies are calling “the industry’s first Virtual Group Fitness Instructor (V-GFI) course and certification.”

You can see why Salut would want the certification to exist; its existence will allow users of its service to find trainers that are worth their time on its service, and may raise the overall level of quality of classes provided.

Let’s see how far Salut can get with $1.25 million.

#apps, #charles-hudson, #fundings-exits, #peloton, #precursor-ventures, #startups

Inside Affirm’s IPO filing: A look at its economics, profits and revenue concentration

Last night Affirm filed to go public, herding yet another unicorn into the end-of-year IPO corral. The consumer installment lending service joins DoorDash and Airbnb in filing recently, as a number of highly valued, venture-backed private companies look to float while the public markets are more interested in growth than profits.

TechCrunch took an initial dive into Affirm’s numbers yesterday, so if you need a broad overview, please head here.

This morning we’re going deeper into the company’s economics, profitability and the impact of COVID-19 on its business. The last element of our investigation involves Peloton and the historical examples of Twilio and Fastly, so it should be fun.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Affirm is a company that TechCrunch has long tracked. I was assigned an interview with founder Max Levchin at Disrupt 2014, giving me a reason to pay extra attention to the company over the last six years. This S-1 has been a long time coming.

But is Affirm another pandemic-fueled company going public on the back of a COVID-19 bump, or are its business prospects more durable?

Let’s get into the numbers.

Economics

First, let’s discuss Affirm’s core economics. I want to know three things:

  • What does Affirm’s loss rate on consumer loans look like?
  • Are its gross margins improving?
  • What does the unicorn have to say about contribution profit from its loans business?

These are related questions, as we’ll see.

Starting with loss rates, Affirm thinks it is getting smarter over time, writing in its S-1 that its “expertise in sourcing, aggregating, protecting and analyzing data” provides it with a “core competitive advantage.” Or, more simply, Affirm writes that it has “data advantages that compound over time.”

So we should see improving loss rates, yeah? And we do. The company has a very pretty chart up top in its IPO filing that makes its model’s improvement appear staggeringly good over time:

Image Credits: Affirm

But, things aren’t improving as fast inside its results, as Affirm later explains when discussing its aggregate, as opposed to cohort-delineated, results.

Here’s Affirm discussing its provision for credit losses in its most recent quarter (calendar Q3 2020) and the period’s year-ago analog (calendar Q3 2019):

Image Credits: Affirm

As we can see, the percentage of total revenue that Affirm has to provision for expected credit losses is going down over time. That’s what you’d hope to see.

To better explain what’s going on, let’s explore what Affirm means by “provision for credit losses.” Affirm defines the metric as “the amount of expense required to maintain the allowance of credit losses on our balance sheet which represents management’s estimate of future losses,” which is “determined by the change in estimates for future losses and the net charge offs incurred in the period.”

And it got quite a lot better in the last year, which the company says was “driven by lower credit losses and improved credit quality of the portfolio.” So, Affirm is getting better at lending as time goes along. What does that mean for its gross margins?

Well, Affirm doesn’t provide direct gross margin results. So we’re left to do the work ourselves. For reference, this is the income statement we’re working off of:

Image Credits: Affirm

Fun, right? Annoying, but fun.

How should we calculate the company’s gross margins? We can’t drill down on a per-product basis given that costs aren’t apportioned in a manner that would allow us to, so we’ll have to take Affirm’s revenue as a bloc, and its costs as a bloc as well.

#affirm, #airbnb, #ecommerce, #finance, #fundings-exits, #peloton, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange, #tiktok, #twilio

Positive vaccine news punishes pandemic-boosted companies like Zoom, Peloton, Etsy

Stock markets worldwide are soaring on news that a vaccine candidate is 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, and could start coming to market in a matter of months. This is upending the stock market, sending futures shares shooting higher in pre-market trading. But while the euphoria is helping sectors that have taken punishment during COVID-19, not all companies are catching the same updraft.

Indeed, while shares of airlines and cruise companies are coming up like Lazarus, the value of some formerly-favored concerns like Zoom and Peloton are down sharply this morning.

The value of Peloton, which saw its value skyrocket as stuck-at-home exercisers favored its equipment, is off nearly 13%. And the value of Zoom, a popular video chatting service used by companies, is also down 13%. Online retailers are also taking hit including Etsy and Wayfair, which are seeing double digit drops. Even Amazon is down in pre-market trading, off 2.3% its latest close.

The morning is an odd inversion of prior trends. While the summer saw tech shares enjoy investor favor, it now appears that money is leaving tech shares for other, perhaps less-pricey stocks.

While it is too soon to know, it could that software stocks (the SaaS, cloud bucket TechCrunch pays close attention to) are about to see their multiples clipped as investors move their cash to a now-widened set of growth investments. If that happens, the technology industry would have to adapt to less-exuberant valuations for its public companies.

Any such move would impact startups, especially those in the later-stages that see their valuations track the public markets somewhat; late-stage startup investment has been active this year as investors could see liquidity options via IPOs and other mechanisms at high prices. If those prices drop, capital could tighten for tech startups.

Of course, it’s early. Things can, and may change. Investors could be trading too aggressively on what really is news that will take months to impact real economic activity. Today, however, feels like a new chapter in the 2020 markets story.

#covid-19, #fundings-exits, #peloton, #startups, #zoom

Future raises $24M Series B for its $150/mo workout coaching app amid at-home fitness boom

With thousands of gyms across the country forced to close down during the pandemic, there’s been an unprecedented opportunity for fitness companies pitching an at-home solution. This moment has propelled public companies like Peloton to stratospheric highs — its market cap is about to eclipse $40 billion — but it has also pushed venture capitalists towards plenty of deals in the fitness space.

Future launched with a bold sell for consumers, a $150 per month subscription app that virtually teamed users up with a real life fitness coach. Leaning on the health-tracking capabilities of the Apple Watch, the startup has been aiming to build a platform that teams motivation, accountability and fitness insights.

via Future

Close to 18 months after announcing a Series A led by Kleiner Perkins, the startup tells TechCrunch they’ve closed a $24 million Series B led by Trustbridge Partners with Caffeinated Capital and Kleiner Perkins participating again.

Amid the at-home fitness boom, Future has seen major growth of its own. CEO Rishi Mandal says that the company’s growth rate has tripled in recent months as thousands of gyms closed their doors. He says shelter-in-place has merely accelerated an ongoing shift towards tech-forward fitness services that can help busy users find time during their day to exercise.

The operating thesis of the company is that modern life is inherently crazy not just during pandemic times but in normal times,” Mandal says. “The idea of having a set routine is a complete fallacy.”

At $149 per month, Future isn’t aiming for mass market appeal the same way other digital fitness programs being produced by Peloton, Fitbit or Apple are. It seems to be more squarely aimed at users that could be a candidate for getting a personal trainer but might bot be ready to make the investment or don’t need the guided instruction so much as they need general guidelines and some accountability.

As the startup closes on more funding, the team has big goals to expand its network. Mandal aims to have 1,000 coaches on the Future platform by this time next year. Reaching new scales could give the service a chance to tackle new challenges. Mandal sees opportunities for Future to expand its coaching services beyond fitness as it grows, “there’s a real opportunity to help people with all aspects of their health.”

#apple, #apple-inc, #caffeinated-capital, #ceo, #companies, #fitbit, #fitness, #industries, #kleiner-perkins, #peloton, #rishi-mandal, #tc, #trustbridge-partners

Amazon taps Echelon for the Prime Bike, a $500 Peloton knock-off

Amazon teamed up with Echelon to build and sell the Prime Bike. The $500 exercise bike is a virtual clone of the $1900 Peloton bike minus the screen — even the color scheme and design are the same. The bike is available now from Amazon (and Walmart with slightly different branding).

Echelon builds several fitness products, including a smart mirror that’s eerily similar to Mirror. The Prime Bike is Echelon’s third smart bike with the other two feature video screens, and are available for $999 and $1,199.

The Prime Bike has nearly every feature found on a Peloton bike from multiple adjustments to front-mounted wheels for easy movement. Instead of toe clips, the Prime Bike uses straps to lock riders’ feet to the pedals. However, the Prime Bike weighs 80 lbs instead of the Peloton’s 135 lbs, which suggests it’s not as well built and lacks the solid feel of a Peloton.

A screen is the notable missing feature, but that’s quickly resolved with a tablet. And since Peloton offers its classes through an app, Prime Bike buyers can even use Peloton’s service or Echelon’s service that’s very similar to Peloton’s offering.

“We were built on the idea of attainable fitness for everyone. The Prime Bike was developed in collaboration with Amazon, aiming to create an amazing, connected bike for less than $500, and it’s proven to be a phenomenal match,” said Lou Lentine, President, and CEO of Echelon Fitness. “Amazon looking to us to partner on their first-ever connected fitness product is recognition of our commitment to deliver quality at a reasonable price-point as reflected in our explosive growth over the last year.”

There are countless spinning bikes available for less than the Peloton cost, and many are available on Amazon. Few are as blatant of a knock-off as the Prime Bike, though. Amazon has a long, well-documented history of producing and selling products that draw heavy influence from popular products.

With this partnership with Echelon, Amazon is taking a big step towards Peloton, and Peloton’s stock responded in kind, dropping nearly 5% to $90 a share.

It’s worth noting the same exercise bike is available at Walmart for $500, where it sells under Echelon’s branding of the Connect Sport Bike.

#amazon, #echelon, #peloton, #tc

The Peloton effect

During the most recent quarter, only a few earnings reports stood out from the rest. Zoom’s set of results were one of them, with the video-communications company showing enormous acceleration as the world replaced in-person contact with remote chat.

Another was Peloton’s earnings from the fourth quarter of its fiscal 2020, which it reported September 10th. The company’s revenue and profitability spiked as folks stuck at home turned to the connected fitness company’s wares.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Shares of Peloton have rallied around 4x since March, roughly the start of when the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact life in the United States, driving demand for the company’s at-home workout equipment. And in late June, athleisure company Lululemon bought Mirror, another connected fitness company aimed at the home market for around $500 million.

With Peloton’s 2019 IPO and its growth along with Mirror’s exit in 2020, connected fitness is demonstrably hot, and private-market investors are taking notice. A recent Tweet from fitness tech watcher Joe Vennare detailing a host of recent funding rounds raised by “digital fitness” companies made the point last week, piquing our curiosity at the same time.

Is there really some sort of Peloton effect driving private investment into lots of connected fitness startups? How hot is the more nascent side of connected fitness?

This morning let’s take a look through some recent funding rounds in the space to get a feel for what’s going on. (If you’re a VC who cares about the sector, feel free to email in your own notes, subject line “connected fitness” please.) We’ll then execute the same search for Q3 2019 and see how the data compares.

Hot Wheels

To start with the current market I pulled a Crunchbase query for all Q3 funding rounds for companies tagged as “fitness” and then filtered out the cruft to get a look at the most pertinent funding events.

Here’s what I came up for for Q3 2020, to date:

Peloton launches new Bike+ and Tread smart home gym equipment, both at $2,495

Peloton has launched two new products for its home smart gym lineup, the Bike+ ($2,495) and the Tread ($2,495). While both carry the same price tag, the new exercise bike joins as th