Appealing To Women, Social Fitness App PumpUp Raises $2.4M Led by General Catalyst

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You would think that combining a health and fitness app with social networking features had kinda been done for a while. Strava has a sort of network where I can follow my friends’ runs. And other apps have similar features. But it would seem there’s a qualitative difference to some fitness platforms some of us have missed that some investors are still interested in exploring. PumpUp, a social fitness app (on iOS/Android) says it has found a sweet spot in this area by appealing in particular to women via allowing them to post photos of their progress, thus creating a highly focused, supportive social community.

As results it’s now closed a $2.4 million seed round led by General Catalyst Partners. The cash will be used to expand the community, team and product. Additional investors included Azure Capital Partners, Relay Ventures, Freycinet Investments, and a number of angel investors. Prior to this it had raised an undisclosed seed round of financing, and a $200,000 Angel round in September 2013.

The startup also announced a new number: over 1.7 million users. (Just for contrast, Strava has raised $16.1M to date but it’s not known how many users it has yet).

PumpUp’s appeal is very much driven around community, combining photo sharing, fitness goals, meal sharing and fitness tracking. Not a million miles away from what a lot of supportive Facebook groups do, but this just shows once again the inexorable move away from the desktop web to the mobile world.

With PumpUp you can share selfies (similar to a Facebook meets Instagram interface); build and store custom exercise plans; get custom coaching; track activity such as reps, calories burned, time spent exercising, progress over time etc.; and share healthy recipes.

Phil Jacobson, co-founder, says the startup is “leveraging mobile technology” in this regard and is on a hiring spree in Canada and the US to boost his team.

He added that internationalization and localization are “in our product pipeline. We currently have a lot of demand for Spanish, Arabic, and French languages. We also plan on making it easier for PumpUp members within a specific geography to connect with each other.”

Niko Bonatsos of General Catalyst Partners believes “consumers today are looking for inspiration and guidance regarding their physical activity and eating habits without being overwhelmed by a plethora of applications. PumpUp is uniquely positioned as a horizontal platform that provides an open, safe and positive community to engage with compelling health and fitness related content.”

It’s worth noting that it’s among women that PumpUp has found most traction. According to the company, over 90% of its community is female. Why? It’s that old ‘not on Faceboook’ thing. They can comfortably share stuff they wouldn’t want out in the wilds of Facebook or other social networks, while still being connected into a supportive community who are all bent on getting healthier and fitter.

Back in May, the startup exited beta and was billed more as a ‘virtual personal trainer in your pocket.’ However, it did focus on photos as its special sauce to boost users’ motivation via the medium of photos. It claims PumpUp members who share photos to the network are “more than five times more likely to stay on track with their goals”. This might be its leverage against apps like Gain Fitness, Cody and Fitstar to name a just few.

The startup was founded in May 2012 and went through Waterloo, Canada-based incubator, Communitech Hyperdrive, last year.