The rumored IPO plans of $4 billion spinning brand Peloton marks the rise of a wave of interactive fitness startups like Mirror, Tonal, Hydrow and At Home 360 that combine a monthly subscription to recorded and/or live video classes with workout hardware.
There’s opportunity beyond this initial “Peloton for X” model, however, when you look at where the gamification of at-home workout experiences can overlap with actual games. We’re in the midst of rapid growth in the gaming industry, the rise of esports and the mainstream-ing of socializing within games due to Fortnite.
The virtual cycling business Zwift is a five-year-old startup that has raised more than $170 million as a pioneer of fitness-gaming ― physical sport carried out in a virtual world. Athletes join together for group rides and races within a cycling game that hooks up to their own bike trainers at home in order to reflect their movements and physical exertion. Because users are represented as players within a social game, there is the benefit of network effects, opportunity for in-game commerce and an audience viewing the competition.
I recently sat with Eric Min, Zwift’s CEO and co-founder, at the company’s London office. We discussed why he founded Zwift and how the product has evolved, the potential revenue streams available to an interactive fitness brand and Zwift’s rise as an esport with ambitions to enter the Olympics. Here’s the transcript:
Eric Peckham (TechCrunch): Do you view Zwift as a fitness company or as a gaming company where the bike trainer is just a controller?
Eric Min (Zwift): We’re the fitness company born out of gaming. While we’re a fitness brand, we’re also a game and social network, two things that are converging rapidly right now. What we’re trying to do, though, is build this social network around real-time experiences, physical experiences, and I think that’s far more interesting. Crucial to that is being hardware-agnostic though. We work with a lot of equipment out there so our users can come to the game easily.