Gainful raises $7.5M for personalized sports nutrition

Gainful, a startup offering personalized subscriptions to protein powders and hydration products, is announcing that it has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding.

COO Eric Wu, who founded the company with CTO Jahaan Ansari, told me that Gainful began with his own experience experimenting with different protein powders and eventually finding the combination that worked best for his goals and dietary needs.

“In my personal experience, trying to find a protein powder can be a very overwhelming experience,” Wu said. “There are a million ingredients, and you just want somebody to talk to who can cut through all that noise.”

So when when you first sign up for Gainful, you take a quiz about things like your height, weight, exercise patterns, fitness goals and how often you plan to consume the protein product. The company will then recommend a powder for you, as well as providing ongoing access to a registered dietitian who can answer any additional questions.

Wu said that behind the scenes, Gainful developed “hundreds and hundreds of different [protein] blends,” then worked with its science advisory board (which includes nutrition experts who have worked with the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings) to “hone in on a set number of blends.” When asked for more details about how many products the company is actually selling, Wu said it’s “more than a handful” and they’re “constantly being iterated on.”

Gainful hydration

Image Credits: Gainful

All Gainful products are made without artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, and they’re gluten-free and soy-free as well. With the new electrolyte drink mixes (which I’ve tried and enjoyed), the startup is moving beyond protein, and Wu said it will continue to add new products and new flavors. At the same time, you still need a subscription to the protein powder (pricing starts at $39) to get access to additional products.

To explain this relatively high commitment approach, Wu said, “We really believe that we’ve created a system of products that all have complementary benefits and work really synergistically. If you’re hydrating properly, you can work harder during your exercise, and your personalized protein powder is working harder for you. All of these are offered … not as a magic bullet, not as a lose-weight-fast solution, but as a way of being healthy. It’s not supposed to be a flash in the pan.”

The Series A round was co-led by BrandProject and Courtside Ventures, with participation from AF Ventures, Round13 Capital, Barrel Ventures and the founder of Polaris Sports.

Gainful was part of Y Combinator’s winter 2018 batch. It also had a leadership transition early last year, with Wu shifting from CEO to COO (where he said he could focus more on product development), while Dean Kelly joined as chief executive.

Wu added that the company has seen significant growth during the pandemic, due to the general shift toward e-commerce, as well as “people reflecting on what it means to lead a full, healthy, happy life in a time when it was really difficult.”