Back in the halcyon days of 2019, we piloted a new format for Extra Crunch we dubbed the EC-1. Modeled after the Form S-1 filing that late-stage startups submit to the SEC as part of the IPO process, EC-1s are authoritative, deep analyses into growth-stage startups. We profiled and analyzed a number of companies like Patreon, Niantic, Roblox, Kobalt and Unity, looking at everything from their product design, to their customer relations, to their events strategy and to the changing economics of music licensing.
They were very popular and we had huge ambitions for the series, but then 2020 hit, COVID-19 swept in, and suddenly our ability to travel and meet with a dozen executives in-person at a company was curtailed — there was also just a wee bit of breaking news to cover as well! We didn’t want to cut back on quality, so we bided our time.
Well, with some level of normality finally kicking in, we’re excited to restart this series in 2021. We have nearly 10 EC-1s in the works right now, and I am excited to introduce our first EC-1 profile of this new batch — a company that has truly skyrocketed amidst that dark pandemic year.
Tonal is a unique entrant in the upscale fitness market, using a proprietary blend of hardware, software and content to bring comprehensive strength training to the home in as small and efficient of a package as possible. Sales have zoomed the past year as gyms shut down worldwide, and the company has been pelted by interest from both customers and investors.
That success today, though, occludes a lengthy process of iteration over years against the droning negativity of most VCs who never expected a corporate enterprise infrastructure founder to be capable of building a popular consumer hardware device. Tonal is not just a story of willpower, but also an example of how much effort it takes to build a major startup, from product design and launch strategy to careful marketing and building the moats to protect itself from competition in a ferocious market.
TechCrunch’s writer and analyst for this EC-1 is JP Mangalindan. Mangalindan has been covering technology for years now, previously serving as chief tech correspondent for our corporate sister site Yahoo Finance and also publishing across a plethora of other tech publications. He brings a wealth of insight not just into startups and Tonal, but the wider fitness market as well. The lead editor for this package was Danny Crichton, the copy editor was Richard Dal Porto and illustrations were created by Nigel Sussman.
Tonal had no say in the content of this analysis and did not get advance access to it. Mangalindan has no financial ties to Tonal or other conflicts of interest to disclose.
The Tonal EC-1 comprises four main articles representing about 10,600 words and a reading time of about 43 minutes. Let’s get started:
- Part 1: Origin story “How a homegrown experiment became one of the fastest-growing companies in fitness tech” (3,200 words/13 minutes) — We start with the history of Tonal, the multiyear effort to raise VC funds and iterate on a product while reinventing the definition of strength-training equipment.
- Part 2: Product launch “Millions of dollars and 3.5 years, and it all came down to this” (2,800 words/11 minutes) — Explores the tradeoffs and tactics Tonal used to launch its product, a launch that as a hardware company, it couldn’t afford to mess up.
- Part 3: Community building “Building online communities for fun, profit and product” (2,200 words/9 minutes) — Analyzes Tonal’s early forays into community building and how it uses community to improve its products while also retaining customers for its critical subscription business.
- Part 4: Competitive landscape and future “Can Tonal become the luxury fitness market champion?” (2,400 words/10 minutes) — Evaluates the keen competition confronting Tonal in this market and analyzes the company’s next steps to continue its successful growth.
We’re always iterating on the EC-1 format. If you have questions, comments or ideas, please send an email to TechCrunch Managing Editor Danny Crichton at email@example.com.