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by Dave Rome
September 17, 2020
Earlier today Zwift announced a US$450 million (approx AU$625 million) “series C” investment, something that will provide substantially more funding to the six-year-old company than its previous seven investments combined. According to Bloomberg, this latest round of investments values the company at over US$1 billion.
Leading this latest round was global investment firm KKR, a diversified assets company with strong investments in tech ventures. Others joining in on the investment include Specialized Bicycle Components’ venture capital fund Zone 5 Ventures, private equity firm Permira, and the Amazon Alexa Fund. Existing investors, including True, Highland Europe, Novator and Causeway Media, all chipped in further on this latest funding round, too.
This latest investment round has no doubt been assisted by the current global pandemic, and Zwift is not the only one to benefit. According to Bloomberg, the publicly listed indoor fitness company, Peloton, has reached 1.09 million paying subscribers in the most recent quarter, up from 712,000 at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, Zwift’s more accessible software-based product claims to have had over 2.5 million accounts registered spanning 190 countries since its inception.
According to a press release from Zwift, the investment will be used to “accelerate the development of Zwift’s core software platform and bring Zwift-designed hardware to market, making Zwift a more immersive and seamless experience for users.”
That investment into hardware is likely to be the next big play for Zwift and is something we covered in late 2019 when the company put out a number of job openings for hardware engineers. Such a hardware play should help Zwift to compete more directly with Peloton which currently holds a market cap of US$23 billion.
On the hardware front, the investment from Zone 5 Ventures is more than intriguing and brings with it a partnership between Zwift and Specialized.“Specialized’s investment represents the beginning of a strategic partnership between the global cycling brand and Zwift,” said Specialized’s Leader of Product and Innovation Chris Yu in a press release. “Both brands share the belief that cycling, whether indoor or outdoor, has the power to improve lives.” What this partnership exactly entails has not been publicly discussed.
“With this investment, Zwift is primed to operate in a broader fitness market and deliver on our ambition to provide gamified fitness through integrated software and hardware, to anyone who wants to have fun while getting fit at home,” said Eric Min, Zwift CEO and co-founder. “We will be accelerating our investment in the core business, improving the overall product experience, and bringing forward new features, more content and Zwift designed hardware, all with the support of KKR and our new outside investors who can help drive our growth.
“To make this happen, we will be increasing headcount within our core product teams, investing in the very best people.”
One noteworthy addition is that Ilkka Paananen, the founder of Finnish video game company Supercell, has come on board as both an investor and independent board member. Supercell is the maker of mobile games like Clash of Clans and Boom Beach.
However, Min’s mention of the increasing headcount is likely to be a painful dagger for some 25 senior staff let go at the start of the pandemic.
So what does the future hold for Zwift? Well, such an investment round suggests that many smart people believe Zwift will only grow from here, and substantially. And while increased attention on new hardware and virtual racing are most certainly on the cards, much of the longer-term opportunity exists in growing the market beyond existing cyclists.
The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) spoke with Min about having his sights on the broader fitness market that Peloton plays in. “I think Peloton has been just great for the overall space,” he said. “I think certainly they spend a lot more money than we do on advertising and promoting indoor cycling, so we just want to be in the conversation when people explore opportunities to exercise indoors.”
And while there’s no timeline for a public offering, Min did tell the SMH, “I think this is the kind of business that will eventually get listed.”