Zwift has raised an astounding $450 million to expand its online fitness platform for runners and cyclists in direct competition with the likes of Peloton, Apple, and others.
The money came from investment powerhouse KKR, as well as Permira, Specialized Bicycle Components’ venture capital fund, Zone 5 Ventures, and existing investors such as True, Highland Europe, Novator, and Causeway Media. One of the prominent gaming investors is Ilkka Panaanen, the CEO of Clash of Clans maker Supercell. The investment will help accelerate the development of the company’s core software platform and bring Zwift-designed hardware to market.
Zwift uses what it calls an “immersive and seamless” experience that motivates users with fitness games and events like a virtual Tour de France. That means bringing the outdoor experience of running or cycling indoors, just as Peloton does. But the company goes further by immersing users in 3D computer-generated worlds. It’s kind of a double-whammy for publicly traded Peloton, as it comes less than a day after Apple announced that it would do remote exercise training via its Fitness+ app on the Apple Watch and iPhone platforms.
With Zwift, folks train or compete together in the app (either on bikes or treadmills). Avatars represent you, and the simulated world takes the gradients of mountain climbs and the draft of other riders into account for your workout.
The platform offers 240 miles of terrain in 10 virtual worlds. They can follow structured training plans, enjoy group rides, or take part in any one of the hundreds of daily mass participation events. Zwift’s social features help deliver the experience of competitive and communal training for users who want to ride or run together and maintain social connections from the comfort of their homes, with the user experience continually improving. This sort of activity is popular during the pandemic, where we’re all in various stages of lockdown.
Since launching in 2015, Zwift has seen over 2.5 million accounts registered across 190 countries. Zwift has grown rapidly this year. Zwift has also led the way in a new category of physically powered esports, hosting a number of professional events. This includes the first Virtual Tour de France in July, an event broadcast to over 130 countries worldwide that saw the world’s best male and female professional cyclists compete. Later this year, Zwift will be the host platform for the inaugural UCI Cycling Esports World Championships.
KKR director Stephen Shanley said that Zwift has potential as it invests in its digital and physical products to build a global community. Zwift has 350 employees, and it has raised $620 million to date. Panaanen will serve as a new independent board member.