Zwift's $450 million investment: could the next step be the Zwift turbo trainer?
The turbo training platform has been backed by Specialized amongst other investors - and we can only speculate as to what may be on the way
Zwift has raised a $450 million investment and will be spending the money on Zwift designed hardware as well as developing its core software.
The immersive turbo training 'game' which allows riders to compete against those across the globe from their living room has been bolstered by global investment firm KKR, as well as Specialized Bicycle Components' venture capital fund plus Permira, Zone 5 Ventures and the Amazon Alexa Fund.
Existing investors include True, Highland Europe, Novator and Causeway Media.
Zwift designed hardware?
It remains to be seen what Zwift plans to design in terms of hardware. However, competitor Peloton notably provides its own bike which got us thinking.
Currently, to use Zwift, riders use a turbo trainer plus their own bike or an exercise bike (such as Wattbike, Wahoo Kickr Bike, Tacx Bike). To compete riders need data from a power meter, either on their bike or within a smart turbo trainer. The app can connect to a smartphone, tablet, smart tv or laptop.
Power meters typically advertise 'accuracy' to customers, however, this refers to the power meter's accuracy against itself. When scientists measured 'trueness', they found significant drift between units - casting some questions over how 'fair' Zwift racing is.
For races where there is a 'title on the line', Zwift controls variables, with all riders using the same turbo trainer. However, currently, community racing allows use of any power meter to keep it accessible. When asked, Zwift’s senior PR manager, Chris Snook told us: “For community racing, it is much harder to police at this time. It’s important to remember that community racing is meant to be fun” Snook says, adding “and it’s important that racing Zwift remains accessible.”
Though it's purely speculation on Cycling Weekly's part, we do wonder if a Zwift bike or turbo trainer could be on the way.
Zwift says that Specialized’s investment represents the beginning of a "strategic partnership" between the brands.
Chris Yu, Leader of Product and Innovation at Specialized, said: “our goal is to pedal the planet forward by getting more riders riding, and we are beyond excited at the opportunity to partner with Zwift to break down the barriers to riding indoors on the world’s most engaging platform.”
Commenting on the investment, Stephen Shanley, Director at KKR, said: “We see tremendous potential ahead as Zwift invests further in its digital and physical products to enhance the experience for its global community of enthusiastic users."
Zwift is a relatively new company, having launched in 2015. It's seen over 2.5 million accounts registered across 190 counties, making it the global leader in the at-home connected fitness market.
The platform saw a huge surge in users during the Covid lockdown, with many riders unable to get outside turning to Zwift to allow them to keep up with their training whilst maintaining a social element through virtual group rides and races.
The platform has also given pro teams and riders the opportunity to continue to highlight their sponsors via events such as the Virtual Tour de France in July. Smaller race organisers have also turned to hosting virtual events - Cycling Weekly, for example, hosts a weekly Zwift Club 10 each Wednesday to provide a goal for riders unable to enjoy the traditional event outside.
Later this year, Zwift will be the host platform for the inaugural UCI Cycling Esports World Championships.
Commenting on Zwift's position in the market, CEO and co-founder Eric Min said: “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.
"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."
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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.
Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor.
Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.
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