Mirror is a fitness technology company known for the trendy on-demand workouts offered through its interactive device. It has grown at a remarkable pace in just five years. Harvard grad and former professional ballerina Brynn Putnam founded the company 2016. It is a stellar successful story. Today, Lululemon is buying Mirror in a deal valued at $500 million.
What Does Mirror Sell?
Mirror is based in New York. It sells nearly $1,500 mirrors that double as interactive home gyms. A subscription fee of $39 per month provides access to unlimited classes for up to six users. The workout classes offered range from 5 to 60 minutes per session. Users can select from a range of intensities and classes types such as yoga, boxing, and bootcamp training.
Putnam got the idea for Mirror in 2016 after running her own chain of boutique fitness studios in New York. Known as Refine Method, Putnam founded the high-end fitness studio chain in 2010. She observed that clients responded positively to the visual feedback of seeing themselves exercising in front of mirrors. The mirrors in the workout rooms energized clients to work harder.
Background as a Professional Ballerina
Her experience training as a professional ballerina also inspired many aspects of the company’s development. As a ballerina, Putnam spent countless hours training in front of mirrors. After retiring from ballet and getting older, she simply was too busy at times to spend extra time commuting to a workout class or scheduling conflicts would force her to cancel classes last minute. Putnam realized that the convenience of being able to replicate the experience of attending high-quality fitness classes without scheduling or commuting hassles could be a game changer.
“I believe really fundamentally that fitness is the foundation of a good life, and that having confidence in yourself is core to everything that you do at work, at home, and in your relationship,” states Putnam.
First Round of Mirror Seed Funding Sold on Day Founder Gave Birth
Putnam pitched her business idea to potential investors in 2016 while she was nine-months pregnant. She described the experience pitching to investors as a female founder while pregnant as nerve-wracking. However, Putnam also realized the ripeness of the business opportunity. She signed her first round of seed funding on the day her son was born, right from the hospital.
Early investors in Mirror included Spark Capital, First Round Capital, and BoxGroup. In 2018, just two years after launching, Mirror was generating $150 million in revenues. By 2020, Mirror had reached a $300 million valuation.
A series of high-profile endorsements has propelled the brand’s growth. The company counts celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys, Reese Witherspoon, and Gwyneth Paltrow among its fans. For example, Alicia Keys posted a video on Instagram of her elated reaction to receiving a Mirror device as a Christmas gift.
While celebrities promoting the device has certainty been a boost, Putnam is quick to emphasize the impact of the everyday user. “We’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of prominent folks and celebrities share their Mirror love, but fundamentally the business has grown because your average mom and dad have enjoyed the product and told five friends,” states Putnam.
The Pandemic Made Mirror Sales Go Up
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a predictable uptick in Mirror sales. Similar to other at-home workout programs and devices, Mirror benefited from an exponential sales boost. As many fitness studios closed, people looked for at-home alternatives.
The brand has been especially popular with white collar office workers able to afford Mirror’s price tag. This demographic also contributed to a similar sales surge for Peloton’s stationary bikes that stream on-demand workouts. For those living in small apartments, the Mirror device is a huge space saver. Unlike a treadmill or stationary bike, the Mirror is a nearly invisible piece of exercise equipment.
In June 2020, it was announced that activewear brand Lululemon would be buying Mirror for $500 million. In 2019, Lululemon made an initial $1 million investment in Mirror. Since then, Lululemon has been eyeing Mirror as part of its strategic vision to build Lululemon into more than just a seller of leggings and athletic wear.
The Lululemon deal will enable Mirror to scale at an even faster pace. Lululemon will start selling Mirror devices at select store locations once the deal closes. Calvin McDonald, the CEO of Lululemon, commented that “it’s not an acquisition simply to sell more apparel. We think that will be a byproduct.” Putnam will continue as Mirror’s CEO following the closing of the deal.
VC Firms Show Interest in Fitness and Wellness Startups
Fitness and wellness startups have seen increased interest from venture capital firms. Tech-enabled home exercise equipment and fitness apps received over $2 billion in funding in 2018. That number has grown ever larger today. Health and wellness tech startups raised a record-breaking $4.2 billion in the first quarter of 2021 alone.