Whoop Becomes a Leading Fitness Wearable Startup

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Whoop, a fitness wearable startup focused on athletes, has rapidly grown into a key player in the competitive fitness tracker market. In late August, the company raised $200 million in a Series F fundraising round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The startup’s value is now around $3.6 billion.

The Whoop 4.0 is the startup’s latest device. Like its previous fitness trackers, the Whoop 4.0 monitors blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, heart rate, and other vital signs. The Whoop 4.0 comes with sleep tracking and an integrated stress coach that helps users find balance between resting and training. Additionally, the Whoop 4.0 features a waterproof battery.

Even more significantly, users of the latest version of Whoop’s fitness tracker need not wear it as a wristband. The startup developed Whoop Body, enabling the user to place the fitness tracker on the body. The company intends for the Whoop Body line to feature leggings, sports bras, shorts, shirts, and underwear that can accommodate the Whoop 4.0 device. The Whoop 4.0 must have skin contact to function properly, so it could not be attached to outer clothing layers.

Whoop Sleep Insights for Athletes

Whoop especially focuses on providing users with insights on their sleep behavior. The startup claims its users get an average of 41 extra minutes of sleep thanks to the sleep insights provided by Whoop devices.

The most well-known players in the fitness wearables market are Fitbit and the Apple Watch. In contrast to its largest competitors, Whoop is particularly focused on targeting athletes. The personalized 24/7 digital fitness and health coach helps to improve athletic performance by providing key health data points. In January 2021, the PGA named Whoop as the “Official Fitness Wearable of the PGA Tour.”

Also for the Military

Whoop also counts the Department of Defense and U.S. Army among its users. The U.S. military is conducting a study to analyze real-time physiological data provided by the Whoop device. It hopes to use those insights to improve soldier resiliency. The study comes at a time when there is more focus on the mental health impact of working and training under extreme conditions.

Whoop sleeping soldier
Photo by Jon Robinson on Unsplash

“Whoop provides seamless and highly reliable biometric capture, thereby producing objective measures of sleep quality and recovery, which are of central importance to our research,” said Dr. William von Hippel, one of the investigators leading the study. “Once the data are analyzed, we hope to uncover insights the military could leverage to enhance training regimens and maximize solider preparedness.”

Kristen Holmes, Whoop’s VP of Performance Science, echoed this sentiment. “Previous research has typically focused on investigating stress in laboratory settings using standardized stress tasks. We are carrying this study out in the field to better understand how personal, psychological, and situational factors can impact a soldier while training during extreme Arctic conditions,” she stated. “We are proud to support our troops in an innovative way and this data could be a critical tool for the military to improve soldier resiliency at a time when mental health issues and suicide rates are higher than ever.”

Whoop Strategic Advantages

One of the company’s key strategic advantages is that it offers the Whoop wearable device to users for free. In order to actually use the device though, users must pay a regular subscription fee. Membership rates start as low as $18 per month. Previously, the company sold each fitness tracker device for approximately $500 apiece. In other words, Whoops now offers free hardware but charges for the software. Following this business strategy shift in 2019, the company experienced a notable increase in growth.

Whoop recently scored a victory with a new battery breakthrough. Thanks to a partnership with Sila Nanotechnologies, Whoop’s battery will be smaller and last longer. The battery’s anode will now be made of silicon instead of graphite. This simple change will provide the battery with greater energy density.

Investor Interest and Plans to Expand

Founded in 2012 by Will Ahmed, a former Harvard squash player, Whoop is based in Boston. The startup currently has over 500 employees. It has plans to open offices outside of the United States soon.

Although the fitness wearables market is competitive and Whoop is not a household name, the startup has not had trouble attracting venture capital funding. Prior to the latest $200 million round, Whoop raised $55 million in 2019. Backers of the company include NextView Ventures, Animal Capital, Cavu Venture Partners, the National Football League Players Association, and Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square.

With the newly raised funding, Whoop is looking for international expansion opportunities. “We are thrilled to deepen our partnership with SoftBank as we grow internationally,” stated founder and CEO Will Ahmed. “While we have experienced amazing growth in the past year, the potential of our technology and the vast market for health monitoring remains largely untapped.”