Zwift, the online fitness platform for cyclists and runners, announced a $450 million minority investment led by global investment firm KKR, accompanied by other new investors Permira, Specialized Bicycle Components’ venture capital fund, Zone 5 Ventures, and the Amazon Alexa Fund and existing investors including True, Highland Europe, Novator, and Causeway Media.
The investment will be used to accelerate the development of Zwift’s software platform and bring Zwift-designed hardware to market.
Zwift uses gaming technology to bring the outdoor experience indoors for an engaging and social experience by connecting cyclists and runners in immersive 3D computer-generated worlds. Users of the platform interact, train and compete by wirelessly pairing a bike trainer or treadmill to the Zwift app to power their in-game avatars. This experience brings the experience of the outside world into the virtual, simulating the gradients of mountain climbs and the draft of other riders. The platform offers its members the opportunity to explore 240 miles of terrain in 10 virtual worlds where they can also follow structured training plans, group rides or hundreds of daily participation events. The social aspect of the platform delivers the experience of competitive and communal training.
Since launching in 2015, Zwift has registered 2.5 million users in 190 countries. Zwift’s prominence has increased significantly in 2020 and has hosted a number of professional events including the first Virtual Tour de France in July, an event broadcast to over 130 countries 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.
Stephen Shanley, director at KKR, said: “Zwift is the preeminent digital brand for the global cycling community with a best-in-class product that sits at the intersection of digital health, gaming and at-home fitness. 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. This investment fits perfectly with our growth equity strategy of backing leading tech entrepreneurs as they scale globally.”
Patrick Devine, Principal at KKR, added: “We are delighted to lead this round, supporting Eric and his team with access to KKR’s global platform and resources.”
Andrew Young, a principal in Permira’s Menlo Park office, said: “Zwift is a perfect fit with Permira’s DNA, not least because we have a big Zwift fanbase in the firm, but also an extensive track record of investing in consumer technology businesses to deliver global growth. We’re excited to partner with Eric and the team as they seek to turbocharge product investment and to solidify Zwift’s position as the leader of at-home fitness.”
Paul Cocker, co-founder of True, said: “As existing investors, we are delighted to have significantly increased our support for Zwift in this round, which reflects the strength of the relationship we have built with Eric and the team, as well as the confidence we have developed in the technology and brand over the last two years. This is our first $100m investment and we are excited about the increased opportunity this transaction now gives Zwift to further transform at-home fitness”.
Eric Min, Zwift CEO and co-founder, 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. We begin by welcoming Ilkka Paananen to Zwift both as an investor and independent board member.”
Ilkka Paananen, co-founder and CEO, Supercell, said: “Zwift is uniquely positioned to lead the way and grow a new global fitness community, combining video gaming and sports, two of my great passions. I have been incredibly impressed by Eric’s vision and ambition, and his commitment to building a world-class product for the community. There are many exciting growth opportunities for Zwift and I’m looking forward to being a part of this journey.”
Specialized’s investment represents the beginning of a strategic partnership between the global cycling brand and Zwift. Both brands share the belief that cycling, whether indoor or outdoor, has the power to improve lives. Chris Yu, Leader of Product and Innovation at Specialized, stated, “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.”
KKR’s investment was made through its Next Generation Technology Growth Fund II, a global fund dedicated to growth equity investments in the technology space. KKR has established a strong track record of supporting technology-focused growth companies, having invested over $2.7 billion in related investments since 2014. Permira’s investment was made through its Growth Opportunities Fund I, which focuses on minority investments in growth-focused, tech-enabled businesses. Specialized’s investment was made through its venture fund, Zone 5 Ventures, which focuses primarily on minority investments at the intersection of sports, media, technology and health and wellness. In connection with the financing, some investors will purchase shares from certain existing shareholders. J.P. Morgan Securities LLC acted as Sole Placement Agent on the financing.
Photo courtesy Zwift