Standout Startup: Zwift Rides Cyclists Into Virtual Reality

The creators behind an online cycling game app are betting that cyclists will enjoy riding through a virtual world at least as entertaining as riding in the real world.

Zwift allows cyclists to compete and interact with each other as they ride through several virtual worlds offered through the app. Users can cycle up a mountain or through a forest, in the comforts of their own home. They don’t need expensive tech to use with the app ether, as they can use the app with their phone, tablet or laptop.

The Long Beach, California based startup is led and co-developed by Eric Min, an investor who was a former vice president at J. P. Morgan who also has a passion for cycling.

“This idea sort of mixes what I’ve been doing in my profession and my passion, which is cycling,” said Min, in a recent interview with cable business network CNBC. The app currently has one million registered users who pay $10 per month for the VR cycling experience Zwift offers. 

Zwift considers itself a fitness company born from gaming. The people behind the startup are fitness enthusiasts that also are experienced software and video game developers and have used that dual knowledge to produce the Zwift app. It’s the first company to use massive multiplayer gaming tech to bring outdoor sports to the living room.

The investment community is taking notice. The app just raised $120 million in Series B financing. This plus its earlier seed funding round puts Zwift’s total investment haul since its 2014 launch at $166 million.

Zwift has plans beyond VR cycling and the new funding haul is key to that expansion. It wants to expand into the growing world of E-Sports, already dominated by companies like Amazon, Google and Blizzard Activision. It also wants to do for other competitive sports what its doing for cycling with its VR realm capabilities.

It’s growth is putting Zwift in league with competitive cycling events. It just recently formed a partnership with ABSA Cape Epic, where it will be hosting an eight week workout series starting January 21. It also signed to host the world’s first e-racing national championships in Australia.

Zwift was founded by Min, Jon Mayfield, Alarik Myrin and Scott Barger.

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