What started out as a plan to build a software-based company became an exercise in creating hardware and software from the ground up.
That was the tale of Peloton, one of the demos at Tuesday night’s New York Tech Meetup (see slideshow), a monthly gathering of innovators from the city and beyond. Last night’s batch included apps developed by high schoolers from the Code Interactive program and a marketplace to help New Yorkers break their leases early.
There were varying amounts of sweat equity behind the demos, though Peloton took the saying literally. The startup’s exercise bike is outfitted with a video touch screen that connects via Wi-Fi to play back video on-demand of bike routes and classes, as well as live streams of group classes shot at the company’s studio.
Spinning classes on bikes—typically in-person at gyms with coaches and music—have become popular in the fitness realm, with SoulCycle being a notable name in this sector.
The initial idea for Peloton—bringing such boutique-style exercise classes to people at home—turned out to be harder than anticipated, said CEO and co-founder John Foley. At first the startup planned to just distribute exercise video content to indoor bikes, but there was a problem. The technology the company needed did not exist on available exercise bikes. “We had to build the hardware ourselves,” Foley said.
Putting the Peloton together took more than just slapping together a bike and a tablet. The bike, which costs about $2,000, is built with carbon steel and has a 22-inch touch screen computer, with a camera for video chatting with others taking cycling classes. “It’s waterproof, so you can sweat all over it,” Foley said.
The bike includes sensors for recording metrics on each person’s exercise performance. There are plans to eventually allow users to export such data to other platforms, said CTO Yony Feng.
Peloton has raised some $32 million in funding, from backers that include Tiger Global Management; Jon Callahan, founder of True Ventures; Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia; and Greg Blatt, chairman of IAC’s Match Group. The company has a store and studio in the Chelsea neighborhood where the live classes are shot.
Prior to founding Peloton in 2012, Foley’s track record includes serving as president of e-commerce with Barnes & Noble, CEO and founder of Pronto.com, and co-founder of short-lived Proust, which was based in New York.
There are some potential limiters to Peloton’s appeal. With its starting price, Peloton is more likely a fit for busy professionals with the space and money to expend on the bike—but not the time to schlep to the gym. The live classes are also beholden to the schedule of the New York studio, unless the company opens more studios in other time zones. Peloton does have showrooms in other parts of the country, including Los Angeles, Boston, and the Washington, DC¬–area, but no word yet on other live studios popping up.
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