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FightCamp brings some data-driven punches into workouts

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I am sore.

Not in a oh-hell-I-cannot-sit-down kind of sore. More like, “OK!, I worked some-long-ignored-muscles sore.” And in year where I’m trying to extract myself out of the COVID-19 pandemic doldrums, this is a good thing.

The cause isn’t from cycling on a Peloton but another newer entrant to the connected home gym scene. It’s called FightCamp; and as the name implies, this home exercise system, which includes a punching bag and gloves with connected smart trackers, focuses on boxing and kickboxing.

After more than a month with FightCamp it’s safe to say (or write) that it provides a sweat-producing workout that if completed regularly will improve the user’s core, balance, speed and basic boxing know-how. It also provides a safe “non-judgy” path for those who have always wanted to try boxing, but were too intimidated to walk into a boxing gym or mixed martial arts center and let that rookie flag fly.

Origin story

To understand what FightCamp is and does, it’s worth going back to the beginning. The company was founded in 2014 as Hykso, four years before the connect home workout system FightCamp was launched. During that four years, the company developed fitness trackers that were tested, further improved and used by Olympic boxing athletes. Several Olympic boxing teams including the United States, Canada and China used the trackers. Manny Pacquiao, considered one of the best boxers of all time, was an early user as well.

There was no content layer since these athletes already were competing at the highest level of the sport. It was just the trackers and loads of data.

But a curious thing happened. The boxing coaches started using them with their private clients, according to Khalil Zahar, founder and CEO.

“They were the bridge,” Zahar said referring to the coaches. From here the idea of FightCamp was borne. “We thought, let’s provide a way for people to not only use it in their workouts with coaches, but let’s teach them the art form of boxing and build a beginner-based program that they can follow from the home and learn techniques,” he said.

The options

FightCamp offers three “hardware” packages: Connect for $439 ($399 during holidays), Personal for $1,219 (but on sale over the holidays at $999) and Tribe for $1,299. Users must also subscribe to the content for a monthly fee of $39, which gives access more than 1,000 classes, drills and other content in the iOS app and more recently, the Android app. And this is not just about throwing punches. There are workouts that include kickboxing and a little toggle on the app will ensure that every session ends with core work like situps and planks.

Connect comes without the bag, just the digital punch trackers and quick wraps and is designed for folks who already have their own punching bag. The Personal package, which is what I tested, includes the punch trackers, quick wraps, gloves, the free-standing bag and bag ring. Mine also came with a mat, but I’ve been told that is no longer included, which is too bad.

The FightCamp Tribe package is like it sounds and is meant for more than one person and includes punch trackers, quick wraps, a free-standing bag, a heavy workout mat, premium boxing gloves, bag ring, additional premium boxing gloves and wraps as well as kids boxing gloves.

The setup

Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

The FightCamp Personal package came in two boxes: a massive cardboard box carrying the bag and base and another box holding the punch trackers that track the user’s output and number of punches, quick wraps, a mat and pair of gloves. (The mat is no longer included in the Personal package.)

The instructions to set up the bag and ready the trackers are simple. However, it is a bulky, somewhat awkward endeavor depending on where the user decides to place the bag. I brought mine into our guest house, a spot out of the way of normal daily living, yet near a TV. (More on that later.)

After laying out the mat, users position the base that the bag will sit in. The base is then filled with water or sand. I opted to run a hose from outside into the guest house, which greatly reduced the setup time. Otherwise, you’ll be trekking back and forth with a pitcher of water or bucket of sand. If that sounds like a pain, well it is, although you do get exercise in the process.

The mistake I made, and one that I missed and later corrected, was to make sure to place the base EXACTLY where I wanted it. Once it is filled with water or sand or both (user’s choice) and the bag is placed on top, it is impossible to move without a dolly.

My mistake was placing the base and bag on the wrong end of the mat so that I would be facing away from the TV. Once I corrected the error, it made a dramatic difference in the quality of workouts.

What works and doesn’t

Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

The good news is that the punch trackers, pictured above, work as advertised and truly track every punch. The app is also easy to use and there are loads of workouts, all of which are led by USA boxing certified coaches and NASM CPTs.

I particularly liked the setting that ensures core exercises follow the boxing or kickboxing instruction. The company even has some shadowboxing classes, which are meant for new customers to begin to learn the lingo and the basic punches and jabs before their bag, gloves, wraps and trackers arrive.

There are a few downsides to FightCamp that may or may not turn users off.

One is the sheer size of the system. In a small apartment, the bag will take up valuable real estate that some may welcome and others may find problematic. Folks with a larger home or garage might be more attracted to this system. I didn’t have this issue since I had the space.

To me, the main drawback of FightCamp is that without a TV nearby, it’s hard to properly follow the instructor until you’ve logged enough workouts that you can follow along without having to stare at the screen.

The actual content is clear and easy to understand. The coaches deliver the right combination of stoke and instruction to keep the user motivated and informed. I personally learned a lot.

However, there is a learning curve. In the beginning, and before I had hooked up the phone to my TV, I found myself repeatedly stopping the video to playback the previous movement. That created a staggered experience.

Once I had the TV hookup and was able to stream the workouts, I was able to more easily follow along. I did improve to the point where I no longer had to watch the exact movement to know what to do. Instead I was able to listen and know that 1-2-3 means jab, cross, lead hook.

Finally, I still don’t know if I have good form since there is no way for the trackers or the app to provide that kind of feedback. That probably doesn’t matter for people like myself who just want a sweat-producing workout.

Where is this all going?

Zahar and the company have plans to expand, not just in content, but trackers that can help provide better feedback on form as well as further gamify the workout.

“We basically want to make your body the game controller,” he said. “The trackers are just enabling you to use your body as a game controller.”

Today, people can use data captured from the punch trackers on their wrists to compete against each other and monitor their progress. Zahar wants to add trackers to the feet.

“And then we want to expand to everything that a fighter touches and make it into a connected fitness accessory,” he said. “So think anything from jump rope, to battle ropes to kettlebells to plyo boxes, and basically reward you for every movement you’re doing during the workout.”

Zahar doesn’t want FightCamp to be an equipment-only workout system either. The additional trackers and additional content that doesn’t require a punching bag will help the company meet that goal, he said.

FightCamp is already beefing up its free content. The company recently announced it will offer more than 100 free workout every week. These workouts are listed as “tracker optional,” which means they’re free and don’t require the punch trackers. These workouts will focus on shadowboxing, recovery, stretching, kickboxing and body weight exercises. For now, these free workouts will only be available on the iOS app since the recently added Android app is still in beta.

Source: Tech

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Spendesk is the fifth French startup to reach unicorn status this month

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Fintech startup Spendesk is announcing that it has raised an extension to its Series C round. Tiger Global is investing $114 million (€100 million) in the startup. Following today’s funding round, the company says that is has reached a valuation of more than $1.14 billion (more than €1 billion).

In other words, Spendesk is a new unicorn in the French tech ecosystem. Funding news has been accelerating over the last few months in France. In January alone, five startups announced that they have crossed the threshold to reach unicorn status — PayFit, Ankorstore, Qonto, Exotec and Spendesk.

Back Market, an e-commerce marketplace focused on refurbished smartphones and electronics devices, has also raised a mega round and reached a $5.7 billion valuation.

Let’s go back to Spendesk. The startup offers an all-in-one corporate spend management platform for medium companies in Europe. Originally focused on virtual cards for online payments, the company has expanded its product offering to tackle everything related to corporate spending.

Spendesk customers can order physical cards for employees, team members can use the platform to pay outstanding invoices, file expense reports, manage budgets and generate spending reports. By offering everything in a single service, Spendesk wants to simplify accounting and approvals in general so that money moves more freely.

The startup defines its platform as a “7-in-1 spend management solution”, meaning that Spendesk is no longer just a product that lets you order debit cards for your employees.

“We have had this goal since the beginning — we really want to become this platform, this operational system to manage your spending,” co-founder and CEO Rodolphe Ardant told me. “When we started working on the product, we looked at each use case and designed the right workflow for that.”

In particular, Spendesk helps you formalize your internal processes. You can define team budgets, set up complicated approval workflows for expensive payments, automate some pesky tasks, such as VAT extraction.

“We target mid-market clients. Those are customers with 50 to 1,000 employees. We have a few clients that are bigger than that and a few clients that are smaller than that,” Ardant said.

And the company currently has 3,500 clients — around half of them are based in France while other clients are mostly based in Germany and the U.K. Clients have spent €3 billion through Spendesk in 2021 alone.

With its central positioning in the financial stack, Spendesk needs to interface perfectly with other financial tools — banks on one side and ERP products on the other side.

The startup currently supports many of the popular accounting tools used by European companies, such as Xero and Datev. Spendesk customers can also export transaction batches and import them into Sage, Cegid and other accounting software solutions.

Spendesk is also working on automating the integrations with your bank accounts, which could be particularly useful for companies with multiple bank accounts. For instance, you could imagine setting up a rule that automatically triggers a transfer between your German bank account and your Spendesk account when you want to pay a German supplier.

Image Credits: Spendesk

Spend management in Europe

Spendesk isn’t the only spend management solution in Europe. There are some competitors, such as Pleo, which recently reached a $4.7 billion valuation, and Soldo — another well-funded competitor as it has raised $180 million last year.

In the U.S. as well, companies like Brex and Ramp have reached sky-high valuations. And yet, Spendesk doesn’t think it has the same positioning as American startups.

“On the American market, it shouldn’t be called the spend management industry — it’s the corporate card industry. Players like Brex and Ramp position themselves as a payment method,” Spendesk co-founder and CEO Rodolphe Ardant told me. “Europe’s corporate culture is a culture of debit — not credit. We don’t provide payment methods, we provide a process.”

It’s a slight difference in product positioning, so it’s going to be interesting to see if a European spend management startup can successfully enter the U.S. and vice versa.

When it comes to business model as well, Spendesk considers itself as a software-as-a-service company with recurring subscriptions. The startup didn’t want to share any hard numbers for its revenue. Its CEO just said that Spendesk’s revenue “more than doubles every year.”

With today’s funding round, Spendesk plans to triple the size of its team over the next two years. The company plans to have 1,000 employees by the end of 2023.

Source: Tech

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Crypto.com expands venture arm to $500 million to back early-stage web3 startups

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Crypto.com, a popular cryptocurrency exchange, has extended its venture arm’s fund size to $500 million as it looks to more aggressively back early-stage startups to help the nascent ecosystem grow, following similar moves by rivals Binance, Coinbase and FTX.

The broadening of Crypto.com Capital comes less than a year after the Singapore-headquartered firm unveiled its maiden fund of $200 million. The fund, unlike those of many of its rivals, has no LPs (meaning, it’s fully financed by the firm’s balance sheet.)

The maiden fund, whose individual checks run up to $10 million in size, has been so far deployed to back about 20 startups including YGG SEA, multi-chain crypto portfolio tracker DeBank, cross-chain token infrastructure Efinity and Ethereum scaling solution Matter Labs.

Crypto.com will continue to focus on backing early-stage startups, said Jon Russell, who joined the firm as a general partner this month, in an interview with TechCrunch.

With the fund, Crypto.com is broadly focusing on gaming, decentralized-finance and startups innovating on cross-chain solutions. But he cautioned that the industry could change and expand, as it has in recent years, to areas “we don’t know about,” hence the firm is keeping an eye out on everything.

Tuesday’s announcement also further illustrates the growing involvement of cryptocurrency exchanges in being the rainmaker – and beneficiary – of the ecosystem which encompasses the industry in which they operate.

FTX, which has backed over 15 startups, last week announced a $2 billion crypto fund. Its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, also owns Alameda Research, a venture firm that has backed close to 100 web3 startups.

Coinbase Ventures, the investment arm of the only crypto exchange that is publicly traded, and Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, are also among the most prolific investors in the web3 space.

Venture investment in crypto / web3 in 2021 by category (Image credits: Galaxy Digital)

The funding activity in the space, even as most of the aforementioned names often co-invest in startups, is at an all-time high. VCs invested more than $33 billion in crypto/web3 startups in 2021, more than all prior years combined, Galaxy Digital, another prolific investor in the space, wrote in a recent report.

“Valuations in the crypto/blockchain space were 141% higher than the rest of the venture capital space in Q4, highlighting a founder-friendly environment and the intense competition among investors for deal allocations,” the report added.

Scores of venture capital firms have also raised new funds for their crypto investments. Just last year, Andreessen Horowitz added a $2.2 billion crypto fund, Paradigm unveiled a $2.5 billion fund, and Hivemind Capital Partners announced a $1.5 billion fund. Katie Haun, who co-led a16z’s $2.2 billion crypto fund, has left the firm to launch her own crypto-focused fund.

Russell – a former journalist who previously had stints at TechCrunch, The Next Web, and The Ken – said Crypto.com is backing startups to help the ecosystem grow.

“If you’re in the industry, it’s in your interest to help companies grow in the ecosystem and the ecosystem itself to grow,” he said. (Worth pointing out that Solana, Avalanche, Polkadot — as well as some of their major investors — are also aggressively backing startups that are building applications for the native blockchains.)

The startups Crypto.com backs are under no obligation to list their tokens on Crypto.com over any of its rivals or offer the exchange any other preferential treatment, he said. The exchange team similarly doesn’t have a soft spot for the investment arm’s portfolio firms, he added.

(What’s up with the career move? “I’ve been crypto curious for a number of years but I wasn’t gasping to dive in full-time. This project appeals to me because Crypto.com is ambitious but yet it does things the right way. There’s certainly a lot of hype and hot air in crypto and web3 right now, but it’s impossible to ignore the talent that’s pouring into the industry,” he said.)

Crypto.com, which started its life as a blog of professor Matt Blaze (who sold the domain to the crypto exchange), has aggressively expanded in the past year as it looks to court more users. The Singapore-headquartered firm last year agreed to pay more than $700 million for the naming rights of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The downtown Los Angeles complex has been rebranded as Crypto.com Arena for the next 20 years.

The firm, which bills itself as the “fastest-growing” crypto exchange, said at the time of the announcement that the move is positioned to make cryptocurrencies mainstream. Crypto.com, which processes trade volumes of over $2.5 billion every day, also teamed up with Hollywood star Matt Damon last year to promote the brand and cryptocurrencies.

The Damon-starring ad equated buying crypto tokens and NFTs to one of the greatest and boldest accomplishments in the history of humankind. Hyperbole, to be sure, but having the most mainstream American actor as Crypto.com’s celebrity sponsor has certainly helped bring the trading platform, and all that it sells, into the mainstream. The ad went viral and also attracted criticism for being cringeworthy.

Source: Tech

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Focused on smaller cities, Vietnamese social commerce startup Mio raises $8M Series A

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Mio, the Vietnamese social commerce platform, has raised an $8 million Series A, less than a year after announcing its seed round. The funding was led by Jungle Ventures, Patamar Capital and Oliver Jung, with participation from returning investors GGV, Venturra, Hustle Fund, iSEED SEA and Gokul Rajaram.

TechCrunch first covered Mio at the time of its $1 million seed funding in May 2021. Founded in 2020, Mio is a group buying platform that focuses on selling fresh produce and groceries in Tier 2 and 3 cities in Vietnam. The company is able to offer next day delivery because it built a logistics infrastructure that enables it to send produce directly from farms to customers.

The Series A brings Mio’s total raised to $9.1 million, and will be used to expand its logistics and fulfillment system, enter new areas in Vietnam and add new product categories like fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and household appliances.

Mio co-founder and chief executive officer Trung Huynh said that since TechCrunch first covered Mio seven months ago, it has achieved 10x gross merchandise value growth, a 10x increase in agents, or resellers, and grew its team from 60 people to 240. It now fulfills more than 10,000 pieces of fresh produce per day, operating in Ho Chi Minh, Thu Duc, Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An, with plans to expand into northern Vietnam.

The numbers “strengthened our conviction in this model and its potential,” he said. “We need fresh capital to accelerate hiring, product development and supply chain to keep up with the pace of growth as we deepen our presence in existing geographies and expand to new provinces.”

Mio is able to offer next day deliveries because its vertically integrated mayor layers of the value chain, including procurement, warehousing, order sorting and bulk delivery. The startup owns the majority of its logistics infrastructure and uses its own fleet of couriers. Its ability to delivery fresh produce directly from farms to customers in less than 16 hours contributed to higher customer retention and growth, Huynh said, and it will continue to shorten delivery times. .

Mio resellers are called Mio Partners. Huynh said one of the driving factors behind Mio is targeting the right people for the program, or “housewives and stay-home-moms in lower income regions who love sharing value-for-money products to their social circle of friends.”

They aggregate orders, usually from friends and family, and orders are delivered to them in batches for distribution. The startup claims Mio Partners can make up to $400 a month, including a 10% commission on each order and additional commissions based on the monthly performance of other resellers they referred to the program.

“There is a strong possibility” that Mio will expand beyond Vietnam, Huynh said, “but will only be considered at a more appropriate time after we successfully built our playbook for Vietnam.”

Source: Tech

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