Chicago Startup Retrofit Raises A Series B To Make Us Healthier


There are quite a few fitness startups cropping up.

Apps like RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal monitor your exercise or diet. Sites like Daily Burn offer subscription access to fitness classes. And, of course, there’s wearable tech. Fitbit, Fuelband, and Atlas are just a few examples of the tech you can wear to monitor activity levels.

Chicago-based Retrofit aims to take weight loss to the corporate level, offering employees of large companies like Google and discounted rates to try the program. Retrofit incorporates some of the startups mentioned above, specifically Fitbit, as well as one-on-one coaching sessions with a dietitian, exercise physiologist, and behavior coach.

There are plenty of weight loss programs that focus on corporate clients. Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig both have corporate arms and years of brand recognition. So, what makes Retrofit any different?

According to the Retrofit team: results.

In their first 12 month “cohort,” more than 90% of participants lost significant weight. The average weight loss was almost 20 pounds, which equals a 9% of overall body weight.

On the heels of that success, Retrofit announced a $5 million Series B on Friday. The round is led by Cambia Health Solutions, but includes participation from previous investor Draper Fisher Jurvetson. This announcement brings Retrofit’s total funds raised to $15 million.

“Retrofit is thrilled to announce additional venture funding from Cambia Health Solutions and DFJ,” Retrofit CEO Jeff Hyman said in a statement. “These two companies prioritize investments based on creating value through the innovative use of technology.”

It’s true that tech and wellness are seeing some interesting mergers these days. Data mania is growing, and everyone wants to be able to measure success. I find Retrofit particularly interesting because it merges that data (through Fitbit) with real human interaction. The digital coaching sessions can help make sense of the data and create actionable plans for improvement. By putting the program in a corporate environment, participants might also have the built-in support system of colleagues going through the same experience.

However, like any fitness program, there are some other things to consider.

For one thing, most of the participants were male. Most weight loss programs are marketed to and used by women, so this is a huge win for Retrofit. It also skews the results a little bit, because men lose weight faster than women.

Second, the true success of weight loss doesn’t come at the end of the program. It comes a year or two later, when participants are still at their goal weight. Let’s face it. For most people, the actual losing weight isn’t very hard, especially if you have the right program, support, and motivation all aligned. The real challenge is keeping the weight off so you’re not in a yo-yo of weight loss and gain.

To be fair, most of Retrofit’s clients lost the majority of the weight in the first 6 months and spent the next 6 months maintaining and losing a little more. The year-long program (as opposed to a few months) could carry huge benefits on the road to weight maintenance.

With a successful trial run behind them, and an infusion of cash, Retrofit has plenty of time to continue to improve it’s product. While the company is targeting corporate clients, you don’t have to work for a big company to utilize the service. Check out Retrofit here for more info.

Atlas Demos The Next Fitness Band At Techstars Austin



As a college track coach and marathoner, my husband swears by his GPS watch. I have plenty of friends who love their FitBit or Nike FuelBands. I have to say, though, I didn’t really get the whole wearable tech, fitness analytics thing. Why can’t you just go for a run and do a few crunches for crying out loud? Why the hell do we have to measure EVERYTHING?

I didn’t get it, that is, until I stumbled across recent Techstars Austin graduates Atlas Wearables.

The idea for the Atlas wristband came when CEO Peter Li developed a platform to help motivate his fellow students at Johns Hopkins to get fit. He realized that most of the tools out there only measure subsets of fitness–number of steps for example. He realized customers really needed in depth analytics on what works and what doesn’t.

With that understanding, Atlas is focusing their efforts on showing the type, speed, and quality of the exercises, helping consumers understand what they need to do to lose weight and get fit.

What makes Atlas unique is that it’s not a one-sport wonder. That GPS watch my husband loves will never be able to tell me the quality of the push ups I just did. The Atlas wristband aims to do that, as well as track analytics across other sports like swimming, yoga, and cycling.

It’s an understatement to say that Li and his cofounder Mike Kasparian are qualified to build this type of product. Li has a masters degree in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins. Kasparian studied electrical engineering at Boston University, then designed circuitry for defibrillators at Philips. Combine that with a mutual love of fitness and sports, and it’s obvious this team knows what they’re doing.

It’s still early days, though. Last week the Atlas team graduated from Techstars, but we all know Demo Day is just the beginning. In the coming months, the team will test the wristbands with local gyms and personal trainers to see how well the technology works and what features need to be included. They have already started work on the next iteration and will be offering a small batch to a few early adopters. (Reserve yours here!)

Fitness and health awareness is growing quickly. Consumers are beginning to understand the importance of a good sweat to get and stay fit. Atlas is poised to bring good old-fashioned exercise into the 21st century.

And, it looks like I might finally jump on board, too!


There Are Good Fitness Startups Everywhere Else Like Canada’s INTERVIEW

For the second time since their launch new Silicon Valley startup website Pando Daily has had blinders on to great startups. As you know earlier this year they missed the memo on the  whole Chicago startup scene.  Apparently they couldn’t find any good fitness startups either according to Pando Daily Founder Sarah Lacy.

Well we actually went digging for good fitness startups last week and low and behold on the open public forum we all know and love called Twitter we found Waterloo based startup That proves two things actually, that great fitness startups exist everywhere else and that there is more to Waterloo than Blackberry.

What makes so great a number of things. For starters the three founders behind know their roles and do them well. In an industry that can run a little top heavy on the ego side they have the entrepreneurial founder, the sales, marketing and bizdev founder and of course the athletic trainer founder. You couldn’t have a fitness startup without one.

Phil Jacobson is the sales, marketing and bizdev founder, but he calls himself the hustler founder. We got a chance to talk to him aboat (lol) this great Canadian startup.

What is PumpUp?

PumpUp is a mobile and web application that allows users to build totally personalized, trainer-quality workouts. On top of the amazing workouts, PumpUp tracks your progress over time and provides users with coaching and reminders to improve their fitness and keep them motivated.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Garrett Gottlieb: Garrett is the Hacker of PumpUp. He is a current Bachelor of Computer Science candidate at the University of Waterloo. He has held co-op positions at numerous software companies, including RIM and TribeHR.

Phil Jacobson: Phil is the Hustler of PumpUp. He is a current Bachelor of Business Administration candidate at Wilfrid Laurier University. He has held co-op positions at a variety of fortune 500 companies, including Unilever, PepsiCo, and ConAgra Foods.

Ben Pickard: Ben is the Trainer of PumpUp. He is a current Bachelor of Kinesiology student at the University of Waterloo and a certified Personal Trainer. He is the current President of the Strength and Conditioning club at his University.

Where are you based?

We are based out of Waterloo, Ontario in Canada. We have been awarded space in the Velocity Garage (a startup hub managed by the University of Waterloo).

What problem does PumpUp solve?

PumpUp solves 3 key problems. First off, there are many people who are unsure of what to do when working out, are repeating the same workout, or just choose to not workout at all. Secondly, personal trainers are expensive and finding a good one is difficult. Lastly, there is no current solution that provides users with a trainer-quality workout that is personalized just for them.

There are a few fitness platforms and apps out there now, what is your secret sauce?

Our secret sauce is providing our users with a trainer-quality, personalized workout in a beautifully designed web and mobile application, all for free.

Who is your target user?

Our target users are 18-30 year-old males and females who consider themselves at the beginner or intermediate level of working out. They either currently workout or are interested in starting to workout, but need more direction on what to do.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned in the startup process?

The best lesson that we’ve learned during the startup process so far is that is it crucial to focus on the core product and ensure you build a beautiful experience that adds value for your customers. It is easy to get lost while endlessly adding features to the application. It is essential to build a high-quality product. We believe that quality is essential in keeping our customers satisfied and coming back.

When are you launching?

We are launching our Alpha version on the web within the next two weeks. Following our Alpha web launch, we will be releasing our mobile application as quickly as possible – we are aiming for mid-end of June. Sign up for access to our Alpha launch at

What’s next for PumpUp?

As mentioned, our next step is launching our mobile version as soon as we can. Following our mobile application, we plan on adding additional social features to enhance the appeal of the application.

Check out at their website here
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