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Exclusive: Fitness startup Katalyst raises $26M to scale production

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Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Katalyst, a fitness equipment startup, raised $26 million to ramp production of its electro muscle stimulation suit, CEO Bjoern Woltermann tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Investors continue to fuel health and fitness-focused startups as they look to tap into conscious consumerism, while consumers increasingly seek products that optimize their experiences.

What's happening: The Series A round is led by Stripes and includes Incisive Ventures and Unlock Venture Partners.

  • Model and actress Cindy Crawford and entertainment industry businessman Rande Gerber also chipped in this round.
  • Woltermann declined to disclose valuation and revenue.

How it works: The Las Vegas-based company manufactures a US Food and Drug Administration-approved full body suit that activates muscle fibers to accelerate workouts, Woltermann says.

  • Sold directly to consumers, the suit can activate more muscle fibers than a typical workout, the company says.
  • It can be worn anywhere, and makes working out faster, easier, safer and more efficient, Woltermann adds.

What's next: "We literally want to integrate it into your lives," Woltermann says.

  • "Because it's your own personal device, we're going to do a lot around analytics," he says, with the goal of leveraging that to customize workouts for every person.
  • Series A proceeds will finance increasing production, developing brand awareness and growing its team.
  • Meeting demand is dependent on how many semiconductors the company can acquire in the next 12 to 18 months, Woltermann tells Axios.
  • "It's literally whenever we get product in, we ship it out."

Of note: Katalyst has shipped over 1,200 units so far as part of an early access program. But the company says it has a waitlist of 75,000 that keeps growing.

State of play: The U.S. is a nascent and under-penetrated market for Katalyst's suits, Woltermann says.

  • The full-body EMS fitness training market took off in Germany in 2007, the company says, and has since expanded to over 100 countries.
  • Employed mainly by physical therapists for years, the EMS workout is starting to gain traction, with studios like Body20 and Manduu cropping up across the U.S.
  • However, U.S. regulators have only recently cleared the equipment for studio use, he says, so it can only be found in several dozen locations.

Yes and: People "have organized their lives around their home or where they are," Woltermann says.

  • Katalyst enables people to exercise with more flexibility and predictability, he says.
  • There's also "an efficiency gain," letting customers squeeze in a workout during a break or in less time.
  • "We're seeing people that never went to the gym, or are basically not allowed to go to the gym [due to injuries] or who hate the gym, and they're doing this," he says.
  • When it comes to fitness, "we really want to move the needle," the executive says.
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