In a sign that Pittsburgh tech is growing and diversifying its tech sector strengths, an online fitness startup just closed a multi-million Series A.
Fitness tech company CoPilot Systems announced today that it had raised a $6 million round. The news comes around six months after the startup announced its $3.3 million seed round. Leading this latest raise was Chicago-based Hyde Park Venture Partners, followed by Los Angeles-based TenOneTen Ventures, Alpha Edison and San Francisco-based Maven Ventures, who were each repeat investors in the company. New investors in the Series A round were DC-based Rise of the Rest and Chicago-based Sandalphon Capital.
Founded in January 2019, the company came out of a problem that cofounders Matt Spettel and Gabe Madonna noticed in their own fitness practices, of wanting to better understand individual metrics behind strength training. While they built tech to support that first endeavor, Spettel said the company really took off after it pivoted to offering a platform for personal trainers to connect with clients virtually.
“When we made that switch, it was like night and day,” said Spettel, who is CoPilot’s CEO and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering. “Suddenly, the value of the product we perceived was way higher, the success rate of clients was way higher, the retention was way higher.”
With nearly unbelievable luck, CoPilot actually made that pivot before the pandemic, which exploded the market of at-home fitness. “I guess I don’t accredit the pandemic to inspiring our growth,” Spettel clarified. “But I think what it did do was really open people’s eyes to seeing that a lot of these services that we traditionally thought of as just being in person could actually function pretty well online.”
Notably, all of the trainers that offer services through CoPilot are employees with the company, which provides them with a compensation package including insurance coverage and a 401(k) match. In an industry where most personal trainers operate as 1099 contractors for the gyms and other businesses they work with, CoPilot purposefully provides them with a job that has more flexibility and benefits than they might find elsewhere.
“We took a very strong stance of, we’re going to hire some of the best coaches in the world,” Spettel said. “And we’re going to also give them one of the best coaching jobs in the world.”
The increased interest in home fitness throughout the pandemic led to an impressive level of growth for the company over the last year, he added. Though CoPilot had a long-term growth plan for its seed round, a revenue increase by a rate of around 18 times in 2021 led Spettel and his team to seek out a Series A sooner than they expected, he said.
That lightning pace of growth left CoPilot with a need for senior executive talent and hiring across technical, administrative, business development and other roles. One particular role Spettel said he’s looking to fill is a VP of business development, which will enable the company to expand its marketing efforts and build out the technical functions of CoPilot’s main product. Check out the startup’s current open roles.
Beyond supporting new hires, the Series A funding will provide capital needed for expanding its services to the Android platform as well as moving beyond strictly fitness and into nutrition. The hope, Spettel said, is that trainers can work with clients in the most comprehensive way possible, and provide fitness advice and encouragement that is tailored to the individual as much as possible. In doing that, he said CoPilot hopes to continue its rapid growth, with a goal of increasing its current revenue by at least a factor of 10.
A Series B likely won’t come as soon after the Series A, though, Spettel said, estimating that there will be a need for that in the first half of 2023. Until then, the company’s focus will be on promoting what he called the human connections of its platform. He hopes to enhance training with targeted initiatives, potentially including nutritionists on staff or special programming for specific issues or features to personalize the services even more.
“All these features and investments that we can make in ourselves to better serve these human issues is a direction that I’m really, really excited about,” the CEO said.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.