How Zwift became a unicorn company


One of my favorite Substack newsletters is Byrd House, and the most recent newsletter took a deep look at how Zwift became a unicorn company.

Zwift started in 2015, offering a virtual environment to cycle and run within. Cycling is currently the main focus with training plans, casual group rides and competitive racing. 

If Peloton is the Apple of the home fitness space, Zwift is the Google Android, offering a software platform that has huge support from hardware manufacturers. To use the Zwift platform you need a form of turbo trainer for the input. Budget systems that combine an existing road bike and turbo trainer are available from as little as $300. A compatible smartphone, tablet or computer is also required. 

Subscription costs $15 per month and Zwift has attracted over a million paying subscribers.

If Peloton aims to build a fitness routine and have the benefits of working out at home, Zwift aims for the high-end athletes looking to push their training further. Especially during the hot summer and cold winter months, Zwift is a great way to break up the drudgery of indoor rides. Zwift also contains competitive races, and due to its growing subscriber base, there is usually always one just a few minutes away.

Where Peloton uses its instructors and music as part of its key messaging and promotion, Zwift contains no music and no instructors but instead relies on hitting various metrics. Zwift has been growing steadily, though. The company currently boasts over 3 million registered users.

Zwift software vs. hardware

Zwift has historically been a software only, but recent job postings and restructuring the company to focus on hardware.

In 2018, Zwift purchased running sensor company, Milestone and rebranded its product to the RunPod, costing $20. This is essentially a cadence sensor that attaches to your foot and provides an input whilst on a treadmill. Zwift running hasn’t taken off in the same way as its cycling but it remains committed to bringing a strong Zwift experience to runners.

If you follow Peloton, iFit, or Echelon, you’d be wise to learn more about Zwift as it has a dedicated following and is looking to expand further into connected fitness.

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