Zwift, a new start-up that aims to deliver a ‘socially connected, motivational and entertaining indoor cycling experience’ had its official unveiling on 30 September. With a simultaneous launch in three cities yesterday, the new platform aims to offer up ‘the best of outdoor cycling. Now available indoors.’
Just in time for winter’s short days and blustery weather, Zwift, the new self-proclaimed leader in virtual indoor cycling, has confirmed the official launch of its public Beta version. Thanks to its unique Zengine – a massive, multiplayer video game platform – Zwift delivers a fun, social and entertaining indoor cycling experience.
Yesterday’s Beta launch was celebrated with an event that was held simultaneously at Rapha Cycle Clubs in London, New York and San Francisco. Zwift’s public Beta is initially open to several hundred people and the company expects to allow access to its virtual world to the general public this winter.
The Zwift platform is ‘hardware agnostic’ and connects to a wide range of devices. The minimum requirement is a trainer, ANT+ cadence/speed sensor and ANT+ dongle; although Zwift notes that an electronically controlled trainer can give the user an enhanced experience.
“Anyone who’s ever ridden a trainer has probably thought about how much better the experience could be. We started Zwift because we’re busy people and many days we don’t have enough time to ride outdoors,” said Zwift co-Founder Eric Min.
“The goal with Zwift is to improve the indoor cycling experience by making it entertaining, motivational, accessible and social. We call this ‘fitness entertainment’. Zwift allows anyone, anywhere with a trainer to ride with their friends. We believe that will get anyone to ride more often and to actually enjoy their time riding indoors. For the more competitive minded people, subscribing to Zwift could be the best training investment they can make. We also love riding outdoors but it’s not always convenient. [So] Zwift is meant to complement outdoor riding.”
Looking at Zwift up close, it is apparent that a significant investment has gone into the new platform. The size of the market out there is perhaps the great unknown. Zwift would certainly appeal to committed road cyclists who also happen to be gamers. Although, this is a niche within a niche and the company would clearly be seeking out a much larger audience.
Zwift does have first to market advantage; and it is the first company to bring massive multi-player gaming technology to indoor fitness by connecting with existing hardware (e.g. trainers, power meters, heart rate monitors, etc.) through open industry standard ANT+. Athletes can follow their own workout plans or ride with each other in Zwift’s rich, 3D generated virtual worlds, pushing each other in friendly competition or just enjoying casual banter on a group ride.
Going forwards, Zwift will allow athletes to take part in virtualized versions of real world events such as races, gran fondos and charity rides.
Cyclists all over the world will be able to gain access to the Zwift community and to experience its rich digital environment by paying a US$10 monthly subscription fee. Access to well-known events and other features will be available for an additional fee.
Invitations to Zwift’s public beta can be requested on the company’s website and are open to the first 1,000 users. Zwift plans to launch to the larger public in early 2015.
Zwift notes that its gaming solution is architected to host ‘tens of thousands of simultaneous users in a single world.’ Getting to this number of paying customers is the great leap forward that’s now required. Arguably, Zwift may be quite a seasonal business, with a greater level of use, and subscriptions, over the winter months.
So, a multi-hemisphere approach might be required – targeting North America and Europe from October through to May; and markets such as Australasia and South Africa from June to September.
Zwift’s leadership is comprised of successful entrepreneurs, game developers, event promoters and IP experts:
- Eric Min, Co-Founder & CEO (Co-Founder Sakonnet Technology)
- Alarik Myrin, Co-Founder & CTO (Co-Founder Sakonnet Technology)
- Jon Mayfield, Co-Founder & VP Game Development (Applied Minds)
- Scott Barger, Co-Founder & VP Business Development (SpringBox Ventures)
- Charlie Issendorf, VP Events (Champion Systems)
- Jim Kelly, CFO (Intellectual Ventures)
- Greg Deutsch, General Counsel (Activison)
Partnerships should be announced between Zwift and like-minded brands in the near future. Zwift provides a dynamic product placement and customer engagement platform. The company notes that it envisions ‘a range of partnerships with brand holders from trainer and device manufacturers to bicycle and accessory manufacturers.’