Though we usually hear of Taiwanese startups receiving funds from foreign VCs, this is different. What will iFit do with the investment?
What started out as a Facebook fan page for tips on losing weight is now a full-fledged platform with US$900,000 in its pockets. Founded in 2012, Taiwan’s iFit first announced receiving its first round of investment from Taiwanese Cherubic Ventures.
With more than 500,000 members, the platform features an e-commerce site selling anything and everything related to losing weight the healthy way. According to the official statement, the investment will be used for expansion purposes; the startup will move beyond content and e-commerce services and build a premium social network in Asia revolving around fitness.
The founders, Alice Chen and Ming-Yuan Xie, said, “We feel that Cherubic Ventures can provide us (with) more than just capital, but also strategy and expertise that can steer us in the right direction and help us become a global company.” Currently, the venture capital firm, which focuses on early-stage startups, has more than 40 portfolio companies across Greater China and Silicon Valley. Its portfolio includes Frenzoo, Spottly, and Playbasis.
Making the moolah
iFit noted that since its e-commerce business started a few months ago, it has hit US$2 million (UPDATE: in revenues, not profits). In the months ahead, it is looking to deliver US$3.5 million of revenues and grow to two million registered members. “All of our product ideas are coming straight from our members,” said Chen, adding, “We have deep consumer insight of what customers are looking for to help them keep a healthy lifestyle.”
iFit has also found some success in Southeast Asian country Malaysia. Currently, the platform has more than 20,000 registered Malaysian members. The company will be setting up its first overseas branch in Malaysia by end-2014.
Growing the three Cs
In the case of iFit, there are three Cs the company is particularly serious about. Firstly, it wants to grow its content site with a multi-screen strategy. Content will no longer be about mere magazines and videos; customers will soon be able to screen-share with its website, check out its mobile apps, and listen to fitness audio books on the go.
Secondly, iFit wants to build a highly engaged community. In addition to online activities, the firm intends to hold offline events that allow members to interact face-to-face. It will also incorporate an element of gamification to encourage competition amongst members.
Lastly, the company is looking towards boosting its e-commerce business. For instance, it is focusing and putting more resources on figuring out wearable technology, which is a key part of iFit’s product roadmap.
UPDATE: In an exclusive interview with e27, Tina Cheng, Partner, Cherubic Ventures shed light on this recent announcement. She said, “(iFit had) opened up a big market (women’s fitness and weight loss) in Taiwan that hasn’t been tapped before, in a relatively short (period) of time. We are very confident of its ability to execute and expand to overseas markets.”
She added that there are increasingly more foreign venture capital firms investing in local startups. “The reason is that very few Taiwanese VCs are focusing on early-stage internet deals, so it’s no secret that Taiwanese startups have a better chance raising money outside of Taiwan,” said Cheng, who continued, “Their chance of finding funding is very slim if they rely solely on Taiwan VCs.”
However, Cherubic Ventures — a Taiwanese venture capital firm — is changing that. She explained, “… the Taiwanese government is aware of this and has set up some funding to support startups. We are hopeful that in the next few years, we should see more early-stage VCs and a healthier startup ecosystem.” Such an ecosystem would include more exits, activities, startups, international exposure and of course, investments.