A pivotal moment in Wexer’s history as acquisition hands us major opportunities to scale

Wexer Blog

14 April 2022

As we announce the news of Wexer’s acquisition by Core Health & Fitness – a portfolio company of US-based private equity firm Gainline Capital Partners – I find myself in a reflective mood, looking back at the milestones of the Wexer journey so far as well as ahead to a hugely exciting future for the brand.

Our story began in 2008, when serial fitness entrepreneur Rasmus Ingerslev created ‘World of Exercise’ – or Wexer for short. At the time a purely B2C product, Wexer was an on-demand fitness video platform designed to provide instructor-led content for effective home workouts. It’s funny how things have come (almost) full circle now, albeit with Wexer a B2B(2C) digital ecosystem rather than a B2C platform these days; Rasmus was, not for the first or last time, ahead of the curve.

I began to have conversations with him in 2011 and we quickly identified a shared passion for getting exercise into the hands of more people. We also recognised that the best way to do this would be to pivot Wexer to a B2B model, becoming Wexer Virtual: the trailblazing in-club virtual class solution.

I joined the company in 2012, we signed Zumba as our first content provider in 2013, went through a couple of funding rounds in 2013–14 and began to do the groundwork that would enable us to lead the virtual GX charge, acquiring the software that powers Wexer Virtual in 2015 and then, in 2016, acquiring Club Virtual and moving to London as market leader.

Fitness in people’s hands

By this point we had some truly enviable assets, not least proprietary, commercial grade technology – something we still pride ourselves on to this day, with Wexer’s unparalleled reliability evident in our platform’s 99.9% uptime. We also had, and still have, a world-class team, including in-house developers who ensure our market-leading technology continually evolves and remains market-leading even as other competitors come and go.

And we had a strong customer base, including many partners who are still with us today.

But even back then, when Virtual was still the new kid on the block, we were planning our next move. We knew we wanted to develop an ecosystem of products that would reduce barriers to participation: back to that vision of getting exercise content into more people’s hands.

So in 2017, Wexer made a major investment in acquiring Connected Fitness Labs (CFL), a digital platform that has since acted as the foundation for our growing Mobile portfolio: our white labelled Wexer Web Player (launched 2019), Wexer SDK (2020), Wexer API (2021) and of course our app (2017).

And the impact of that decision, accelerating the development of a full Wexer ecosystem, is clear: in 2020, we delivered 25 million fitness experiences, up from 10 million in 2019 and 6 million in 2018.

This performance was partly driven by the growth of Wexer Virtual, of course, which by now was being credited by operators with not only driving sales but also retention.

But to an even greater extent it was driven by the exponential growth of Mobile, not only during successive waves of lockdown – when Wexer helped clubs quite literally put fitness content in their members’ hands at home – but even before that, as early adopters began to put their digital plans in place.

And now? Demand for Wexer Virtual is booming once again as members return to clubs and classes are at capacity, but Mobile remains a huge driver of participation. People’s exercise behaviours and expectations are forever changed by events of the last two years.

Putting operators first

So here we are in the new hybrid era of fitness, something I’d venture is pretty much universally accepted now. Yet the next step is vital. We now have to ensure clubs are delivering a true hybrid experience, not merely ticking the box of hybrid technology – and I believe that experience has to be led by content.

Content is what fitness consumers are demanding, and it also happens to be the element of the club experience that can be perfectly replicated across all touchpoints: in-club, online, in-app, smart TV, smart mirror or other smart device.

It is content that enables the omnichannel model, allowing clubs to deliver the same user experience however their customers choose to consume their product on any given day.

And Wexer’s ever-expanding digital ecosystem supports this, with solutions that allow operators of all sizes to either start their digital journey or else enhance their existing digital ecosystems – but always with a view to strengthening the bond between club and member.

As part of that, we’ve helped clubs push their own loyalty-driving talent to the forefront, with our Web Player and now also our in-club Virtual solution incorporating what we call ‘Connect’ – a feature that hands operators their own channel to upload self-produced content alongside the 1,600+ classes from our now 70+ global content partners.

Because we’ve focused on the operator throughout. We’ve never seen technology as a replacement for the club, but as a complement – a way for clubs to serve their members 24/7. Keeping health clubs relevant in an increasingly digital world has been our ethos from the word go and it remains the case now as we push towards our vision of hybridising the fitness sector.

An opportunity to scale, rapidly

Which brings us to today’s acquisition by Core Health & Fitness – new ownership that excites me not only for what it brings Wexer, but for its implications for the sector as a whole.

Everything I’ve spoken about so far has been achieved with only US$2.5m of equity raised since our inception. What this acquisition does is give Wexer the funding and support to scale our business as never before, accelerating us towards our vision of hybridising the fitness sector.

That will include strategic acquisitions; we believe there to be significant opportunity for consolidation of the digital fitness sector.

But funding isn’t the only benefit of this deal. The synergies between Wexer and Core present further opportunities for us both to accelerate our growth and evolution: Wexer will now bring its digital expertise, technology and world-class content to the Core business, while Core’s sales and distribution network will be harnessed to provide Wexer with significant new channels to market.

For me this is key: Wexer has always had great products and great people, but a comparative lack of distribution has historically held us back from fully realising the power of our products. Our new collaboration with Core instantly addresses that, exponentially growing our distribution network.

The opportunity to collaborate with Core across its portfolio of globally recognised brands – Stairmaster, Schwinn, Star Trac, Nautilus and Throwdown – to build an even more diverse digital ecosystem is another huge benefit of this acquisition.

So for me, this really is a turning point – a chance to rapidly scale our business and fulfil our potential both within the fitness sector and beyond, collaborating with Core across its many verticals as well as building on our existing momentum with partners as diverse as telcos, wellness centres, hotels, multi-family housing, student accommodation… and of course, our traditional heartland of fitness.

We now have the products, the people, the partnerships – and the distribution. We are ready to scale and unequivocally claim the crown of digital fitness market leader.

For more information, please get in touch at info@wexer.com

AuthorPaul Bowman