Fitness Wearable WHOOP Raises $100M From Backers Like Durant, Mahomes on Cheddar

Fitness tech company WHOOP has found fresh new funding. The maker of the fitness tracker that many pro athletes are wearing has raised $100 million in Series E financing. The company is now valued at $1.2 billion. 

Among the professional athletes that invested are NBA star Kevin Durant,  NFL stars Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Mahomes, and PGA champion Justin Thomas, to name a few. 

WHOOP became a fixture on the PGA Tour back in June. Pro-golfer Nick Watney has credited the device with detecting that he had COVID-19, the first positive case on the Tour. 

The company’s main purpose, though, is fitness. It offers coaching to help people improve their health and the strap monitors sleep, recovery, strain, and more. 

“In particular, we’ve seen value in measuring respiratory rate during this unusual time with COVID-19. So we published a lot of research around how respiratory rate is an important metric to understand,” Will Ahmed, founder and CEO of WHOOP, told Cheddar on Thursday. 

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine earlier this year found that after a year of using WHOOP, members experienced longer and more consistent sleep, decreasing resting heart rate, and meaningful behavior changes. 

The company strives to help users change everyday aspects of their lives, which can mean smoother travel, fewer injuries, and using less alcohol. 

“I think the single biggest thing that WHOOP does that other products don’t do is it gives you actionable feedback to improve behavior,” Ahmed said, adding, “I think most people intuitively would say that their diet affects their body but they wouldn’t necessarily know positively or negatively how so — and that’s where WHOOP steps in.”

Whoop is not alone in this industry. Amazon is in the health tech space with its Halo, Google with its acquisition of Fitbit, and Apple with its smartwatch. While tech companies have come under scrutiny for how they use personal data, Ahmed stated that WHOOP is focused on member privacy.

“Over time, I expect every big tech company to want to play in this space,” Ahmed said. “Our focus on the end-user, our focus on driving behavior change and health benefits, I mean I think that’s really the hardest thing to do in this space. That’s where we are going to win.”

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California’s $100M dialysis battle comes with ancillary benefits for labor union


A patient undergoes dialysis at a clinic in Sacramento, Calif.

A patient undergoes dialysis at a clinic in Sacramento, Calif. | Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo

OAKLAND — In initiative-happy California, one set of ads stands out — those involving dialysis clinics, an industry that’s historically been a lower-profile player in politics.

The ads are unusual not only because of their unlikely topic but their volume, which is high because industry opponents of a labor ballot measure are spending more than any group opposing the other 11 proposals California voters must decide on.

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The massive spending gap between the $100 million opponents, including DaVita Inc., have raised and the $8.9 million by supporters led by SEIU United Healthcare Workers West means that the dialysis industry has flooded airwaves as it defends itself against organized labor. The same chain of events played out two years ago, resulting in a resounding defeat for the union’s ballot initiative.

California’s ballot wars have escalated in recent years as industries see little problem spending more than $100 million — and nearly twice that amount in the gig industry’s case — to persuade the electorate. Businesses and organizations that don’t get their way in the state Capitol often use the ballot to change state laws or as leverage to pressure lawmakers and other powerful interests. Proposition 23 is the third most expensive ballot initiative in 2020, according to data compiled by POLITICO.

While SEIU-UHW says it is committed to passing Prop 23, political strategists suggest that labor backers may simply be playing the long game by placing an initiative on the ballot every two years challenging the industry. Win or lose, the union is putting pressure on dialysis companies to spend gobs of money each general election.

“The threat of a ballot measure is something UHW has used strategically,” said Brian Brokaw, a Democratic strategist in Sacramento who is not involved in the Prop. 23 campaign. “In order for a threat to actually be credible, sometimes you have to put it on the ballot. But appearing on a ballot and actually running a campaign to support something are two different things.”

Proposition 23 faces long odds not just because of the industry’s $100 million war chest, but also because it involves a regulatory matter on a crowded ballot — a perfect recipe for voter rejection.

Two years ago, Californians voted 60-40 to reject Prop. 8, another SEIU-UHW-backed initiative that would have capped dialysis profits. But to get that win, the dialysis industry, led by the dominant franchises DaVita Inc. and Fresenius Medical Care, invested about $111 million to defeat it, or nearly six times what the proponents spent.

One day after that Nov. 6, 2018 election, the union vowed to refile the initiative in California and other states. SEIU-UHW did file another initiative, but Prop 23 looks dramatically different, focusing on requirements that clinics must meet such as staffing one doctor on site.

John Logan, director of labor employment studies at San Francisco State University, said unions have long used non-traditional tactics like ballot-box campaigns to get

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