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Fitness startup Mirror claims it’s ‘building the next iPhone’

Can the connected streaming device grow past its workout roots? Founder Brynn Putnam believes the startup might just be the next big screen in your life, with plans to expand into telehealth.

Fitness startup Mirror claims it’s ‘building the next iPhone’
[Photo: courtesy of Mirror]

On Tuesday evening, a fashionable grouping of L.A.’s in-crowd—actors, designers, social media influencers—gathered together in, of all places, a shopping mall. Kate Beckinsale, Rachel Zoe, and their peers sipped margaritas and snacked on hamachi crudo, steps away from a Sephora and a food court.

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They were in Century City to celebrate the opening of a new store for Mirror, the connected home fitness system launched in September 2018. Bright and sleek, the minimalist-chic store was designed by Mythology, the firm behind the retail experiences of Allbirds and Warby Parker. It’s one of three new stores meant to showcase Mirror’s equipment.

It seemed like quite the quick milestone for a startup that only recently entered an increasingly competitive digital fitness market, and yet founder Brynn Putnam seems candidly unfazed by Mirror’s abrupt success and predictably arrogant about its future.

Brynn Putnam [Photo: courtesy of Mirror]
“We always said that we believe we’re building the next iPhone,” reflects Putnam.

That’s because Putnam envisions a company extending far beyond in-home barre classes. The former ballerina imagines Mirror’s technology infiltrating every conceivable sector of a consumer’s life, from fashion and beauty to medicine and healthcare. Mirror’s competition, she says, isn’t narrowly defined by Peloton or Tonal; it’s any other medium you potentially rely on.

“We are building a best-in-class fitness product today, but that’s not where we will be in the near future,” predicts Putnam. “We’re building the third screen in your life that you’re going to turn to for all immersive interactive experiences going forward.”

“Family fun” and telehealth on the horizon

The $1,495 Mirror solves two challenges that often prevented buyers from purchasing at-home gear: lack of space and aesthetics. The hardware, which doubles as a mirror when not in use, easily hangs on a wall as just another piece of home decor, a selling point for those in small spaces or apartments.

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Within several months of its launch, celebrities such as Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon, and Ellen DeGeneres raved about the device. The tech industry hailed it as the next Peloton. (Mirror also received its fair dose of criticism, the New York Times dubbing it the “most narcissistic exercise equipment ever.”)

The public quickly followed. A Mirror rep would not specify but states the company sold tens of thousands of units, with an even mix of men and women subscribers. Unlike competitors that focus on just one specialty, such as rowing or spinning, Mirror launched with 50 different modalities—cardio, strength training, barre, boxing, Pilates, and more. A workout-agnostic platform proved particularly alluring to consumers who worried they might tire of a certain type of exercise.

[Photo: courtesy of Mirror]
Many users are just as interested in HIIT as they are yoga, “which is why we’ve built a content platform rather than a workout product,” says Putnam. “You always want to try new things, and your needs will change over time.”

In fact, the majority of Mirror users join the platform for two types of exercise, and by month six, they’re routinely doing six. Male users, for example, sign up for HIIT and strength training, then start incorporating barre or dance cardio—classes they might be too shy or intimidated to try in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting.

But what most surprised the Mirror team is how the product evolved from a one-to-one device into a full family platform, which was not the original intention. Parents are taking yoga classes with young children or helping an elderly parent incorporate more stretching.

“Our member base has really viewed it as a way to spend time with their family,” says Putnam, “and so that’s something that we’re really leaning into now.”

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[Photo: Greyson Tarantino]
In the coming weeks, Mirror will launch “family fun” content, followed by a competitive multiplayer feature in early 2020. There’s far more in the works, as the company recently raised $34 million in funding, growing its total to $72 million. Mirror currently has 75 employees, a number they plan to double in the next year.

Lululemon participated in the most recent investment round as part of a strategic partnership. In the first quarter, Mirror will release a meditation class hosted by Lululemon ambassadors, who will likely also participate in further wellness offerings. (It’s a bit of a homecoming for Putnam, who herself once served as an ambassador for the fitness behemoth.)

The New York-based startup intends to aggressively pursue experiences beyond fitness because it now knows it’s catering to multiple consumers within the same household. The company will soon incorporate e-commerce so that it can delve into fashion, beauty, even medicine. Eventually, subscribers will be able to purchase their instructors’ modeled athleisure wear and accessories.

The company’s foray into virtual personal training this past October was a gateway into more complex two-way communication applications, like telehealth. “It’s an important foundation for future content,” notes Putnam. “It lays the groundwork for us moving into new verticals.” Already, Mirror is in talks with nursing facilities, rehab centers, and real-estate developers and could roll out those applications next year.

Mirror will likely partner with outside brands that are experts in their field for a wide range of new verticals. Over time, the startup will be more about curation that creation. “The possibilities are endless,” says Putnam.

“The death of television”

Such high aspirations, however, depend on wide-scale reach. To that end, the company’s chief focus remains increasing device sales and getting as many Mirrors in U.S. homes as possible. That’s no easy feat considering the price point.

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Last week, Bloomberg reported that Peloton is releasing a lower-priced bike and treadmill. Within the next year or so, Mirror will weigh the possibility of offering content access either through alternate channels or through a more affordable device. “That’s certainly on our radar,” says Putnam. Currently, 40% of all Mirrors are financed, and the percentage is increasing.

But will consumers view the Mirror as more than just a workout device? The company carefully positioned itself as a gender-neutral, content-agnostic platform. The logo and branding is not fitness-specific, though the company will need to partner wisely to push past current consumer capability.

[Photo: courtesy of Mirror]
Mirror is confident that the more users engage with the product, the more they will understand its potential uses. Over time, new applications will shift public perception. Putnam thinks big, going so far as to predict Mirror might even impact American culture.

“When you’re choosing to spend the night with your children and you could do a cardio dance class or meditate or just sit and watch a cartoon, you’re probably going to opt for something that really inspires and connects you in a deeper way,” says Putnam.

As the experience economy strengthens, Putnam sees Mirror lying at the forefront of innovation. And she plans on taking no prisoners.

“The best consumer companies are really on the tip of current consumer behavior,” says Putnam. “If we are truly successful in the not-too-distant future, Mirror will mean the death of the television.”

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