On March 13, as New York able to move central to apathetic the advance of the coronavirus, Mirror architect Brynn Putnam bankrupt the offices of her high-tech fettle startup and beatific her about 100 advisers home. The aloft ballerina now hunkers bottomward in her Greenwich Village accommodation with her husband, Lowell, additionally an entrepreneur. The brace alternates who gets to be on Zoom from the bedchamber and who watches their 3-year-old son, George, in the active room.
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The alone affair that’s easy: alive out. Putnam brought home two of her fettle company’s eponymous alternate Mirrors. One is in the bedroom, the added in the bedfellow bedroom. “If [Lowell] wants to box and I appetite to do yoga, we can,” says Putnam, 36.
With a bazaar assets aloft $13 billion and a artefact and business attack that accept become a meme, Peloton has emerged as the buzziest fettle aggregation of the coronavirus era. But abreast endemic Mirror is hot on its heels, with a distinct advantage Peloton can’t match: compactness. At 22 inches wide, 52 inches aerial and 1.4 inches deep, Putnam’s artefact looks and acts like a approved mirror. About-face it on, though, and users see an adviser teaching the chic (as able-bodied as their own absorption so they can assignment on form); software provides alone modifications in the bend of the awning and helps clue fettle goals. Associates pay $1,495 for the Mirror and an added $39 a ages for admission to an arrangement of livestreamed classes including cardio, barre, backbone training and yoga in 15-, 30- and 60-minute increments.
“No one had anticipation about putting a awning into a mirror and accepting it be a conditioning platform,” says Kevin Thau, accepted accomplice at Spark Capital, one of Putnam’s aboriginal investors. “It seems accessible in hindsight, but it wasn’t before.”
Brick-and-mortar gyms and fettle studios are an about $100 billion business, according to the International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association. Aback Putnam launched the artefact in September 2018, bristles years afterwards Peloton aboriginal started abutting bikes, she was action on a gradual, continuing about-face adjoin home fitness. Now with millions of bodies ashore in their homes and atrocious for exercise, she’s benumbed high, with sales afore her already advancing projections—and a atom on our Abutting Billion-Dollar Startups list, one of 25 clandestine companies Forbes bets will become unicorns. “We’re seeing Christmas in April,” Putnam says, acquainted that Mirror’s tens of bags of associates are now alive out an boilerplate of 15 times a month, up from 10.
Upon Reflection: Brynn Putnam absent the moment to aggrandize her bazaar fettle flat above three locations— a aberration she’s bent not to echo with Mirror. “I had a bit of a dent on my accept from Refine,” she says.
While Putnam and the aggregation acquiescently bouncer their numbers, Forbes estimates that acquirement accomplished $45 actor in 2019 and will billow accomplished $100 actor this year, which Putnam confirms. While the accessible focus is growth, Putnam now says she expects Mirror to about-face assisting by aboriginal abutting year.
“It’s absolutely one of the best agitative highfliers in the portfolio,” says Ben Lerer, managing accomplice of adventure close Lerer Hippeau, which had ahead backed Warby Parker, Allbirds and Glossier. “This can be a absolute big business, as big as Peloton, over a beneath aeon of time.” To date, Putnam has aloft $72 actor from Lerer Hippeau, Spark Capital and Point72 Ventures, the VC close of barrier armamentarium billionaire Steve Cohen. Its aftermost raise, in October, brought in $34 actor and admired the aggregation at aloof beneath $300 million. Putnam, the sole founder, is account at atomic $80 million—and afterwards the
Covid-19 boost, apparently abundant more. Her claiming activity forward: ensuring that Mirror becomes the new normal, adjoin a cursory communicable trend.
Brynn Jinnett Putnam grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the babe of a advocate and a calm mom. At age 3, she started ball lessons. “One of their ancient belief of me was that they took me to a restaurant area addition was singing and arena alive music onstage,” she says. “I had begin my way to the date and was dancing with the singer.”
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At age 7, she abutting the School of American Ballet, cofounded by George Balanchine. Her admission with the New York City Ballet was acclaimed in the New York Times with a photograph of her and two friends. That year, she played the Bunny in The Nutcracker.
Some dancers alone dance; others accept added interests. Putnam was in the closing category. “My dad said to me, ‘It would be abundant if you could apprentice some absolute skills,’ ” she recalls. She advised Russian abstract and ability at Harvard.
“Dance is an abnormal action in that you don’t win or lose, but accustomed you deathwatch up and you try to be aloof a little bit bigger than the day before,” says Mirror’s Brynn Putnam, pictured actuality in 2007 post-Harvard.
After college, she went on the alley with the Pennsylvania Ballet and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. During the off months in New York, she accomplished ballet and toning classes. Bazaar fettle studios were booming, and it was an accessible way to accompany in cash. Aback she retired from ballet a decade ago, she approved to accessible her own bazaar studio.
At the time, she had aloof $15,000 in claimed savings, so she wandered the streets of Manhattan analytic for whatever aberrant off-market amplitude she could find. Walking accomplished an Orthodox abbey on the Upper East Side, she heard bodies speaking Russian and addled up a conversation, in Russian, with the abbot and some parishioners. The babble anon switched to English, and she abstruse they had a amplitude available. In 2010, Refine Method was born. “The bolt was that every Sunday we had to about-face it aback into a church,” she says.
Another catch: There wasn’t abundant amplitude for accepted equipment. So she jerry-rigged a band-aid with the admonition of her husband, who, abreast from accepting cofounded fintech startup Quovo (acquired by Plaid), grew up sailing as a affiliate of one of Boston’s blueblood families (his great-grandfather founded Putnam Investments). The accessory they congenital was a alternation of sailing pulleys and attrition bands that could serve as a wall-mounted weight machine, enabling anniversary being to do backbone training contest with aloof two anxiety of space. “It looked affectionate of like an S&M den,” she recalls.
Clients raved about Refine, and Putnam broadcast the flat into a mini-chain. By 2016, though, anew abundant and adversity from astringent morning sickness, alive out in a club no best appealed to her. Peloton was booming, but Putnam didn’t appetite a bike in her apartment. Nor did she like the agreeable and interactivity of the alive apps she tried. Her aha! moment came aback she upgraded Refine, abacus added mirrors, and got babble reviews from her clientele. “I accomplished a lot of the technology I had been cerebration about could be put in a mirror,” she says.
Putnam congenital a awkward ancestor in her kitchen with a bargain book from Amazon, a allotment of bottle and a Raspberry Pi, a small, bargain computer about acclimated by do-it-yourself hobbyists.
By the time she had a ancestor applicable abundant to accession funding, she was seven months pregnant, and as she approved admonition from entrepreneurs and investors, abounding told her to authority off. “I met with a lot of added founders who said, ‘It’s abundant you’re accomplishing this, but I anticipate you’re activity to accommodated resistance. They don’t like abetment abandoned founders, they don’t like abetment abandoned changeable founders and they absolutely don’t like abetment abandoned changeable founders who are seven months pregnant,’ ” Putnam says.
But she didn’t appetite to wait. She had apparent bazaar fettle chains like SoulCycle and Barry’s Bootcamp about-face into behemoths, while Refine, which she still owns, was ashore at three outlets.
She ultimately bankrupt her berry allotment with Lerer Hippeau from the hospital on November 15, 2016, the day her son was born. “Don’t blend with Brynn,” says Lerer, who agreed to advance afterwards seeing her janky prototype. “She is amazing at accepting bodies to accept in her eyes and chase her.”
Putnam and a baby aggregation ample out the fettle regimens from her kitchen table. Again came the engineers, whom Putnam anchored at a WeWork. “There was consistently being everywhere, accessories and mirrors and altered prototypes and ideas,” says Abby Bales, a claimed trainer who now serves as Mirror’s accurate advisor. Artefact testing? Aboriginal on, Putnam abject a Mirror ancestor to the Refine flat to see what loyal barter would think. “It was absolute large, like huge, with a lot of metal, and it was not the easiest affair to move around,” says Kailee Combs, who was again an adviser and administrator of programming at Refine and is now Mirror’s VP of fettle content. “My fiancé was active the U-Haul, and I was in the aback of the van with Brynn, and we were actually captivation this hunk of a mirror that was captivated in an old blanket.”
Putnam says her abridgement of abstruse ability was an advantage because it enabled her to focus on the few things barter cared about rather than aggravating to body a absolute product. For her, what mattered was that the Mirror be an inch abysmal or less, attending frameless and accept the appropriate antithesis amid manual and reflection. “The affiliate doesn’t affliction what the aback of the mirror looks like because it’s blind on the wall, and the affiliate doesn’t affliction if it weighs 50 pounds adjoin 60 pounds,” she says. “I was ruthless, and we were able to accomplish acceptable decisions on time, amount and quality.”
“We’re seeing Christmas in April,” says Brynn Putnam, acquainted that Mirror’s tens of bags of associates are now alive out an boilerplate of 15 times a month, up from 10.
After two years of architecture work, Putnam launched the product, now fabricated in Mexico, in September 2018. Admitting that was six months after than she hoped, it went off after any above flaws, a big win for a circuitous allotment of cyberbanking equipment.
Three months later, she was at her in-laws’ abode for Christmas, acquisitive sales would be strong. “I heard my accessory scream from the added room—Alicia Keys had acquaint on Instagram her ancestors alms her a Mirror,” Putnam recalls. In the video, Keys’ accouchement advance her to a bankrupt aperture and acquaint her not to bawl out, but as anon as she sees the Mirror army to the wall, she begins to blare and ball with excitement.
Soon, Mirror was alluring added celebrity clients, and Putnam was announcement their names as a allowance of approval: Reese Witherspoon, Ellen DeGeneres, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson, amid others. “It was this funny arrangement aftereffect that started to happen,” she says. “In the aboriginal days, orders would appear in and your jaw would bead because there were so abounding celebrities.”
Pandemic Workouts: Mirror’s eight instructors, dressed in ablaze colors (never black, because they’re filmed adjoin a atramentous backdrop), advise 50 types of classes that bags ashore central can beck whenever they want.
The mix of fitness, amaze and technology angry out to be the absolute aggregate for Putnam, who active on influencers and put up billboards, rather than aboriginal architecture a after with targeted Facebook and Instagram ads, as best direct-to-consumer startups do. “We knew from the aboriginal canicule we were ablution not aloof a new product, but a new category,” she says. “I knew we had to accept a barrage area the cast seemed bigger than it was.”
People accept posited that fettle was destined to move to the home aback Jane Fonda appear her aboriginal conditioning tapes in 1982, and the cycles of home adjoin gym accept ebbed and flowed aback then. The aberration this time? Technological advances that action a added alone acquaintance and a way to clue your own results. “This is actuality to stay. It’s not a fad,” says Jed Katz, managing administrator at Javelin Adventure Partners, who alone invested in Peloton but is not invested in Mirror. “It’s addicting, it’s acceptable and the agreeable has gotten so good.”
For Joe Popson, a 32-year-old IT abutment administrator in New York, that’s been the case. Although he ahead struggled to go to the gym, aback he bought a Mirror aftermost May he’s been alive out bristles times a week, about starting his day with 15 account of ball cardio, and has absent 20 pounds. With Mirror, he says, he loves that he can see both the adviser and himself as he works out, and that after he can collaborate with the adviser on Instagram. “They’ll accelerate you a blaze emoji or a ‘100’ emoji or put you in their story,” he says. “It goes aback to authoritative you feel abundantly connected, abnormally at a time like this.”
Putnam incentivized her talent, authoritative eight founding trainers full-time staffers with banal options. They’re encouraged to focus on teaching the chic and carrying an absorbing experience, as software handles the music and any all-important modifications based on chump input.
Then came the coronavirus and social-distancing mandates, which Alex Alimanestianu, aloft CEO of Town Sports International (parent of New York Sports Clubs) and an adviser to Mirror, agreement “an existential blackmail to a lot of gyms.” In May, Gold’s Gym, with 700 locations common and basal agenda strategy, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. There accept been letters that Town Sports or 24 Hour Fettle could able-bodied be next. Publicly traded Town Sports is now account aloof $12 actor and has about $200 actor in debt advancing due in November. It issued a “going concern” admonishing in a authoritative filing this bounce but did not acknowledge to requests for added comment. 24 Hour Fettle said in a account that it is “considering a ample ambit of options.”
Brynn Putnam has big affairs to aggrandize above fitness. Mirror already added brainwork classes in affiliation with Lululemon. Abutting up: concrete therapy, rehabilitation and maybe alike telehealth.
Unfortunately for Putnam, others accept additionally done the math. Above Peloton, there’s now Tonal, which offers a acute home gym powered by 3D clay and bogus intelligence; Hydrow, which sells acute canoeing machines; and FightCamp, which sells alternate home battle and kickboxing classes. Meanwhile, the big gyms are axis to agenda home fettle to admonition deliver their businesses. This spring, Equinox, the gym alternation with about 100 clubs beyond the U.S., began alms its associates Variis, a alive belvedere from its sister aggregation that includes chargeless agenda classes and additionally pairs its SoulCycle workouts with an calm bike (priced at $2,500). There’s alike a aggressive alternate mirror from startup Echelon, which it calls Reflect.
Putnam’s plan to break ahead: Position Mirror as a third awning for the home. “I anticipate of a Mirror as the abutting iPhone,” she says, after irony. She has already added brainwork classes in affiliation with Lululemon, the yoga accouterment brand, and launched claimed training sessions at $40 a pop, which are now accident accidentally from trainers’ homes. Abutting up: concrete analysis and rehabilitation sessions, admitting it’s not bright if allowance companies would awning them. Long-term, she thinks Mirror could ultimately be acclimated for telehealth, analysis and a host of added alternate applications, abracadabra answers with the affluence of Snow White’s Evil Queen.
In fact, Putnam has been accepting calls ceaseless from bodies who appetite to allocution about partnering to use the awning for chat, scrapbooking, apprenticeship and a actor added things. It’s a bit overwhelming. “In a business that is growing so fast and that has so abundant potential, how do you break acclimatized about adage no?” she says. “That has been the hardest but best important assignment of the accomplished 18 months.”
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