Quell raises $3M to turn home fitness into a game

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Do people want their at-home fitness to come in video game form? The incredible popularity of games like Ring Fit Adventure suggests yes.

London-based startup Quell thinks it’s just the beginning for this genre, and they’ve raised a $3M seed round to help prove it.

At the core of Quell’s gameplay is the “Gauntlet” — a harness, of sorts, that the player slips on to control Quell’s games. As players punch and dodge their way through the world, Gauntlet’s built-in sensors measure things like punch speed and accuracy, while customizable resistance bands keep things challenging.

We initially wrote about Quell back in August here, and named it as one of our top startups from the Y Combinator S20 Demo Day.

Investors in this round include Twitch co-founders Kevin Lin and Emmett Shear, AngelList founder Naval Ravikant, WikiHow founder Josh Hannah, TenCent, Khosla Ventures, Heartcore, Social Impact Capital, and JamJar Investments. Quell co-founder Doug Stidolph tells me that they were initially raising at a valuation of $10M; by the time they’d closed the final investors in this round, the valuation had increased to $15M. The company also recently closed a Kickstarter campaign, where it raised £501,341 (around $670k USD) from nearly 3,000 backers. With the ongoing pandemic making it scarier and riskier to hit the gym (if your state/county even allows it), interest and demand for home fitness options will just keep going up.

Image Credits: Quell

Quell’s hardware and games are initially being built to work with PC, Mac, and mobile devices. That means no console support at first — a bummer, as a big ol’ TV seems like the ideal display for games like this, and consoles are probably the most user-friendly way of getting it there. It’s something the company says it has on its roadmap to hopefully tackle in the future, but the added cost/complexity of the console hardware approval process was a bit too much to take on at launch.

Meanwhile, Quell is building out its own in-house game studio, hiring folks like Peter Cornelius (formerly Lead Producer at the developer-centric gaming tech company Improbable) as Game Production Director. One of the main goals, Quell co-founder Cameron Brookhouse tells me, is to build games that get the player exercising while still being deeply immersive; they want the gameplay to encourage movement intuitively, rather than tossing up prompts that say something like, “OK! Time for jumping jacks!”

The Quell team tells me they expect their first hardware to ship by the end of 2021. They’re currently working on transitioning their prototypes into production, figuring out how to do things like make it easier to adjust resistance or swap the Gauntlet from user to user, and to increase the number of different exercises its sensors can detect and gamify.

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