This is the 9th and final part of Brazilstrat’s series about the Brazilian Unicorns. Links to the other parts can be found here: “Part 1 – Introduction and Summary”; “Part 2 – Nubank”; “Part 3 – Wildlife Studios”; “Part 4 – iFood”; “Part 5 – Loggi”; “Part 6 – QuintoAndar”; “Part 7 – Ebanx”; and “Part 8 – Loft”.
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Gympass is a B2B fitness discovery platform connecting more than two thousand companies and their employees to 50 900 gyms and fitness centres across 14 countries, doubling the number of partner gyms on an annual basis. Through different subscription plans, Gympass offers hundreds of online and offline classes and activities ranging from yoga and ballet to high-intensity training and martial arts. Headquartered in New York since 2018, Gympass was founded in São Paulo in 2012 by Cesar Carvalho (CEO), Joao Barbosa (Global Head of Partnerships), and Vinícius Ferriani.
Like Nubank and QuintoAndar, Gympass was the result of a founder’s personal need. Cesar Carvalho had trouble finding local fitness options that weren’t expensive or time-consuming to access when travelling for work as a consultant at McKinsey in 2011. The following year a solution to his problem, a shared economy for fitness facilities, was conceived during his MBA at Harvard Business School. Carvalho, with the help of former colleagues, put together a business plan and managed to secure enough investment to drop out of Harvard and make this idea a reality.
While the initial idea was with the end user in mind, Carvalho and his team soon discovered that it was much more effective to onboard companies and their employees than individuals. The focus has since been on larger corporations, such as video game producer Activision Blizzard, the call centre Atento, the bank Santander and the consumer goods multinational Unilever, but towards the end of 2019, Gympass initiated a dedicated programme to serve the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) segment better. Brazil was selected as the testing ground for this new area before global expansion, where the country’s 25 million local businesses will be targeted in addition to local branches of existing, international clients. Although international expansion is increasingly prioritized, Brazil remains an important market for Gympass with 22 400 of its 50 900 partner gyms.
Gympass’ solutions can also have positive financial effects for their corporate clients, as loss of productivity due to sick leave can cost around $3 000 per employee in the US, while increased health insurance premiums can cost $2 000 or more for low-activity employees. As a result of their method of onboarding through employers, 70% of their users weren’t members of any gym prior to Gympass.
According to Deloitte, health and wellness was a $94 billion market in 2018 comprising 210 thousand institutions. The 183 million members are expected to grow to 230 million by 2030. In Brazil, the $2.1 billion market counts 34 500 institutions, but only 9.6 million members, and the monthly subscription model’s 4.6% current penetration should provide significant upside potential for innovative companies like Gympass.
Including McKinsey, Cesar Carvalho’s working experience prior to Gympass consisted of ten years in business management at Latin America’s biggest travelling agency CVC and AC Nielsen, an American information, data and measurement firm. Originally from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, he has a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of São Paulo (USP) combined with an exchange period at Tilburg University in The Netherlands.
Also a USP graduate, Joao Barbosa studied economics combined with banking internships at City, Safra, and Santander in São Paulo before spending two years at CVC. During his first three years after co-founding Gympass, Barbosa’s position was as Head of Gyms and Operations before moving to Mexico City as CEO Mexico in March 2015. He moved to Milan in December 2017 as CEO Italy before changing to his current position as Global Head of Partnerships/Gyms in November 201856.
Vinícius Ferriani has a degree in electrical engineering from the Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA) in São José dos Campos in the state of São Paulo. He worked three years as a business analyst at McKinsey and six months as a project manager at the Japanese cosmetics company Shiseido in São Paulo before an MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management leading up to the co-founding of Gympass.
Gympass achieved unicorn status when raising $300 million in a Series D lead by SoftBank’s Vision Fund in June 2019. Planning to use the funds to expand into Asia while growing in the 14 countries where it already operates, Gympass’ main focus is currently the US. SoftBank’s money is coming from its $100 billion Vision Fund, and a $5 billion Latin American Fund. The amounts of the Gympass’ four additional rounds are undisclosed, but timing and investor participation for all five rounds are summarized below.
- Seed in January 2012: undisclosed amount from Eduardo Brennand Campos, São Paulo-based angel investor and CEO of Parafuzo.com, a mobile application that enables its users to hire licensed professional laborers.
- Series A in May 2015: undisclosed amount from London-based Atomico (lead); Buenos Aires and São Paulo-based Kaszek Ventures; Atlanta, US-based Valor Ventures; São Paulo-based Redpoint eventures (separate organization from California-based Redpoint Ventures, who invested in Nubank); and Palo Alto, California-based entrepreneur, angel investor and partner at venture capital firm Accel, Kevin Efrusy.
- Series B in June 2016: undisclosed amount from Atomico (again as lead); Valor Ventures; Redpoint eventures; Kevin Efrusy; Kaszek Ventures; and São Paulo-based Provence Capital.
- Series C in September 2017: undisclosed amount from New York-based General Atlantic (lead); Atomico; Valor Ventures; Kevin Efrusy; and Kaszek Ventures.
- Series D in June 2019: $300 million from the SoftBank Vision Fund (lead); General Atlantic; Atomico; and Valor Capital Group.
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