Zwift, maker of a popular indoor training app, just landed a whopping $450 million in funding led by KKR

Zwift, a 350-person, Long Beach, Calif.-based online fitness platform that immerses cyclists and runners in 3D generated worlds, just raised a hefty $ 450 million in funding led by the investment firm KKR in exchange for a minority stake in its business.

Permira and Specialized Bicycle’s venture capital fund, Zone 5 Ventures, also joined the round alongside earlier backers True, Highland Europe, Novator and Causeway Media.

Zwift has now raised $ 620 million altogether and is valued at north of $ 1 billion.

Why such a big round? Right now, the company just makes an app, albeit a popular one.

Since its 2015 founding, 2.5 million people have signed up to enter a world that, as Outside magazine once described it, is “part social-media platform, part personal trainer, part computer game.” That particular combination makes Zwift’s app appealing to both recreational riders and pros looking to train no matter the conditions outside.

The company declined to share its active subscriber numbers with us — Zwift charges $ 15 per month for its service — but it seemingly has a loyal base of users. For example, 117,000 of them competed in a virtual version of the Tour de France that Zwift hosted in July after it was chosen by the official race organizer of the real tour as its partner on the event.

Which leads us back to this giant round and what it will be used for. Today, in order to use the app, Zwift’s biking adherents need to buy their own smart trainers, which can cost anywhere from $ 300 to $ 700 and are made by brands like Elite and Wahoo. Meanwhile, runners use Zwift’s app with their own treadmills.

Now, Zwift is jumping headfirst into the hardware business itself. Though a spokesman for the company said it can’t discuss any particulars — “It takes time to develop hardware properly, and COVID has placed increased pressure on production” — it is hoping to bring its first product to market “as soon as possible.”

He added that the hardware will make Zwift a “more immersive and seamless experience for users.”

Either way, the direction isn’t a surprising one for the company, and we don’t say that merely because Specialized participated in this round as a strategic backer. Cofounder and CEO Eric Min has told us in the past that the company hoped to produce its own trainers some day.

Given the runaway success of the in-home fitness company Peloton, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a treadmill follow, or even a different product entirely. Said the Zwift spokesman, “In the future, it’s possible that we could bring in other disciplines or a more gamified experience.” (It will have expert advice in this area if it does, given that Swift just brought aboard Ilkka Paananen, the co-founder and CEO of Finnish gaming company Supercell, as an investor and board member.)

In the meantime, the company tells us not to expect the kind of classes that have proven so successful for Peloton, tempting as it may be to draw parallels.

While Zwift prides itself on users’ ability to organize group rides and runs and workouts, classes, says its spokesman, are “not in the offing.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Budapest-based Barion just landed €2 million to expand its payment solutions further across Europe

European private equity firm Financial Services Capital Partners LLP has successfully led the €2 million Series B funding round of Barion Payment plc, a leading Hungarian fintech startup. The new funding wiill enable Barion to continue its expansion into additional European markets and bring to market innovative payment products and services.

Barion is one of Financial Services Capital’s first investments as part of its Enabling Technologies portfolio. Barion, established 2015 in Budapest, Hungary, provides electronic payment solutions: an online payment gateway and an electronic wallet. The fintech has achieved dynamic growth since its launch, and currently serves more than 7000 e-commerce partners in five countries (Austria, Czechia, Hungary, Germany and Slovakia), with its processing volume having tripled over the past year. Barion was listed among the 10 Hungary-based startups to watch out for in 2020 on EU-Startups this January. 

To date 2.3 million users have used Barion’s payment services, with total volume of transactions surpassing €300 million per year. The fintech plans further dynamic expansion in Central Europe and intends to launch a range of new services soon. Previously, Prague-based Home Credit Group, one of the largest personal finance providers in Europe also invested into Barion within the frameworks of a Series A investment round.

Financial Services Capital is a sector specific European private equity firm with a presence in London, Prague, Madrid, Vienna and Luxembourg. It leverages its team’s vast operational experience and proprietary technology solutions to create transformational value across financial services portfolio companies.

EU-Startups

This Polish startup just landed a deal with Microsoft to build AI-powered virtual healthcare assistants

Based out of Wroclaw, Infermedica is a leading digital health company specialised in AI-powered solutions for preliminary diagnosis and patient triage. Right now, the company is operating on a goal to improve customers’ performance, increase healthcare accessibility, and reduce costs.

Partnership to deploy AI-powered virtual healthcare assistants!

Recently, the Polish company has tied up with the Redmond giant Microsoft to provide its technology to Microsoft Healthcare Service Bot, empowering healthcare organisations to build and deploy AI-powered virtual healthcare assistants at scale.

Talking about the partnership, Infermedica’s CEO, Piotr Orzechowski, tells Silicon Canals,

“Microsoft helps hospitals and health systems in digitising parts of patients’ medical journeys. Within this partnership, Infermedica provides a major component which is our AI-powered engine to help with early triage and diagnosis. Our system learns over time and improves results for patients, saving costs, and resources for both payers and providers. Infermedica’s medical team has spent over thirty thousand hours verifying results and content that the system relies on. Today’s partnership brings us closer to a future where doctors have the needed assistance of high-quality AI-powered solutions, making it easier for patients to get the right care.”

Reduces stress in public and private health system!

Notably, Microsoft Healthcare Bot is used by leading health organisations, including Aurora Health Care, Premera Blue Cross, and Quest Diagnostics. By conducting automated triage powered by Infermedica’s technology, the tool helps to reduce the stress in both public and private health systems, currently overloaded by COVID-19 cases. 

Also commenting on the new developments, Adam Walker, Program Manager at Microsoft Healthcare, says:

“Infermedica is revolutionising the triage space, with a solution that breaks the mould. We were impressed with the sophisticated probabilistic modelling used to achieve a level of accuracy that isn’t possible with the simplistic decision tree models that we saw in the rest of the market. We chose to work with Infermedica because they bring a truly intelligent layer of clinically validated health technology to the Microsoft Healthcare Bot Service, empowering our customers to build smarter virtual assistants that drive better outcomes for patients”

Broadening access to healthcare!

Founded by Irving Loh, Piotr Orzechowski, Roberto Sicconi in 2012, Infermedica offers a range of AI products for triage and preliminary medical diagnosis, broadening the access to healthcare at an early stage. 

Piotr Orzechowski, says:Our tools help health organizations to improve medical triage and save precious resources for those who need it most.” 

AI and machine learning at work!

The company uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to assess symptoms and find patterns in data. Their core products include Symptom Checker, Call Center Triage, and Infermedica API – all built around early triage and diagnosis. To date, the digital health company has helped nearly 6 million people assess their symptoms.

Infermedica’s technology is used by industry leaders including Allianz, Global Excel, and Unipol, and has performed over 5 million health checks globally. 

Discussing further about the business plans Piotr Orzechowski reveals, “Our business gained a lot of traction over the last year, and especially within the last two quarters. We’ve seen an increased interest in AI-powered products and this had a big impact on the roadmap and accelerated many internal processes.”

“Being a team of almost 90 people Infermedica is working on a set of solutions that answer new needs arising from the pandemic, the business development team is busy with numerous leads gathered over the last few weeks and our medical team is working tirelessly to verify the overwhelming amount of data we’ve received. Within the next year, we plan to further increase our presence in the US and European markets and the continued development of our core products for health systems, payers, and providers. This includes several partnerships we’re currently working on closing, including one with a globally recognized insurance company from Fortune 500 list,” adds, Piotr Orzechowski. 

To date, the company has raised over €3.8 million in funding. Right now, the company’s technology is offered as a white-label solution to health insurance companies, health systems, and hospitals.

Main image credits: Infermedica

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