Netpulse Inc. has acquired fellow fitness media and technology provider Virtual Active for an undisclosed amount.
The purchase brings together two of the industry’s technology brands capitalizing on the increase of interactive data, education and media being used in the latest fitness equipment. (Click here to read a May 20, 2011, SNEWS story on the rise of technology in fitness.)
Company officials said Virtual Active’s (www.vafitness.com) entire team, including its president and founder John Ford, will join Netpulse (www.netpulse.com). Both companies are based in San Francisco and will, for now, maintain their separate offices. Officials declined to reveal the combined company’s size – either in revenue or number of employees.
Netpulse officials said its company has partnerships with “seven of the leading commercial fitness manufacturers” (click here to read a Sept. 14, 2011 SNEWS industry release on Netpulse’s latest partnership with Octane), and it will expand its existing relationship with Johnson Health Tech, parent to brands such as Matrix, AFG and Horizon, currently employing Virtual Active’s technology. Virtual Active films, produces and provides high definition video of outdoor runs through natural and urban landscapes that syncs to a treadmill or elliptical in both speed and incline.(Click here to read about the Virtual Active/Johnson partnership as covered by SNEWS at the 2011 Health + Fitness Business Expo.)
Johnson Health Tech’s exclusive commercial agreement with Virtual Active is in place until Jan. 1, 2013, Johnson senior product manager Andrew Kolman told SNEWS.
“There are no plans to shorten the agreement,” he said, in light of the acquisition news. “We are in discussions with the Virtual Active management team about structuring an agreement that would give Johnson access to Virtual Active content beyond Jan. 1, 2013.“
Netpulse officials said they were attracted to Virtual Active’s high quality video content.
“Nobody brings that outdoor experience indoors like Virtual Active, and we see a great opportunity to expand this to a ton of new platforms and locations,” Netpulse vice president, business development, Kurt Weinsheimer told SNEWS.
One of those platform expansions is through new tablet applications like the iPad, he said.
“Given the high- and growing-percentage of people who already own these devices, it’s natural for us to move in that direction,” Weinsheimer said. “People are constantly on the move and so we’re going to be flexible with their habits and needs. A person could be running the (simulated) New York marathon – start at home, bring their iPad to the gym, and finish there.” Weinsheimer also sees opportunity in using social media platforms to encourage competition among those running the same virtual courses.
In conjunction with the acquisition, Netpulse announced a partnership with exergaming startup BitGym (www.bitgym.com) to launch a new Virtual Active App for the iPad, featuring some of Virtual Active’s video content. “Using BitGym’s patent-pending algorithms and motion sensing technology, the app will sense the rate of the exercise on the equipment (without cables) and dynamically increase or decrease the video speed of the experience,” officials said.
That could compete with Johnson’s similar technology partnership with Virtual Active, displaying content through people’s television screens (photo, right) But Weinsheimer said the two platforms present different experiences for the consumer.
“People are going to use different media platforms at different times,” he said. "Certainly, Johnson’s technology provides a richer, fuller experience, while the iPad app is more about convenience. Just because you can watch video on your iPhone doesn’t mean you throw out your TV.”
Privately-held Netpulse is backed by investors, including Javelin Venture Partners and DFJ Frontier. The Virtual Active acquisition is another chapter in the continuing comeback story for Netpulse, which in May 2001 was resurrected after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy earlier that year. (Click here to read a May 9, 2001 SNEWS story on Netpulse’s comeback).
-- David Clucas