Whoop: Operationalizing Fitness Data to Help Athletes

Whoop is a fantastic subscription based fitness monitor that gathers and analyzes over 1,000 more data than its competitors and delivers personalized insights to its fanatical customers.

As a long time user of fitness trackers  (Read: Nerdy Jock Engineer Hybrid) ranging from the Jawbone (2 models), Polar chest strap monitors (2 model), Fitbit (4 models), I’ve always been frustrated with the limitations of these products. That was until I tried the Whoop, which is sold as a service, with the hardware coming free with a minimum of a 6-month membership.  Whoop was started by Will Ahmed (Harvard B.A, 2012), and is one of the most successful companies to come out of the HBS I-lab, with the company recently valued at $1.2B in its October 2020 [1]. The hardware is a sleek black monitor, with a base model black strap as seen in Figure 1 below.


Figure 1- Picture of Omar Aboulezz’s trusty, loyal Whoop!


Data Collection, Processing, and Customer Value Capture:

Whoop collects A LOT of personal fitness data on its users, on the order of 50MB-100MB per day, which is 1,000x-10,000x the quantity collected by a Fitbits/Apple Watches [2].  The types of data collected include: 24hr heart rate monitoring, respiration rate, sleep duration, sleep stages, sleep quality, sleep debt, just to name a few. This data is then uploaded to the cloud and is processed. The data is then used to deliver breathtakingly beautiful dashboards. Figure 2 below shows some of the dashboards that are generated using the data and analytics (please don’t judge my poor sleep hehe). Whoop also delivers personalized insights that help to nudge users into making better decisions, to train more effectively, and to sleep more restoratively. For example, note the personalized insight in the 4th picture (Daily Recovery) of Figure 2, that indicates that my recovery increases 8.8% when I report using melatonin. Whoop also provides weekly and monthly reports on behaviors.


Figure 2- Sample of Whoop dashboards. From left to right: Daily Overview, Detailed Daily Sleep Weekly Overview, Daily Recovery, Daily Strain.


The processed data provides a daily “strain” score from 1-21, a recovery score out of 100%, and is divided into red, yellow, and green zones, and detailed sleep analysis.  Whoop can also accurately track caloric expenditure during the day, as well as in a large and expanding list of activities as diverse as running, to rollerblading, CrossFit to Australian football (whatever that is). Interestingly and usefully, Whoop can predict if you have COVID-19 because it measures respiration rate spikes when users becomes symptomatic [3]. I have monitored my respiration daily since Whoop discovered and educated me about this capability through their weekly emails. This information is valuable to Whoop users because it helps athletes manage their workouts, recovery and can help competitors peak for competitions or events.

Whoop users tend to evangelize for the product/service, including yours truly and Joe Rogan (the famous comedian, podcaster, MMA commenter and reality TV Host) [4], and the 28 ECs who are part of the HBS team. The app allows you to join teams which shares the data you choose to share with your teammates, thus allowing for community development as well as a competitive spirit. One of my best friends routinely looks at my data and checks in on me when I’m not sleeping or have low recovery (Read: She shames me into optimizing my sleep).

One of the biggest value propositions of the service is that it is constantly getting better. As noted above, activities are constantly being added. For example, when I first started roller blading, that activity wasn’t an option. I requested it and a few months later I was notified they had calibrated that activity.

Whoop Value Capture:

Whoop is very expensive when compared to the standard Fitbit fitness monitor, charging $18-$30/month depending on the membership length vs. $100- $150 for a Fitbit [5]. The typical fitness monitor lasts up to 5 years[6], meaning Fitbit captures $100-$150 every five years while Whoop captures over 10x that number in the same period ($1,080-$1,800, depending on the membership durations purchased). Whoop also does not monetize personal data from users which anecdotally generates customer loyalty and partially justifies the high price point [7].

Outlook: Challenges and Opportunities

In terms of near-term opportunities, Whoop may upgrade its hardware which may enable even more data collection and more sophisticated insights. However, with Google’s acquisition of Fitbit, Apple entering the personalized fitness industry with the Apple Watch and Fitness+ (and let’s face it, Amazon is definitely going to come up with something too, knowing Bezos), Whoop is in a very crowded market with some very well resourced players. However, Whoop currently and unambiguously has the best fitness service/product on the market and is targeted at fitness geeks like me. Their biggest challenge will be to stay ahead of the well-resourced competition. However, their focus on continually improving the product, as well as developing their community through teams, social media, blogs and podcasts (which I didn’t mention but were used for the majority of the research of this post), has created fanatical customers and has captured the hearts and minds of key opinion leaders like Joe Rogan. With their recent $100M fundraising round [1], they look well positioned to continue to create and capture value and help athletes be all they can be!



[1] Labs, DI. 2021. “WHOOP CEO: Investing In Your WHOOP Membership”. Whoop.com. https://www.whoop.com/thelocker/ceo-investing-in-your-membership/?utm_source=members&utm_campaign=the-locker&utm_medium=email&utm_content=ceo-investing-in-your-membership&_ke=eyJrbF9lbWFpbCI6ICJvbWFyLmFib3VsZXp6QGdtYWlsLmNvbSIsICJrbF9jb21wYW55X2lkIjogIlBBQm5XSyJ9.

[2] Labs, DI. 2021. “Podcast No. 74: The Story Of WHOOP”. Whoop.com. https://www.whoop.com/thelocker/podcast-74-story-of-whoop/.

[3] Labs, DI. 2021. “Knowing Your Baseline: Case Studies In Respiratory Rate In Time Of COVID-19”. Whoop.com. https://www.whoop.com/thelocker/case-studies-respiratory-rate-covid-19/.

[4] Rogan, Joe. 2021. “Sober October Whoop Post”. Instagram.com. https://www.instagram.com/p/B3m7LAtFXAE/?hl=en.

[5] Oney, Matt. 2021. “Whoop 3.0 Vs Fitbit: Which Is 2021’S Best Activity Tracker? – Zenmaster”. Zenmaster. https://zenmasterwellness.com/whoop-vs-fitbit/.

[6] “The Best Fitness Trackers For 2021 | Digital Trends”. 2021. Digital Trends. https://www.digitaltrends.com/wearables/best-fitness-trackers/#:~:text=Fitness%20trackers%20can%20last%20up%20to%20five%20years.

[7] Labs, DI. 2021. “Whoop Privacy Principles”. Whoop.com. https://www.whoop.com/privacy/whoop-privacy-principles/.


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Student comments on Whoop: Operationalizing Fitness Data to Help Athletes

  1. Love a good Harvard success story! This product seems targeted toward a very niche segment of people who need personal data at this level of depth. It seems like the vast majority of potential users would probably get enough from their FitBits or Apple Watches to meet their needs with a product that integrates into their daily lives more seamlessly. It’ll be really interesting to see how Whoop evolves over time and whether they stay in this “up-market” niche or try to get broad appeal (e.g., partnering with other hardware providers to be a data backend).

    1. I agree that this product certainly does target more intense athletes. This definitely overshoots for most consumers. I really hope whoop continues to evolve up market as I see applications in sports, outdoor work (construction/mining/forestry) and the military. Furthermore, I hope that they can one day make deals with insurance companies to reduce people’s premiums based on how well they take care of themselves!

  2. Really interesting article Omar! I have heard of Whoop before and always wondered how it worked without a screen on the device – do you see that as a limitation?

    I notice you said that they don’t sell user data, which is great. But I definitely get concerned about user privacy/ security regardless when one app holds so much personal information about its users. Recently, there was a settlement with the company Flo, an app that tracks women’s periods, for selling user data. This was a pretty interesting read: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/28/us/period-apps-health-technology-women-privacy.html

    1. Yeah the lack of a screen is actually a selling point for some people. When I workout, I have my phone on which acts as my personal coach, displaying live heart rate, strain, and calories and coaching you on when you’re pushing past the optimal limit. Personally, I don’t want another screen on my wrist but can totally understand why folks would want that based on the wild popularity of the Apple watch.

      Yeah, I read about Flo selling data and immediately asking my girlfriends at the time to switch apps since I found that to cross a line of medical privacy that was unacceptable. I hope whoops stay principled on this point!

  3. Interesting post! At the high price level Whoop charges (monthly subscription that adds up quickly) relative to close comps (e.g., Oura Ring, Fitbit), I believe they will have to be at the forefront of data analysis to push out new features and validate their cost. Another option will be for them to productize / sell data to others to potentially subsidize the monthly subscription.

    1. That could potentially happen, although I wouldn’t be comfortable with this data out there. For example, if advertisers know that you slept poorly on a specific day, thus reducing your will power, they may aggressively market on that day. I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be handing over that kind of information.

      Separately, I do hope focuses its investments more on the product than on marketing efforts to continue to stay upmarket.

  4. Interesting industry, great company, state-of-the-art product! Thanks for this article Omar!

    I can think of two opportunities that have not been covered yet in the blog post or above comments: health insurance and B2B.

    I truly believe health insurance companies are eager to reduce their fees if people capture health data and follow-up on recommendations to lower their health risks.

    Employers too are important stakeholders when it comes to the physical and mental health of their employers. I know Whoop is already tapping into this market but I am also convinced there is still a lot of money on the table in this segment.

    Looking forward to our class discussion.

  5. Thanks Omar, as a Whoop user I enjoyed this post. One thing I’ve always wondered about is the next frontier for Whoop. As a user I would say my insights top out after ~3 months and I feel like they’ll need new categories (beyond HRV, RHR, Respiratory Rate) to aid my learning.

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