THE BIG IDEA Launched with Kickstarter funding in 2012, Peloton Interactive Inc. is an exercise equipment and media company that has successfully disrupted the home fitness space in the U.S. In just seven years, the company grew exponentially, reaching a value of $4 billion by spring 2019. Peloton’s success was driven by the vision of co-founder and CEO John Foley, who spotted an opportunity to bring a customized, boutique exercise experience into users’ homes. Instead of meeting schedules of studio-based spinning classes with rigid timetables, Peloton customers could purchase a stationary exercise bike and pay a monthly subscription to access sessions remotely via livestream or on-demand through a library containing thousands of pre-recorded classes at Peloton studios in New York and hosted by fitness instructors with minor-celebrity status. Between 2012 and 2019, the company’s organic growth was fueled by a unique admixture of key factors: a highly flexible and rewarding fitness experience built around interactive technology, the star power of iconic instructors who were social media influencers, a sense of competition between users based on individuals’ personal progress, and a vibrant online community of engaged and motivated customer brand ambassadors. In 2017, Peloton expanded to treadmills and continued to expand its offerings, from yoga to weight training. In late August of 2019, Peloton filed for an initial public offering, listing itself as a technology, media, software, product, experience, fitness, design, retail, apparel, logistics company — but above all as a “social connection company that enables our community to support one another.” In preparing for the IPO, however, it was not obvious how Peloton could resolve the complexity of this business model. Customers’ connection to the brand was through the instructors, and relationships hinged on the dispersed community Peloton created. There was no single voice for the company. How could a business built on a social community pivot to a position in the public marketplace? THE SCENARIO Finding a corporate voice was not the only challenge facing Peloton, though. The company’s first television advertising campaign was considered sexist, causing widespread customer backlash. Meanwhile, the company’s success in disrupting the market had opened the doors to other newcomers ready to compete in the at-home fitness space. But perhaps the most acute difficulty that Peloton had to navigate was the market situation. Opening at $27 per share — below its IPO pricing of $29 per share — the offering raised $1.16 billion and initially valued the company at $8.1 billion. However, following its market debut, shares tumbled by 11 percent, bringing its market value down to $7.2 billion and making it the second worst debut for a unicorn startup of the year.

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