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RunKeeper chases down $10 million in new funding, to expand online fitness community

Posted by Scott Kirsner  November 21, 2011 10:00 AM

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The Newbury Street venture capital firm Spark Capital is leading a new $10 million funding round for RunKeeper, a 14-person start-up located just a few blocks away in Boston's South End.

RunKeeper began life in 2008 as part of the first wave of fitness-focused apps for the iPhone, helping runners (or bikers or cross-country skiers) keep track of their pace and routes. But more recently, the company has been evolving into a Web site that lets you upload data from all sorts of devices — like a watch that measures your blood pressure, a wirelessly-connected scale, or a bedside sleep monitor — and share it with friends, if you choose. Just as Facebook created a "social graph" that lets you keep tabs on what's happening within your social network, RunKeeper wants to build the "health graph," by making it easy to store and share data about your epic workouts and dieting triumphs.

RunKeeper raised $1.1 million last November, but founder and CEO Jason Jacobs tells me that the company hasn't had to touch that money. The company's mobile apps are offered for free, but the more fully-featured RunKeeper Elite service costs $20 a year. (It allows you to broadcast your progress in a cycling race live to the Web, for example.)

"While our subscriber base is growing quickly, our focus in the short-term is less on monetization and more on improving the core product, user growth/engagement, and ecosystem development via the Health Graph API," Jacobs writes. (API is the application programming interface that allows other sites and devices to link up with RunKeeper.)

Jacobs says he expects the company to grow from 14 employees to 40 by the end of next year.

According to data the company published in September, RunKeeper has about 6.5 million users. Roughly 70 percent live outside the U.S. Fifty-six percent use it to track their running, 25 percent walking, and 13 percent cycling.

Spark Capital partner Bijan Sabet has been an active RunKeeper user for the past six months, and blogged about the company's competitive position relative to Nike last year. (Sabet is also an investor in fast-growing Web services like Twitter and Tumblr.)

Joining Spark and O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures in the latest funding round is Revolution Ventures, the investment firm run by AOL founder Steve Case.

Here's Jacobs' blog post on "What's Next for RunKeeper," announcing the new funding round.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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