Professional athletes can be worth millions of dollars to their teams, and there’s a slew of tech companies working to protect those athletes from injury using a somewhat surprising shield: Data.
One of those companies, Athos, raised a bunch of money Wednesday from a bunch of investors, including Warriors majority owner and Kleiner Perkins VC Joe Lacob (he also invested in an earlier round). Athos raised $35.5 million in total, and the round was led by Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital. Palihapitiya, a former Facebook exec, is also a minority owner of the Warriors and an Athos co-founder. Other investors include, manufacturer MAS Holdings, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Felix Capital and existing investors DMC and True Ventures.
As Lauren Goode reported here in March when she tried out the product, Athos offers workout shirts and pants laced with sensors that monitor body activity and movement that is then transferred wirelessly to a smartphone. They are used by some professional athletes, including Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Mathews, according to Palihapitiya, but at almost $400 retail for the shirt and sensors, it’s probably too expensive for most casual athletes.
The company has two goals: To help athletes perform better and to avoid injury by better understanding the nuances of their workouts. Athos claims the technology can tell you, for instance, how much “effort” you’re exerting during a workout. The hope is that identifying which muscles are fatigued or overworked will prevent injuries and speed recovery.
Eventually, CEO Dhananja Jayalath thinks, the technology will make its way onto fields and courts by way of professional athletes. The new money is earmarked to both scale up Athos’ manufacturing efforts and build its brand. Both Jayalath and Palihapitiya told Re/code that they are gunning for industry leader Nike.
“We’re going to try and build a Nike killer,” said Palihapitiya. “Are humans and individuals satisified with a waffle sole and an air pocket?”
Adds Jayalath: “We want to crush them.”
Don’t expect that to happen any time soon, of course. Nike has a market cap of over $100 billion and a 50-year head start. In fact, the NBA’s apparel deal with Adidas (and in a few years, Nike) may be what’s keeping Athos from infiltrating actual Warriors practices.* The players can use Athos apparel to work out privately, but it isn’t used at official team practices, Jayalath said. It’s not entirely clear if the NBA’s apparel deal is the reason, but given Athos has two Warriors owners as investors it’s a possible explanation.
Eventually, though, he hopes it will be. And he hopes that consumers spending hundreds on Nike and Lululemon attire will one day switch to gear that provides a little more feedback.
Athos isn’t the only company getting into sensor-laden apparel. Re/code profiled Exos back in February, a similar technology used by numerous college football programs and athletes preparing for their NFL futures. Here’s a closer look at that technology for those interested.
*Correction: An initial version of this story said the NBA had an apparel deal with Nike, but that deal doesn’t go into effect until the 2017-18 NBA season.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.