By Kate Park
There is a physical activity deficit in our world. Three-fourths of adults say staying in shape is very important for health benefits. Yet, one in four adults and 81% of adolescents are insufficiently physically active, according to the World Health Organization. Even before COVID-19, less than 24% of children 6 to 17 years of age did 60 minutes of physical activity daily, as per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Working from home and staying at home during the pandemic exacerbated being physical inactive. Most people opt for sedentary entertainment that involves minimal movement like watching movies or streaming live concerts, playing video games and throwing virtual parties.
To solve the global problem of inactivity by creating new ways to encourage active play for everyone, NEX, a San Jose and Hong Kong-based motion entertainment startup, is building motion entertainment – content that encourages physical movement. It is now announcing a $25 million Series B round to coincide with launch of Active Arcade, its new mobile AI interactive motion-tracking game.
The new funding was led by Blue Pool Capital, with participation from Samsung Ventures, SparkLabs and Susquehanna. This round also attracted influencers in sports, entertainment industries and business executives including Simu Liu (Shang-Chi), Albert Pujols (LA Dodgers), Thierry Henry (Arsenal Legend), Sabrina Ionescu (WNBA), tech CEOs and founders from YouTube, Dapper Labs, Alchemy, OpenDoor, WordPress and executives from Zendesk, Uber, MasterClass and Facebook.
This latest round comes after NEX raised an $8.5 million Series A in 2019 from the NBA, Will Smith’s Dreamers Fund, and the Alibaba Entrepreneurship Fund. It also previously raised a $4 million seed round from Charmides Capital, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment Ventures and Mandra Capital, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin and Mark Cuban in 2018. Many other leaders in sports, media and technology have also baked NEX.
The Series B round brings NEX’s total raised so far to $40 million.
NEX was founded in 2018 by David Lee, Philip Lam, Reggie Chan and Tony Sung with a mission to transform passive activity into active play through apps like Active Arcade. Its first app, HomeCourt, has been played in more than 200 countries.
“A pandemic drew even more attention to the already huge and growing problem of more sedentary lifestyles across the world,” said Lee, CEO and co-founder of NEX. “Having fun while moving is one of the purest definitions of play. But unlike the old days, the standard of engagement for active play must be on par with the best video games. It was apparent to us that accessible motion-based entertainment was the answer to a global need for more physical activity.”
Some people say that they don’t have enough time for physical activity, but the real problem is the idea that leisure time is supposed to be spent doing things that are fun and easy while getting active is perceived as expensive, time consuming and hard.
NEX’s newly launched Active Arcade, with a collection of motion games, helps both kids and adults move more by playing games. It is accessible to everyone, everywhere by any computing device with a camera, like smartphone, tablets, laptops and desktops.
Unlike other motion-based entertainment companies’ products that require expensive gear like a VR headset, connected hardware or game consoles, NEX develops motion-based entertainment apps without requiring special equipment, monitors, or a subscription.
Anyone can play Active Arcade using their body movement. Each game has different game play, style and depth, so there’s something for players of any age or level of activity.
“There are many high-tech exercise programs global companies developed in the motion-based entertainment industry, but most of them require expensive new equipment or a steep learning curve,” said Alex Wu, vice president of Strategy, MarComm and Partnerships at NEX.
With a proprietary combination of AI using mobile and vision technology, NEX merges the digital and physical worlds into a phone application that can create games like Active Arcade.
This summer, the company launched its limited test version of Active Arcade, Lee said.
NEX launched its first AI-based basketball training app HomeCourt in 2018, which was demoed on stage alongside Steve Nash at an Apple iPhone special event.
“I am constantly looking to invest in companies and products that I can stand behind and that are in line with my values. Nex’s approach to get kids and adults moving more and transforming activity into a play, is a mission I am wholeheartedly behind,” Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets Coach and 2x league MVP said.
“We continue to be proud of the team at NEX as they take this significant next step in transforming activity into play for people around the world,” said Chip Austin, General Partner of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment Ventures. “We embrace their important vision and are impressed by their leadership and technology.”