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eFit Sees Niche to Fill

Specialized news sites devoted to sports, entertainment and crime news are now successful, so the establishment of a site devoted to fitness is almost a no-brainer.

It's surprising that it has taken this long. Later this month, eFit will debut and, if its sponsors are correct, become the information center for millions of people who seek to lose weight, eat right, and stay in shape.

"This isn't designed for athletes," said founder and president Charles Platkin. "We will give people the opportunity to feel more fit, and have a better lifestyle."

Once online, eFit will follow the "more is better" philosophy that drives many Internet databases. A 15-member editorial staff will update original content on a daily basis, but that's only the beginning. Platkin hopes to add 30 to 50 articles each day from various sources. Along with this, a locator for gyms and healthy restaurants will point you to such places in your area. A recipe database will tell people how to cook healthy, tasty meals. And the e-commerce aspect will be predictably thorough: 60,000 products from vitamins to sporting goods will be available from the site.

Other aspects are somewhat less predictable. Several celebrity athletes have already agreed to conduct individual training sessions, culminating in a one-on-one weekend, which will be auctioned to the highest bidder.

While the celebrity auction is obviously for the well-heeled, "normal" people who want to stay in shape will still benefit from the site. By registering and answering a series of questions, the site will offer personalized advice about what to eat and which exercises to attempt.

The company sponsored an "angel round" early this year, raising $2 million from associated businesses and other relationships that acted both as the seed money and the first round of venture capital. Platkin expects to begin a second round just after the first of the year.

Platkin said fundraising is generally successful, adding that the company's preferred New York location has not sat well with some investors. "The funds aren't as fluid if you aren't in Silicon Valley," he said. "But we are intent on staying in New York because of its access to the media world."

Since the dual fascination with Internet and fitness isn't likely to subside, investors feel that a company that combines both obsessions is a pretty good bet.

"I highly believe in the space and the people behind the company," said angel investor Manny Pearlman, general partner of Gemini Partners II LP. "The health and fitness space on the Internet has been woefully underserved. And as they go through the process, they will discover additional sources of revenue."

Pearlman adds that eFit does not compete with health clubs, but rather allows people who are working out to become better informed. "The health club industry does not compete with the Internet; you cannot lift a barbell online," he said.


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