Massage therapy has many significant benefits including improved circulation, reduced heart rate and blood pressure, improved immune function, reduced inflammation and pain, and alleviated stress levels. Despite these benefits, there has been very little innovation in the industry and it’s largely been dependent on a manual workforce; a workforce that is facing a shortage of over 29,000 therapists. This has led to a multi-billion-dollar revenue loss in revenue for the industry in the US alone. Aescape has built an automated message therapy solution in the form of a modern, sleek massage table that mimics human touch while providing data-driven insights. The company is targeting the hospitality, wellness, and athletic markets for the holistic Aescape Experience that was developed by a team of performance, AI, healthcare, fitness, and robotics industry experts. Born out of the founder’s personal experience with finding treatment options for his own neck stiffness, Aescape is on a mission to make massage therapy accessible once its launches in late 2023.
AlleyWatch caught up with Aescape CEO and Founder Eric Litman to learn more about the business, the company’s strategic plans, latest round of funding, and much, much more…
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Aescape raised $30M in a Series A funding round led by Valor Siren Ventures and Valor Equity Partners, an early investor in Tesla and SpaceX, Fifth Wall, and Alley Robotics Ventures, and from existing investors including Crosslink Capital, Alumni Ventures, and NBA Champion and All-Star Kevin Love.
Tell us about the product or service that Aescape offers.
Aescape is helping multiple industries meet the growing demand for physical wellness and recovery services by delivering a labor augmentation solution that enables hotels to increase customer demand, satisfaction, and retention through an innovative massage therapy solution. According to Forbes, the wellness industry has seen a 21% growth in wellness tourism, yet the U.S. massage industry is losing $4B annually due to a labor shortage of 29,000+ therapists (iSPA 2022).
Aescape delivers a beautifully-designed, fully-automated, therapeutic massage and wellness experience that leaves people feeling healthier, happier, and restored.
Benefits to service providers include:
- Fulfills demand through 24/7 availability to supplement labor shortage and ability to service members
- New revenue streams by capturing demand and offering add-on services
- Generating repeat customers through convenience and efficiency of the experience and ability to drive in-the-moment bookings
- Boosting brand perception for providers as an innovator and industry pioneer
- Servicing and retaining existing therapists – alternative treatment gives more flexibility in staff planning; with Aescape, massage therapy becomes a perk to on-staff therapists who work long hours and need massage treatments themselves
What inspired the start of Aescape?
I founded Aescape in 2017 to serve a personal pain point: a debilitating stiffness in my neck that was compromising my quality of life. As a frequent traveler, I struggled to find consistency between treatments, and with no other solution in sight, I set out to create a product that would empower people to take control of their own experiences.
The Aescape Experience is 5+ years in the making, built by some of the most renowned talent in robotics and human performance, with previous experience at Accenture, Amazon, Apple, FitBit, Intuitive Surgical, Peloton, and Tonal.
How is Aescape different?
Aescape is unique in that it offers a full-automated, self-directed massage therapy solution for those looking to take more control of their treatment regimen. Members can opt into treatment styles and lengths that match how they think about their own needs, while the system provides an insightful, intuitive tablet display with interactive tools to control the areas of focus, pressure, and sequencing of the treatment.
Massage therapy programs offered are curated in collaboration with highly-skilled therapists to deliver a remarkable and unparalleled experience.
The platform tracks each member’s sessions and delivers recommendations and solutions to optimize treatment plans and understand their bodies. Over time, Aescape will report on improvements to one’s body, and through connected apps, will be able to show the benefits of Aescape in correlation to mindfulness, better sleep, and fitness/athletic performance.
What market does Aescape target and how big is it?
Aescape is for anyone looking to live a healthier, happier life. The total market opportunity for The Aescape Experience is estimated at 39% of adults or 101 million potential triers. Research with 4,000 respondents points to a potential net-new audience of 4M who don’t currently get massages due to body barriers like being naked in front of or touched by a stranger – who said they would opt into The Aescape Experience after seeing video of it.
What’s your business model?
We partner with businesses that provide massage services. Our team installs, trains, and supports the businesses that use the Aescape Experience, and we provide ongoing product and treatment updates over time.
How are you preparing for a potential economic slowdown?
We’ve just raised an additional $30M to support our team through whatever market conditions we may face ahead. Our company is run by disciplined operators who have been through multiple economic downturns, and we are of the belief that some of the best businesses in the world are built during challenging times.
What was the funding process like?
With a compelling product and significant market traction, we found the capital markets to be remarkably receptive to this round of financing. We received multiple, high-quality terms sheets from tier-one investors, and ultimately partnered with Valor for their experience in building sustainable, deep-tech brands.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Our challenges were in raising earlier rounds, where proof points were lighter.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our massage experience is outstanding and fits with our message of “try once, believe forever.” The market is clearly showing that they believe in what we’re building, and our thoughtful approach to capital allocation positions us to define and lead this category.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
- Our go-to-market product will be ready for alpha and beta testing
- We will invite signed partners to pilot the latest innovation at Aescape HQ
- We will introduce Aescape at a partner mid-next year and use the location to gain learns for product optimization
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Prove yourself in your market as early as possible. Be crafty in how you do so – it doesn’t need to be a traditional approach to validation.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We are accelerating growth with partners who view themselves as innovators and category pioneers. We will collaborate with partners to define the experience, pricing and go-to-market strategy.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Too many to narrow to one! Strangeways for brunch. Chino Grande for tons of fun. Aldama for crispy tuna tacos. The Mary Lane for a lovely dinner. Szechuan Mountain House for spicy, shareable plates. Amor y Amargo for fun cocktails.