RunKeeper raises $10M to become the Facebook of fitness

RunKeeper has raced past its original concept as a mobile app to track runs to become a health network that ties together all manner of fitness data. Now, it’s raising $10 million to fuel its transformation to become a sort of Facebook for fitness.

Boston-based RunKeeper, which previously raised $1.5 million, is getting the new money from Spark Capital and Steve Case’s Revolution Ventures, which are joining existing investor OATV, the venture arm of O’Reilly Media, which is also chipping in this round. The money will be used to expand RunKeeper’s 14-person team to 40 people by the end of 2012 and build out its Health Graph API, the base of its new consumer health platform. Spark’s Bijan Sabet is joining the board, and Revolution Ventures President Tige Savage is joining as a board observer.

RunKeeper started out by integrating with fitness devices and apps one at a time, and in June, opened a Health Graph API to welcome all potential partners to build off its platform. The platform now has almost 40 integrations completed, with several hundred more in development. RunKeeper isn’t just working with apps and devices; it’s integrating with companies building atop this aggregated health data, such as corporate wellness platform Limeade, fitness rewards platforms Earndit, and fitness games  start-up Fitocracy.

Jason Jacobs, CEO and co-founder of RunKeeper, said the timing is right for a consumer health platform to gather and organize all the health information flowing from new devices and apps. He said the goal for RunKeeper isn’t to pursue any one particular opportunity exclusively but remain thin and horizontal, capturing and organizing a lot of data in various categories. That, he told me, will open up a lot of opportunities for RunKeeper and other companies looking to build upon its platform:

There are all these different opportunities once you have users and data, and we want to provide the platform and foundation that others can build upon. There are all these point systems emerging focusing on running, disease management, stress, cycling or sleep. On the one hand, it’s very powerful to track, measure and learn from each part of your health, but the flip side is the more these point systems proliferate, the more fragmented the experience becomes. And something has to be the glue to tie all these systems together and provide a central view. We think there are some big companies that will emerge in this category, and we’re hoping we’re one of them.

The company made a key decision last January to temporarily eliminate the $9.99 price for its RunKeeper Pro app and quickly made the price drop permanent. That helped more than more than triple RunKeeper’s users in the past year to more than 6 million people. And it helped set RunKeeper on its course toward becoming a health platform, as it looks to track more health information than just exercise data. Since launching in 2008, RunKeeper has tracked more than 350 million health data items from its members, who have logged more than 156 million miles.

RunKeeper is making some smart moves to capitalize on the growing momentum in health apps and sensor devices. It can only grow so fast by integrating health data itself but it’s got a good shot at being the central hub for the data coming out of these devices such as Jawbone’s UP, the Basis watch, Striiv, the Q Sensor and other devices.

I think this opportunity will only grow as more companies look to wellness programs to get their workers more healthy. Corporate wellness platforms can get up to speed quickly by incorporating the data coming from RunKeeper. As Jacobs said, there are a lot of opportunities emerging in mobile health, and RunKeeper is well-positioned, I think, to take advantage of it.