The story of Bryson DeChambeau’s investment in Proteus Motion’s training system started with a $20 Instagram ad buy.
Proteus Motion has spent years developing its signature system, an anchored arm that provides resistance in three dimensions (like performing a motion under water) and can measure strength output on any movement. But as the company begins ramping up production while managing a backlog of order requests, it has done little in the way of marketing.
So, Proteus Motion CEO Sam Miller was shocked this spring when he was told that DeChambeau had come across the equipment via a sponsored Instagram post. “I can pretty much guarantee that the Instagram ad was, like, our content director doing some AB tests with a $20 promotion,” Miller said in an interview. “It’s kind of incredible. I think I have to give our content director a nice little bonus.”
When DeChambeau saw the ad, he quickly sent the company a direct message. That part wasn’t a surprise. The PGA Tour’s “geekiest golfer,” the former physics student prides himself on finding every tech-related training advantage he can.
“You wouldn’t believe how many times I get stuff in the mail claiming to be the next greatest, latest thing,” DeChambeau said. “I’m looking for things that… have an immediate impact on my performance.”
This time he was instantly intrigued by Proteus’ ability to measure the speed and power of his motion as well as his strength. “We had a call that night to talk about it,” DeChambeau said. “That’s how quickly I moved.” Other top athletes, including the NBA’s Damian Lillard and MLB’s Noah Syndergaard, have used the equipment at local facilities.
A day later, DeChambeau visited a Dallas gym that had the arm installed, meeting with Proteus’ performance director, who was fresh off a last-second flight from San Francisco. After a few more trial workouts, the next step was DeChambeau getting one for his home gym. But Proteus Motion still only has roughly 50 machines available, “and we’re not in the business of giving away machines for free,” Miller said. Which is how the conversation turned to investment.
Around the time Miller was having weekly calls with DeChambeau, he was closing a $3 million seed round that valued the startup at $40 million. HBSE Ventures and the Hospital for Special Surgery were among the round’s backers. The golfer joined the round at the same terms as other investors, who were understanding when he leapfrogged them on the device’s waiting list.
DeChambeau will also help the company further develop its tech. During a call, he rattled off potential use cases for the tool. “I think they’re only working within maybe 10% of what their full capacity is,” he said. “There’s some pretty interesting programming capabilities that you can do to help potentially train in ways that have never been thought of before.” And, when the time is right, he’ll help promote the product too.
Proteus Motion has targeted a business-to-business, and B2B2C, strategy, selling machines to trainers and high-end gyms. It has also focused on the measurement and personalized recommendations components of its business, with its machines tied to a monthly subscription. “The software and the analytics side, that is our entire future,” Miller said. “We’re going really big here.”