Avrum Elmakis might have 99 problems, but a lack of investors ain’t one.
The founder and CEO of CLMBR, a Denver-based startup making an 8-foot-tall vertical climbing machine, closed last month on a $13.5 million funding round involving 29 investors — including celebrities like Jay-Z.
While Elmakis declined to name all the investors, he said participants included Pitbull, entertainer Ryan Seacrest, tennis player Novak Djokovic, celebrity fashion stylist June Ambrose, and YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley, along with the rapper known for his song “99 Problems.”
“Professional athletes and entertainers are typically paid by companies to endorse a product. So, in my opinion, it’s rare to see them personally investing,” Elmakis said “This is pretty unique considering the level of folks that participated.”
Elmakis said he built up the network of investors, none of which are institutional, through friends, family and board members.
He plans to use the $13.5 million to double his staff of 30 by the end of the year, invest in inventory and technology and open a new Denver headquarters. Since February, the company has been operating out of 8,000 square feet in the ANB Bank building at 3033 E. 1st Ave. in Cherry Creek.
The entrepreneur introduced CLMBR to the market in April 2020. The machine uses both the upper and lower body for a high-intensity cardio workout combined with resistance training. It features a library of on-demand, instructor-led classes and climbing challenges that are subscription based. CLMBR is being sold to both consumers, as well as commercial gyms.
“At-home fitness is a big topic and an emerging trend in the U.S.,” Elmakis said. “And from an athlete’s perspective, climbing on a CLMBR is more efficient because it takes less time to burn calories, safer because it’s in an aligned up-right position, and it takes up very little room.”
Last year, CLMBR raised $1.3 million and sold 600 machines through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Elmakis said since then, the company has sold several thousand additional units.
No machines have actually been shipped from the company’s manufacturer in Taiwan, but Elmakis said that should start at the end of June.
“COVID-19 has done a number on the global supply chain for everybody,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re shipping.”
Customers can purchase the climbing machine for $2,500 on the CLMBR website. Come July, they can test it out at the startup’s upcoming showroom in the former Corner Beet location at 165 St. Paul St. in Cherry Creek or at the B8ta store in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center.
Elmakis has also converted his Highlands Rise Nation franchise into a studio for CLMBR, filming tutorial and workout videos for the machine’s user interface. He still owns one Rise Nation franchise next to the Cherry Creek showroom.
Elmakis, who called CLMBR “the next Peloton,” said it will be “some time” before the company is able to experience a traditional inventory situation.
“You never know as an entrepreneur how your idea or vision will be received externally until you put it out there and the reception has been nothing short of astonishing,” he said.
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