Whoop is making a big splash in the Fenway.
The wearable-tech company said Thursday that it will lease eight floors in a new building in the heart of Kenmore Square to open a new global headquarters with room for hundreds more employees.
Whoop will move into 121,000 square feet in One Kenmore Square, the office complex development firm Related Beal is building beneath the Citgo sign along Commonwealth Ave. and Beacon Streets, when it opens next year. The spot will give the fast-growing company a high-profile perch in its hometown, on the final stretch of the Boston Marathon course and steps from Fenway Park, with easy access to Longwood Medical Area, Kendall Square, and several local universities.
“Boston has been a terrific place to build Whoop,” said founder and CEO Will Ahmed. “And we felt like Boston is a great place to continue to grow.”
Other cities — Ahmed mentioned Austin, Texas, Miami, and San Francisco — have courted the nine-year-old company, which last fall raised a $100 million funding round that valued Whoop at $1.2 billion. But Ahmed said Boston’s blend of healthcare, technology, and sports culture made it the perfect place for his company to grow.
And grow they have, especially of late. Launched in 2012, Whoop had 100 employees at the start of 2020, Ahmed said. Today it has 500, and is on track for about 1,000 by the time the new building opens next year.
Most of those people are in Boston and will be, largely, in-person once the pandemic lifts and people can return safely to offices. The decision to lease a big new office right now, Ahmed said, speaks to how highly the company values in-person work.
“We believe that physical space is an important marker for a company that’s doing deeply innovative work,” he said. “The world’s most innovative companies will have physical space for the world’s best engineers and others to collaborate.”
The deal is also a sign that Boston’s office market is beginning to perk up from its pandemic doldrums, which have brought vacancy rates to their highest level in a decade and slowed new leasing to a crawl. Whoop’s lease is one of the biggest expansions signed in the city since COVID-19 hit last spring, and will fill at least one chunk of the millions of square feet of new office space that’s set to open over the next couple of years.
Related Beal launched on its 326,000-square-foot One Kenmore project before the pandemic, and Whoop will now fill one of what is effectively two neighboring buildings. The second building, 198,000 square feet, is being aimed at life science tenants. The mix of sports, tech, and science that is emerging in and around the Fenway and the nearby Longwood Medical Area is drawing a lot of interest, said Related Beal president Kimberly Sherman Stamler.
“Kenmore Square is one of Boston’s most vibrant neighborhoods, making it the perfect home for an innovative company like Whoop,” she said in a statement. “Whoop’s focus on vitality, physiology and innovation will benefit from One Kenmore Square’s proximity to outstanding medical, cultural and academic institutions.”
That mix of industries is what Whoop grew up around.
Co-founded by Ahmed, a former Harvard University squash player, out of Harvard Innovation Labs in Allston, the company has a 30,000 square-foot office on Boylston Street in the Fenway — which it plans to keep along with the new office in Kenmore Square.
Whoop sells a wearable wristband that monitors users’ heart rates, sleep patterns, and other data and provides health advice through a monthly subscription service.
Long popular with athletes and fitness enthusiasts, Whoop’s products have grown in popularity among other people who want to understand their bodies better, particularly with regard to exercise, diet, and rest, and how they interact. That popularity has in turn drawn even more athletes, now as investors. Patrick Mahomes, Kevin Durant, and Rory McIlroy were among the big names who bought into the company’s fundraising round last year.
That money is fueling more hiring, which necessitates the new office. Attracting top talent is essential for a fast-growing company like Whoop, Ahmed said, and they plan to design their space in One Kenmore to be the sort of place where employees want to come to work, even if these days they could perhaps work at home.
“The stakes for having an office post-COVID are much higher,” he said. “It needs to be a place where people feel inspired to go, not obligated to go.”