August 14, 2023 // On top of having extensive careers in real estate and the energy industry, Canadian entrepreneurs Bruce Timm and Dean Zipse are also passionate about wellness.
That passion led the business duo to sign a development deal with emerging brand Upgrade Labs to open the biohacking concept in Calgary, Alberta and Vancouver, British Columbia. The agreement marks the brand’s entrance into Canada.
Founded in 2017 by Dave Asprey, who also launched Bulletproof Coffee, Upgrade Labs uses technology and equipment to help customers with “biohacking.” Asprey defines biohacking as the “use of science, biology and self-experimentation” to upgrade a person’s body.
Services at Upgrade Labs include resistance training, cryotherapy, toxin elimination and more, allowing customers to both work out and recover.
Zipse, who brings a background in developing public and private North American energy service companies, said he and Timm, whose experience is in real estate, would often share tips, tricks, shortcuts and podcasts about wellness with each other. Eventually, that research led them to discovering the concept of biohacking, which led to a business idea.
“We knew that people were looking to take their health and longevity into their own hands,” Zipse said. “We also knew to enter the fitness space, you had to offer incredible value. The current fitness market is time consuming. So, we started developing a concept of efficient fitness and recovery facilities. It was during our design and concept phase that we ended up discovering Upgrade Labs.”
Realizing the franchise route was available, the pair changed course and approached the brand. The deal will allow the Calgary-based duo to open several locations across two markets in western Canada.
“We thought it was important to open in both Calgary and Vancouver,” Zipse said. “Vancouver is an hour away from the mountains, it has an active and growing population, and it has an aging population. By opening there, we can capture clients who are active, and appeal to the segment of the population that’s getting older and realizing that improved fitness is essential.”
Initially, Zipse said they will open three locations in each market, with the first set to open later this year. Eventually, Zipse said he could see them opening nine to 12 units.
According to Michael Moore, the director of franchise development at Upgrade Labs, expanding into Canada is a natural progression.
“Our initial intent from the very beginning was opening across all of North America,” Moore said. “Finding that right first partner is key, though, and that’s what makes them a great partner. They’ve been international business developers for a couple decades. While we don’t always need that criteria or level of experience from an owner, it was certainly a bonus for them to be the first.”
Upgrade Labs has three units open so far, two of them franchised. Its company-owned facility is in Santa Monica, California, while it has franchised units in the Boise, Idaho, and Salt Lake City markets. Both franchised sites opened this year.
Along with the latest Canada deal, Moore said the brand has deals signed for expansion in Austin, TX, Charlotte, NC, Nashville, TN, and Seattle, WA. As the brand continues its growth, Moore said Upgrade Labs will be on the lookout for franchisees who resonate with the biohacking concept.
“In the franchise world, that franchisee becomes the brand,” Moore said. “We’re going to be there, and we’re going to help them to a successful opening. But ultimately, the franchisee becomes the concept in that market, so they need to have their own connection to this. If they have prior experience, having started a company or been a franchisee, that simply enhances their story and allows them to hit the ground running.”
The average size of an Upgrade Labs ranges from 2,500 to 2,800 square feet. The initial investment to open a unit is between $633,000 and $1.40 million.