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Exclusive: Dave Asprey on Upgrade Labs, the World’s First ‘Biohacking’ Franchise
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Exclusive: Dave Asprey on Upgrade Labs, the World’s First ‘Biohacking’ Franchise

Asprey’s franchise concept uses tech to help people optimize six key areas: longevity, muscle mass, stress, cardio, weight loss and brain power

Dave Asprey is synonymous with longevity. An entrepreneur and social media figure known as the “Father of Biohacking,” the Wharton grad created Bulletproof Nutrition, is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular health and wellness podcast, “The Human Upgrade.”

Asprey spoke with Athletech News about his latest endeavor: Upgrade Labs, which he calls the world’s first biohacking and recovery franchise.

Noticing the abundance of gyms, yoga studios and the like, Asprey envisioned a futuristic approach where technology is harnessed to propel health rather than relying on standard practices that have failed many.

“There was all this technology that was sometimes used by special forces or used in a neuroscience clinic, or sometimes used in a professional athlete recovery facility,” Asprey says. “I realized that I had used a lot of this tech — I’d actually bought a million dollars worth of this tech from my own home — and realized the profound benefits.”

Wanting consumers to have access to the same equipment once reserved for only elite-level performers, Asprey was eager to open a space that allows people to get life-changing results at lightning-fast speed. 

With seven Upgrade Labs locations in the U.S. and Canada and more to come, clients can access leading tools, among them an AI Adaptive Bike and The Cheat Machine, both of which accelerate fitness goals based on specific needs. Upgrade Labs also touts a whole-body vibration plate to promote lymphatic movement, an oxygen trainer, a full-body lymphatic detox massage system, PEMF, REDcharger and cryotherapy. 

“Before I bought the gear, I could spend all day driving around Palo Alto,” Asprey shares, emphasizing the frustration that he and many consumers experience without having a facility that meets their biohacking needs under one roof.

“(I thought), ‘How can I pull together stuff that’s data-driven and science-based that would very quickly get me to a goal way faster than I was ever going to get from popping around to different gyms or doing a hot tub here or something somewhere else?’” Asprey says. 

The idea of Upgrade Labs was born. 

High Tech, Fast results

With all the wellness modalities hitting the market, Asprey is clear on what Upgrade Labs clients are most interested in: simplicity and results per minute.

“There’s no longer this idea that you have to go and spend an hour a day,” he says. “(Clients) want to spend 20 minutes a day, and they want to get huge results from doing it. They want to save time and they want to save effort.”

When someone new comes to Upgrade Labs, the facility uses its AI engine and biohacking tech to measure the client’s body and takes a survey to determine the individual’s most important goals.

“What we find is that there’s six big areas that people are asking for, and they’re pretty evenly balanced,” Asprey notes. “The number one, though, is longevity — and that’s at the core of Upgrade Labs.”

Other areas clients want to improve include muscle mass, stress relief, cardio, weight loss and increased brain power, Asprey notes.

credit: Upgrade Labs

Asprey believes the notion of working smarter, not harder, has wide consumer appeal. It’s also one of Upgrade Labs’ differentiating factors.  If a client comes into Upgrade Labs wanting to build muscle but isn’t prepared that day to take on the work, they may be advised to use technology to get their body back into the proper state.

“That’s what sets this apart — it’s ultra-personalized,” Asprey says. “It’s data-driven. It’s backed by AI.”

Asprey also points out that many people are willing to exercise, provided they get quick and measurable results they can feel and see.

“There’s a lot of people who sign up for the gym, and they go for a month,” he notes. “They realize that they didn’t change that much, and they’re tired a lot and took a lot of time, and they stop. That’s why there’s $400 million a year of ghost gym memberships right now.”

An Advocate for GLP-1s

With demand for weight-loss medications soaring, Asprey is a proponent of GLP-1s for those who need it. 

“The risks of being obese are so high that they far outweigh the risks of taking those drugs,” he says of medications such as Ozempic and Wegovy. “But when you take those drugs, you lose muscle mass like crazy. Everyone who’s on that should be coming into Upgrade Labs (to keep their muscle mass.)”

But Asprey is even more interested in what he says is the most powerful tech that Upgrade Labs has: “Brain Upgrade,” a neurofeedback device designed to boost brain function. 

People want to look good, but Asprey points out they also want increased brain power and performance. 

“We manufacture the hardware, the software for creating new states in the brain,” he explains. “This is based on eight years of doing brain upgrades for high-level elite athletes, celebrities and executives at one of my other companies. We’re taking that tech, and we’re taking a mini slice of it and making it so anyone can go in and get world-class brain training.”

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credit: Upgrade Labs

Health Data for Increased Personalization 

As Asprey looks ahead to the future of Upgrade Labs, he says the biohacking company aims to have the world’s top recommendation engine for its clients.

“One of the things that is coming soon is integration with certain types of AI data around your health that would come from a doctor’s office,” he says. “We are in the late stages of some partnerships that will allow us to do that without having to be a medical company.”

Such technology would allow Upgrade Labs to give clients highly personalized, specific interventions and biohacks based on their current constitution while using health data. 

While Upgrade Labs has had to wrangle with competitors looking to move in on the biohacking arena, it still views itself as the unquestioned leader in the space. 

“We’re using clinical-grade gear that has studies behind it. A lot of places are using knockoffs, so you just kind of go in and hope you get results,” Asprey says.

The Move to Franchising

Instead of rushing to franchise, Asprey has been mindful of the process, waiting almost eight years. He confirms Upgrade Labs has dozens of new locations in the pipeline for both the U.S. and Canada.

“If you scale a non-scalable business, you end up with a bunch of angry franchisees. I don’t ever want to be in that situation,” he says. “I didn’t franchise until I knew how to do this in a way that was scalable and that made money.”

As Upgrade Labs looks to maintain its dominance in the biohacking market, which is projected to be worth $63 billion by 2028, prospective franchisees must invest an initial $633,000 – $1.16 million. Single-unit Upgrade Labs franchises require $250,000 minimum liquid capital, whereas multi-unit franchises require $500,000.

Besides next-gen tech, franchisees also benefit from Asprey’s sizable media footprint, given the mass exposure he’s gained from his books, social media presence and podcast.

“A lot of the support for Upgrade Labs franchises comes from a devout community of committed biohackers who get together at the annual Biohacking Conference,” Asprey noted. “That’s kind of ground zero for where the movement started, so it’s nice that the franchises are supported.”

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