Laura Fullerton, Founder and CEO of Monk


In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Laura Fullerton, founder and CEO of Monk, creator of a smart cold water therapy system. Laura shares how barriers to getting a cold plunge fix led to creating a connected experience for high-performers.

Tell us about Monk.

Laura Fullerton: Monk is a healthtech startup launching the world’s first smart ice bath and cold water therapy (CWT) app.

It combines beautiful hardware with cutting-edge technology to help people use CWT safely and effectively while unlocking its mental, physical and emotional benefits.

Whether you’re seeking muscle recovery or improved mental health, Monk will take you there with personalised, guided plunges, immersive soundscapes and breathwork. Plus, our technology integrates with wearables like WHOOP, Oura, Garmin and many more, quantifying the impacts on important biometrics like HRV and sleep.

To date, most of the baths on the market are large, clunky and don’t fit through doorways (cranes are often hired!). Internally, they’re empty tins with no ergonomics, so you rattle around uncomfortably inside. Aesthetically, most have separate cooling units plugged into the bath with wires everywhere, and no one else has any smart functionality.

By putting customer experience first and creating a product that’s mass producible at a better price point, I believe Monk will lead, shape and disrupt this market.

What led you to pursue this opportunity?

LF: The opportunity rose from pure frustration! I’ve always hated being cold, so when I was invited to a breathwork and ice bath workshop, I wasn’t thrilled.

But I did it, and something switched. I felt incredible afterwards and loved the clarity, focus and the natural high that I experienced. I wanted to do it again, but I quickly found that it was inaccessible.

The unattractive £12,500 ice baths on the market were too expensive, so I bought endless bags of ice for my bath at home, used frozen-over horse water troughs and broke into Hampstead Heath ponds at night during lockdown just to get my fix.

The final straw was when I came across a private Facebook group that had 6K members (now over 36K) and was dedicated to turning your own chest freezer into a DIY ice bath.

I figured that if there were this many people willing to get electrocuted – or in my case, got sick with E. coli from my ill-advised lockdown plunge – because there was nothing meeting their needs, there had to be a better way.

How did you turn your idea into a company?

LF: First, I needed to know I wasn’t crazy. I took the idea to [wellness entrepreneur] Lee Forster (who’s now my chairman and investor) for brutally honest feedback. Over the eight years I’ve known him, I’ve bribed him with food and drink to help me structure deals, navigate challenges and test new ideas, and he’d torn every business plan to shreds… until Monk.

The next challenge was that hardware and software are capital intensive, and so I needed to raise money while Monk was just a concept in my head. I’ve had two previous businesses which I’d bootstrapped (and exited), so this was a new territory.

I ultimately raised £485K from a brilliant cohort of investors, from multi-billion-pound founders like James Watt from BrewDog, famous athletes (who I’m not allowed to name, yet!), and technologists.

From running my previous companies to working in others, I know that team is everything, so I’ve surrounded myself with incredible people as investors and advisors to give me the technical support of having a co-founder without actually having one.

How big can this get?

LF: This is an insanely exciting time to be in the cold water therapy space. This movement is about to go mainstream, and it’s already proving to be bigger than we thought.

According to Forbes, in 2019, the cold-water plunge pool segment was worth $298M, and it’s set to nearly double and hit $490M by 2029.

However, recent signs are suggesting that it’s going to be bigger than that. One competitor did $30M in revenue last year and is on track to do $80M this year in the US alone, and they’re struggling to meet demand with a product that’s not manufacturable at scale.

I believe Monk’s opportunity is akin to what Peloton did. Exercise bikes had been around since the ’60s, but they swooped in with a beautiful, connected device that totally transformed the market. Akin to that, with our connected hardware and software offering, we’re creating an immersive experience that allows people to follow a personalised plunge regimen.

Cold plunge could be on the same trajectory as meditation and mindfulness too. In the early days of Calm, Michael Acton Smith found it hard to raise money because people thought meditation was “some weird thing reserved for hippies”, and look at it now.

CWT is going to become so normalised, and I see a world where people are plunging rather than reaching for a morning coffee.

How do you reach your core customer?

LF: Monk is both D2C and B2B. We’ve been fortunate to grow our waitlist organically to over 3K people, including world-famous athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo and business leaders like Steven Bartlett. And we’ve secured partnerships with luxury hospitality partners, members clubs and sports clubs to follow soon.

The core D2C audience is made up of biohackers and high-performers: business leaders, aspirational athletes, holistic health seekers and anyone who wants to be at the top of their game.

As research evolves and the movement goes more mainstream, more audiences will open up. For example, there’s fascinating upcoming research into the neuroprotective benefits of CWT, showing that it can slow neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, which makes it more appealing to a slightly older demographic too.

What’s next on the roadmap?

LF: The next few months are huge! We’ll be launching our app, taking pre-orders for the Monk tub, closing our seed raise, and shipping our first units shortly after.

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