Getting Physic-al

PukeExpresso Fitness Corporation — maker of Web-enabled cardio fitness machines like stationary bikes with different virtual routes that you steer around as if riding in the actual outdoors — just raised a $12 million round of funding. It was the Sunnyvale, Calif., company’s fourth since its founding in 2003.

I mostly noticed the news because the one new investor to join the round — which included Sierra Ventures and Enterprise Partners Venture Capital — is Physic Ventures in San Francisco, a firm that intrigues me. Physic raised its first, $125 million, fund last year, and it may be the only non-biotech/healthcare venture capital firm dedicated solely to startups that help people get and stay healthy.

VentureBeat did a short write-up about the firm early last year when it closed its fund. Apparently, it took over management of a portfolio previously managed by the venture arm of Unilever, the consumer goods conglomerate.

Physic’s site has been down all afternoon, but according to Thomson Reuters’ data, the firm has made five investments so far. One of its portfolio companies is Boulder-based Pharmaca Integrative Pharamacy, an eight-year-old chain of high-end stores that combines conventional prescriptions with herbal remedies. Pharmaca has supercharged growth plans that include opening 80 more over the next few years, using what’s left of the $38 million it has raised thus far. (It’s biggest investor is Highland Capital Partners, which has backed the company in three of its four rounds.) It sounds pretty aggressive to me. Then again, I admit to becoming a frequent visitor to the Pharmaca location in San Francisco’s Cole Valley neighborhood. I can’t resist the bamboo flooring, tea room, organic beauty supplies and candles. The store has completely changed my toothpaste-buying experience.

Another Physic Ventures’s company is Dreamerz, a San Francisco-based company that makes “natural sleep products,” including “chocolate pillows,” a “nightly indulgence” that’s made with chocolate and oh, yum, melatonin. (They sound as appetizing to me as the one-handed “Bagel-ful” from Kraft.) Dreamerz has raised $16.5 million since its 2006 founding, including from Burrill & Co.

William Rosenzwieg, who cofounded Venture Strategy Group — which ran a small fund with Joanna Gallanter of VSP fame — as well as founded Great Spirit Ventures, a portfolio he still manages — is one of Physic’s managing directors. Dion Madsen, formerly of both Unilever Technology Ventures and RBC Capital Partners, is the firm’s other managing director.