Strava’s mobile app and website connect millions of runners and cyclists through the sports they love. Launched in 2009, the platform has grown exponentially over the years, now connecting a global community of 86 million athletes from 195 countries. We sat down with Teddy Page, Senior Marketing Manager at Strava UK to learn more about how the company has built such an enormous and dedicated following. We spoke to Teddy about:
- How they initially attracted users to the platform
- How they keep members coming back for the long term
- How to maintain a sense of community when you’re trying to achieve scale
- Strava’s business model including freemium access and paid subscriptions
Was the idea of community always engrained in Strava, or was it a byproduct of how people used it?
The idea of community has always been at the heart of Strava. Our co-founders Michael Horvath and Mark Gainey wanted to recreate the camaraderie and competition they experienced as teammates on the Harvard Rowing Team. That’s why they built a “digital team” – a place where athletes can connect and inspire one another with their activities and accomplishments.
Engaging in sport takes commitment, spirit and most importantly – motivation, and nothing is more motivating than like-minded peers sharing and measuring activities together. The power of the community keeps people active longer and motivates athletes to be their best.
Strava is hugely popular for cyclists and runners and now enjoys broad benefits from the network effect. (“If it isn’t on Strava, did it really happen?” is a common refrain in the cycling community.) But in the early days, how did Strava attract new users to the platform?
At the start of Strava’s journey, word of mouth was the key to success and exponential growth. When Michael and Mark first started the business in 2009, they told all their friends to sign up so they could compete with one another – this created a snowball effect and led to faster and faster growth.
They quickly realised that word of mouth was the most powerful way to reach athletes all over the world who sought a community to compete against and stay motivated.
Strava has been able to connect like-minded athletes – linking communities of athletes with the same skill, goals or levels of passion. Ultimately, exercising is more fun, and you’re more likely to do it if you’re participating with people who share the same passions as you.
Our focus on athletes has led to a fast growing community that now stands at 86 million global athletes, and about 2 million athletes join Strava each month. If you sweat, you’re an athlete and you belong on Strava.
How do you make sure the first interaction with Strava keeps people coming back in the long run? How do you maintain their motivation to continue uploading and sharing workouts?
Staying motivated is the oldest and biggest problem in health and fitness. We believe that people keep people active – and Strava has tapped into the magic ingredient to keep people moving which is human connection.
Sharing and tracking activities maintains motivation for athletes, and keeps them coming back to the app time and time again. But our goal isn’t to keep athletes scrolling in the app, we want you to put your phone away and move. For every minute Strava athletes spend in the app, they spend 50 minutes being active.
Strava is for everyone, from athletes training for their first 5K to Tour de France stage winners to mountaineers who climb Mount Everest.
We connect like minded athletes and we’ve also kept athletes engaged by constantly updating our product offering. Most recently, we’ve launched our Group Challenges feature which keeps athletes motivated by offering them a new way to play. Athletes can set their own rules in a challenge for up to 25 friends to compete against each other based on time, distance, speed, or elevation gain.
How do you continue to maintain that sense of community when you’re trying to achieve scale at a global level?
We’re proud to say that today we have over 86 million athletes in 195 countries on Strava and we’ve been able to maintain the sense of community that sits at the heart of Strava.
Strava is the platform for athletes. By joining the Strava community, athletes access all their fitness needs in one place. It’s the 21st century clubhouse for your active life. Strava’s platform is built around the people, places, and competitions that drive athletes. They connect with each other on Strava through these motivating experiences before, during and after their activities.
During the pandemic, Strava provided a way for athletes to stay motivated, inspired and connected to a community where every effort counts. Friends recommending Strava to friends remains the biggest driver of our growth, and shows community is as important as ever.
The free version of Strava is really good. But what is the key to transition someone from free access to a paid subscription?
The free Strava experience is a great place to start for the casual athlete who wants to get more out of their sport and share their journey with their friends. But a subscription gives athletes the complete Strava experience.
By subscribing, athletes unlock features that allow them to reach their goals and have fun. Athletes are able to compete on Segment Leaderboards against their past efforts, their friends and other athletes. They are able to compare, filter and analyse segment efforts as well as compare performances with other athletes.
Subscribers are also able to accelerate their training, by seeing all their activity in one place and they can chart their progress with unique analysis tools and an interactive record of their activities. They can also set custom goals, setting targets for segments, cycling power, personal time or distance.
Athletes are also able to plan and discover new routes. Subscribers can get suggested routes in seconds, leaving from anywhere and based on past activity from other Strava athletes. In the last year, Strava has released over 80 product updates and new features.
The company was founded in 2009, but Strava’s growth has accelerated in the last couple years. What’s driving this growth?
During the pandemic, we saw even more people turn to exercise to help with their mental and physical health. In May 2020, we went from having 1 million new athletes join Strava per month to 2 million – all through connecting like-minded athletes.
For professional and amateur athletes alike, 2020 was a strange year. Covid-19 grounded in-person sporting events to a halt, and keeping your distance from people became the new norm.
Our challenges and virtual races kept people connected, and drove more people then ever before to sign up to our platform. Our 2020 Year in Sport highlighted that we had 71.8 million joins to Strava challenges from January to September 2020 – with more than 1m athletes completing the 5K Challenge in May, a record-high for the platform – showing how Strava is a platform that meets athletes’ needs and the tools they need to get the most of their athletic lives.
Our platform also enabled people to sync their indoor workouts when they were unable to exercise outside, with athletes able to upload their indoor cycling experiences seamlessly to name just one example.
We’re continuing to listen to our community, and innovate accordingly. People keep people active, and athletes will continue to hunger for community in real life and digitally. We’re expecting a long lasting change and feel hopeful people are going to adopt long term healthy habits.