Q&A Strava’s Mark Gainey

48, CO- FOUNDER OF STRAVA

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue -

‘A lot of our mem­bers say they “down­load” other apps but they “join” Strava’

FOR­MER Har­vard rower Mark Gainey planned to cre­ate a ‘vir­tual locker room’ when he launched the athletes’ so­cial net­work Strava in 2009, but the GPS app has achieved run­away suc­cess, attracting 180,000 new mem­bers each week. When he’s not out run­ning on the trails of Cal­i­for­nia, Gainey stays busy de­vel­op­ing new tools to keep the Strava com­mu­nity mo­ti­vated.

HOW DID STRAVA BE­GIN?

I met my co-founder, Michael Hor­vath, at Har­vard in the late 1980s when we rowed crew. Row­ing at Har­vard was a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence, not just the com­pe­ti­tion, but the esprit de corps. My de­gree should say ‘crew’ [Gainey has a BA in Gen­eral Stud­ies] be­cause I spent the ma­jor­ity of my time at the boathouse. The prob­lem is that you grad­u­ate. Then, poof, the magic’s gone. We have a busi­ness plan from 1995 that says: if we could re­cre­ate that ca­ma­raderie but use soft­ware to ex­pand it, how cool would that be? But it was less about the sport and more about the mo­ti­va­tion that came from be­ing en­gaged with other peo­ple.

ARE ALL STRAVA USERS COM­PET­I­TIVE?

A lot of our mem­bers say they ‘down­load’ other apps but they ‘join’ Strava. That’s the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion. It is about down­load­ing a piece of tech ver­sus join­ing a com­mu­nity. Some peo­ple love to com­pete; they love the leader boards, chal­lenges and seg­ments. Oth­ers are so­cial so they might just share a photo and en­joy the ku­dos from their sun­rise shot. We try to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and cater for them all.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE DIF­FER­ENTLY FROM YOUR RI­VALS?

Prob­a­bly 90 per cent of our growth comes from word of mouth. We are not in the busi­ness of build­ing new com­mu­ni­ties – there are al­ready lots of mi­cro­com­mu­ni­ties all over the world, whether that is bud­dies run­ning at the weekend, or clubs. We just give them a whole new plat­form.

WHAT’S THE IDEA BE­HIND THE NEW ‘CLUBS’ BUT­TON?

There is a new ‘ex­plore’ func­tion on the Strava app menu that lets peo­ple find clubs and events in their area, stay in touch with them, fol­low other run­ners par­tic­i­pat­ing in them and com­pare times. We’ve on boarded 800 Parkruns in the last month. It’s about how we can bring these or­gan­i­sa­tions together in one place. We can help them thrive within their com­mu­ni­ties.

WHAT HAS STRAVA’S DATA TAUGHT YOU ABOUT RUN­NERS?

We are fas­ci­nated by how event-cen­tric run­ners are. They’re al­ways train­ing for some­thing, whether it is their first 5K or a marathon. With cy­clists, that is not nec­es­sar­ily the case. Run­ners are also crea­tures of habit. For most Strava athletes, around half of their runs are on routes they’ve done be­fore. I also speak for my­self: I have about six routes near my house, from 30 min­utes to an hour, and I like to re­peat them. It’s about ef­fi­ciency.

WHERE DO YOU RUN?

I am in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate be­cause within three min­utes of leav­ing my house I can be on the trails of north­ern Cal­i­for­nia. There are miles of trails that I can con­nect to take me to the ocean. I have done triathlons and one Ironman but I will al­ways be a run­ner at heart. When I go on a run, I feel good in zero min­utes.

DO THE STRAVA STAFF WANT TO BEAT YOU?

We have fast em­ploy­ees at Strava and I have long since re­lin­quished any records. I went for a run with our UK team in Bris­tol and when I was lead­ing on a seg­ment no­body nudged ahead. But I could tell from the talk­ing go­ing on be­hind me, while I was huff­ing and puff­ing, that they were just be­ing nice.

NUM­BERS GAME Mark Gainey is al­ways on the look­out for new ways to im­prove Strava

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.