Strava’s Journey From Fitness App To Fitness Ecosystem

Bike Messengers

In some ways, Strava is a very much like any social media platform, albeit with a slightly narrower focus than most. Founded as an online portal for bicycling enthusiasts in 2009, Strava it bills itself as “the social network for athletes,” has taken in $70 million in funding and has “tens of millions of active users,” according to CEO James Quarles.

It is getting very serious about the larger social media play and the ecosystem it hopes to build around it.  Quarles is new to his job, having come on board last spring, but he is not new to social media.  Before taking over as CEO at Strava, Qualres ran business operations at Instagram, and before that he was at Facebook.

With new leadership, Strava is pushing past its historical capacities — helping athletes track and share data about their workouts with other enthusiasts — and thinking bigger about the entire fitness journey it is attempting to go on with its customers.

It is an effort that is making an impact, particularly in the niche community it serves. According to one InTheBlack reviewer, among exercise enthusiasts who run, swim and bike, Strava isn’t just the place users go to log their athletic activities — it is where they goes to verify they exist.

“If you run or ride, you’ve probably heard someone say, ‘If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen.’ It’s a phrase you’ll see on T-shirts and hear on cycling routes around the world.”

Quite literally, too, as around 80 percent of Strava’s business is global. And, according to Quarles, it is about to get more global in terms of how it is letting its users tap into the service.

“We want … Strava [to become] the home for your active life, and that means an increasing emphasis indoors, on the other 55 percent of what people do,” he says. “Going to studio classes, training at home … we want all of those to count and to be a part of the Strava experience.”

To push that forward, Strava is adding indoor machines and training experiences to its list of partner integrations alongside Garmin, Fitbit and the other 300 or so fitness devices that Strava already syncs up with.

“That is a big strategic priority for us, working with indoor partners such as Flywheel Sports, Peloton, Zwift [and] LiveRowing, to make sure that when you record [exercise] with those partners, the activity shows up in Strava, just like your run would or your ride would,” Quarles said.

And that list, he notes, is growing, most recently with the addition of MINDBODY — one of the leading booking platforms for fitness classes. Athletes can use Strava to track and quantify any of the 5.2 million fitness classes and wellness services offered daily via the MINDBODY app and MINDBODY branded apps and websites.

“Enabling athletes to discover new classes through friends’ activities turns the Strava feed into a recommendation engine for the best workouts and fitness classes in any locale,” he noted.

Moreover, going inside with their users is a natural extension for the firm, since over 60 percent of Strava athletes reportedly exercise indoors at least once a week.

Making it possible for athletes to do more and experience more of their workout routines through Strava, Quarles said, speaks to the core behind the Strava platform itself. It doesn’t want to be a fitness app for users — it wants to be their fitness home.