#153: Nick Stewart & Nick Kafker, Co-founders of Recover Athletics

Today, I’m joined by Recover Athletics co-founders, Nick Stewart and Nick Kafker.

Rooted in the concept of prehab, Recover Athletics is an injury-prevention platform for runners, helping exercisers spend more time moving and less time laid up. Powered by proprietary injury-prevention algorithms and physical therapy content, Recover Athletics allows runners to seamlessly incorporate the recovery needed for healthier training experiences.

In this episode, we discuss the company’s approach to prehab and utilizing in-person community growth hacks and storytelling to scale a userbase. The Nicks also talk about being acquired by Strava and reaching tens of millions of athletes.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to leverage your competitive advantages in your product launch
  • Simple & powerful growth hacks you can use when starting out
  • How Recover began their relationship with Strava

Links & Resources

Nick Stewart & Nick Kafker’s Links

Episode Transcript

This is a machine-generated transcript. Please excuse any errors.

[00:00:00] Nick Stewart:
One thing we were just astounded by, time and time again, when we were getting our app off the ground was how generous people are with their time to help young entrepreneurs get a product off the ground.

The more you lean into your personal story when you’re trying to market your product at the earliest stages, the better, and the more help and positive feedback you’ll get from whatever community you’re trying to launch in.

[00:00:33] Joe:
Welcome back to the Fitt Insider podcast. I’m your host, Joe Vennare.

Today I’m joined by Recover Athletics Co-founders, Nick Stewart and Nick Kafker.

In this episode we discuss the company’s prehab app for runners and athletes, and utilizing in-person community growth hacks and storytelling to scale its user base. Plus the guys talk about selling the company to Strava and reaching tens of millions of athletes.

Let’s get into it.

Hey guys, welcome to Fitt Insider. Thanks for joining us.

[00:00:57] Nick Stewart:
Hey Joe. Great to be here.

[00:00:58] Nick Kafker:
Fantastic to be here.

[00:00:59] Joe:
Yeah. It’s an awesome chat we have today. Nick, and Nick, from Recover Athletics.

I’ll let you introduce yourselves and say hello, but for folks who aren’t familiar, give ‘em a little bit of your background and the quick intro to Recover.

[00:01:14] Nick Stewart:
Yeah, happy to start there.

So I’m Nick number one, and/or Nick Stewart. We always divide up who’s Nick number one or Nick number two by who speaks first on the call. It’s sort of like a race to see who gets there.

[00:01:26] Nick Kafker:
You didn’t know, but in the background there was some serious jostling.

[00:01:33] Nick Stewart:
But yeah, I was the CEO, and the two of us were co-founders at Recover. Kaf and I actually met back in high school on our cross country team. So it’s been a long partnership for us—over 10 years.

[00:01:48] Nick Kafker:
Nick has been dishing out beat downs to me on the track for the better part of a decade at this point.

I’ll jump in. I’m Nick Kafker. I was the COO and business partner of Nicholas Stewart, on my left here, at Recover Athletics.

[00:02:02] Joe:

Before we get into it, give them the rundown: what is the product? What was it initially? And I think we’ll take it from conceiving of the Recover Athletics platform, to getting it scaled up, and then where things are today.

What is the overview? How have you pitched it? And the initial intro you give to folks.

[00:02:27] Nick Stewart:
Yeah, maybe I can start with the TL;DR on what the product is today, and then we can backtrack into what it was at at the very early idea stage.

Recover Athletics is a prehab app for athletes. You can find us in the App Store, or as of yesterday afternoon in Google Play, as well. We actually just launched our Android app after three years, which was a really exciting moment for our team.

Essentially what we help athletes do is prevent the risk of injury, and get stronger through proactive strengthening and mobility work. So you go onto our app, integrate your Strava account, and we take a look at all the activity that the athlete is doing and ask some questions that are very similar to what a physical therapist would ask you when you first come into the clinic. Then we automatically build you an injury prevention program that shows you exactly what exercises to do based on your body and based on your training.

[00:03:21] Nick Kafker:
That very good. Very good. I would just add that this product was built initially for runners only. And now as we’ve merged with cyclists, we’re beginning to add more cycling, specific content. So fix aches and pains, prevent injury, run, ride, hike, your best.

[00:03:35] Joe:
Yeah, it’s awesome. It’s super smart.and full disclosure. So Anthony and I were investors in the company.we’ve followed along from very early on and we initially came to it from the perspective of. Myself being initially a football player, but transitioning into running and multi sport, everything from cycling and triathlon to like marathon ultramarathon trail racing and having a background in personal training, exercise science,it always struck me as like, man, all of my runner friends are always hurt.

Everybody. I know that does this sport at some point is injured and even myself. Basically strength training my way into running. Right. That’s that’s how I, I, I got there initially was like, I was getting injured constantly. and you know, I think like most people you go to physical therapy and it’s like,do they, are they really trying to make me into a better runner an athlete?

Or is it like, just trying to, a lot of times go through the motions or maybe do something specific for like the everyday person? Or watching YouTube videos. Right. And trying to figure out how do I do all these various things? So the thought of rolling this into one resource right. Resonated with me, resonated with us.

And I think there was a long period of time where we were like actively looking for this company to invest in. so super stoked that we met and you know, you talk about it initially. Being four runners. Maybe talk about how you guys, as runners came across that problem initially set out to solve it, and then really made that into a company.

[00:05:11] Nick Stewart:
Yeah, sure. Well, I, I think honestly, very similar to your interest in this space. the way that our value proposition resonated with you as an athlete,that really lines up super closely with how we came to the idea for founding recover in the first place. you know, as mentioned before, we’ve been runners training together for a long time. And actually back before we started recover over five years ago, we were roommates in the same,tiny apartment in in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and,used to just run together, laugh around fresh pond every morning,and decided To run a marathon together.

Our first race was Mount desert, Rhode Island up in Maine. and in the course of training for that race, just we’re getting super banged up. As we tried to hike the mileage,and KAF actually had a buddy,who was the youngest woman to ever be hired in the sports medicine clinic,at mass general in Boston. And she was kind enough to work with her boyfriend.To send us recovery videos,and physical therapy exercises that we should do based on the training program that we’d send her.

[00:06:11] Nick Kafker:
Yeah, so we’d tell her what our plans were for our mileage and for when we’d be doing long run. And when we’d do doing workouts, she knew from working with me, my injury history, it was easy to give Nick’s injury history, everything below the waist hurts.

And then she would send us videos of what exactly to. To kind of get ahead of those aches and pains. So runners exist on this spectrum, like between fully healthy and fully injured. Most runners can still go out there and run, but they’ve got some acre pain that they’re working on or is getting worse or is getting better.

So that was the way we came to it. We were like, this is just the, this is the runner experience. You’re, you’re always have something going on in your body that you’d like to help it trend in the right direction. Far and away this physical therapist, some other physical therapists that we worked with, help us learn that like that’s the way you do it is you build up these parts of your body with simple strengthening exercises and you can make those aches and pains go away and just become more resilient overall as an athlete.

[00:07:06] Nick Stewart:
Yeah. So I think maybe just add a bit more there too. Like one of the cool things I think about the progression of our company and, and the product is. The idea that we were lean testing with is actually very close in some ways to the experience that users get in the much more polished user friendly interface today, where it’s still videos that come from the best minds in sports medicine, Boston just kind of happens to be home to some incredible physical therapists and physicians who study running related injuries.

And we were lucky enough to know one of them, even in the early days before Recover Athletics existed as a concept. But that, that early form of content, that MVP, is what any a athlete can unlock today on the product. And I think it’s one of the magical things about recover that somebody can come to us.

And for only 60 bucks a year, get access to literally the best that the industry can possibly provide as far as preventative exercises to do based on your body and and, and your training. So I’d say like, In some ways we, we kind of knew intuitively what we needed to build from day one, because The, the pain point that we were solving for really was exactly what we were experiencing.

And obviously with every startup, it’s kind of a winding road to figure out how you ultimately resolve that, problem and present The, solution to users in a way thatresonates and that scales. but we were lucky early on to. To kind of like align on, on what people needed because we really just really needed it ourselves.

Yeah. We just needed it so

[00:08:34] Nick Kafker:
Bad. And we were just knocking on people’s doors. So like Nick mentioned, I just wanna say more about that, cuz I think that’s like a huge part of the secret sauce about recover was the access to great medical minds that we had. So we work with Dr. Sherry blowout. Who’s a form of Boston marathon winner in the wheelchair division on the international Olympic committee.

Then we work with Dr. Adam 10 40, who’s the head of the Spalding running center. So it’s like the two foremost minds in terms of like healthy running and running injury prevention. We’re telling us where to look like. For example, if you have knee pain, there’s a group of scientists that meet every two years to.

Look through all the research on knee pain and make a recommendation. Okay. Everyone in the world should be getting that recommendation because that’s the most up to date recommendation recover as a platform is a great way to get that information out into the world quickly and easily. And they were like, your routines should be based on the consensus statement on Patel ephemeral pain syndrome.

And we were like, got it. And then we could deploy. That afternoon, which kind of, I think helped be like we were getting people the right answers, even at the early stage when it came to the product, which is why athletes had great outcomes and kept coming back.

[00:09:40] Nick Stewart:
I think also we were like, we didn’t realize this at the time, But a lot of these physicians that are doing super cutting edge research, They really wanna get the word out there about the work that they’re doing.

Totally.and so we sort of stumbled upon a way to a niche for them too, where they wanted to have bigger impact. They wanted to be able to help athletes that aren’t just the ones who can afford to be with them in their clinic. and so we ended up unlocking a lot of free help early

[00:10:06] Nick Kafker:
On. Cause these runners are, these doctors are famous to other sports medicine doctors, but a runner on the street doesn’t know who this person.

But what they, what they should be doing is following the research, the line of research that this person has sort of contributed to. So we were like, Hey, would you help us? And everybody said, yes, which was awesome.

[00:10:21] Joe:
Yeah. it’s a really powerful framework if you zoom out. And I guess in hindsight, like you said, the startup journey is not linear and now looking back, it all makes perfect sense, but the, the framework. You know, in effect is like, you guys had this quite literal pain point, right? Like physical pain point that you were setting out to solve, you had this, you know, almost the massive audience of.

Casual everyday runners as well as all the way up to the elite end. But you know, however, you look at it from their experience, like a huge market of runners, walkers now, cyclists hikers, you know, athletes in general, and then this inflection point of like, Almost telemedicine, but just the access to technology to be able to take an expert and put them in your phone and now learn how to do these, these exercises and routines that basically, if, if that’s not the case, you’re either cruising the internet or you’re like jumping from.

Physical therapy place to clinic, to clinic, like hoping somebody can solve this or worst case, like orthopedic surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, MRIs, like trying to figure out what’s going on.so I think all those things lined up quite nicely. And then you take the, you know, the next step and not to just stick at the kind of startup early, super early stage journey.

But I think this point is also interesting as it relates to. you know, potentially other founders, you now have this product, you have this idea. And I think a lot of times people can, you know, just sit alone in a room and like toil with it and like, oh, I wanna get this perfect. Or I wanna make it better.

Or, you know, not knowing when to ship or being hesitant to like, get it out there. How did you guys think through like, Hey, we have this, we know a bunch of runners.let’s get people using it and start to get that feedback immediately.

[00:12:08] Nick Stewart:
Yeah, I think honestly, the, the secret sauce for us on product also works for us on, or maybe like our unfair advantage. Innate advantage of, of being our target market and using that insight to guide the product roadmap early on was also really informative for our, I guess, like, initial go to market strategy or, or marketing strategy. we were both, you know, active runners in the running community. In Boston. We, we used to train in those really early days with Tracksmith group and we started every

[00:12:39] Nick Kafker:
Corner in the city has a running store. Yeah. There’s with a running team that has, you know, a matching Jersey and they’re all trying to do one another.

So there’s, and they’re all, you know, washed up former collegiate runners or, you know, real passionate runners who want a team. So the ecosystem was like, right there was perfect for us. It. Turn right out the door, go to the best minds in running medicine, turn left out the door, a community of super hardcore runners who all are injured.

It was like it was the right place to build a company that’s for

[00:13:05] Nick Stewart:
Sure. Totally. We, we really lucked out by being based in Boston.when we had the idea and our, our initial way of getting feedback on a product was we had a, a run group,that left and was like the recovery run from Tracksmith that went, I think it was on Wednesday nights.

Yeah.and this was like, well, over two years ago, so a long, a long time. Relatively in the life of our three year company.

But, at, at any rate like that was, that was our chance to get runners, to use the product live and like have a user feedback session every Wednesday where we’d go for an easy jog with people and runners were just looking to get their miles in, do something simple.

And then come back to the track house and. Have people use our app and test flight. we would just load it up and do one of the routines on the product and like get down on the floor and, and watch how people interacted with the interface and

[00:13:57] Nick Kafker:
Invaluable, totally amazing way to launch a product. Really small, basically like a focus group of people who really cared, who aren’t just gonna give up on it. And also we came back to them every Wednesday and we better have a new feature or new content or something to show them so that we could justify our existence. So it was like a great forcing function for us to get honest user feedback and active user feedback.

And then for us to also turn around and like build something new for that, for that little group of people. Also,

[00:14:20] Nick Stewart:
The other side of the coin was equally true, which was like a lot of times we’d break things between weeks. Oh yeah. But you figure that out fast when there’s someone who’s like,excuse me, your app sucks.

And then, you. For them in real time.but, but yeah, that was just so powerful to get that kind.User feedback, live from folks that like we knew folks we didn’t know, but that we could kind of build a relationship with in person. We also did a lot of stuff on digital,to kind of growth hack in the early days. one of the funnier things that we did,was we realized that there’s a ton of. Facebook groups on running just all across the country. and as I mentioned, we ran this marathon together.and so actually I think you were the one who, posted

[00:15:01] Nick Kafker:
Most of these. Yeah. I mean, there’s just a billion Facebook groups out there of people who are training for a specific race.

So for example, like the Marine Corps marathon 10 K gets like. Tens of thousands of entrance a year. And there are people who this is their event, right? There are like 15 million-ish people who register for at least one competitive road, race a year in the United States. But a lot of times that’s their one race.

And so they’re queued into the community around that race. So we would join the Facebook groups. I would join as like a runner and I would post and sort of like a. Like product hunt, you know, trying to get trending kind of way. And also half like genuine, just request for feedback, be like, Hey, my buddy and I, we work with some physical therapists, some doctors in Boston, we’re making a running injury prevention app.

Would you download it and give us some feedback it’s free. And you know, occasionally we get kicked out of groups, but then, then every once in a while, if you, if you pitched it well enough, the community would. That’s a great idea. All of us are injured and then you would get 600, 700 people. So shout out to the run Disney group in Florida.

So like Disney puts on these half marathons and they put on a billion of them and we got their community. Kind of like, they took the pitch well, and they responded to it really well. And we had 655 people download the test flight version of the app. And so apple gives you a thousand users when you do the test flight.

And it was like, honestly, one of the best days of my life. When you go click the button to ask for another 10,000,

[00:16:20] Nick Stewart:
It was a magical moment. I’ll never forget that when we maxed out the thousand on Tesla and we were like, Some take this to the next

[00:16:26] Nick Kafker:
Level. Yeah, exactly. I mean, we would just go in and be like, Hey, would you try this? Give us some thoughts. And some of those users are still with us today, which is the coolest thing in the world.

[00:16:34] Nick Stewart:
Yeah. I think one piece of tactical advice for the early stage founders that we know are, are tapped into what you guys are, are building. Joe is like the founder’s story is such a powerful tool to leverage, to get help and feedback on your product.

And one thing that we were just astounded by time and time again, when we were getting our app off the ground, How good the running and maybe just like American public is like how, how generous people are with their time to help young entrepreneurs get a product off the ground. So I think just the more that people can lean into their personal story when you’re trying to market your product at the earliest stages, the better and, and the more help and, and positive feedback you’ll get from whatever community you’re trying to, trying to launch in.

It was like truly magical for us and like really humbling, honestly. Time and time again, when we get kicked out of these groups sometimes. Oh, but sometimes you as calf said, like you’d get 600 runners who were just trying to help you out because they cared about what we were building. Yeah. I think,

[00:17:31] Nick Kafker:
Especially like, you know, people don’t start companies to get rich people, start companies to solve something that they think is like dumb.

It’s like, why is that? That way we should go fix it. And I think it’s natural, like for, and maybe, maybe it’s exceptionally natural in American culture, but like you see somebody trying to fix a problem, you kind of are like, thanks. I probably have that if especially if you have that problem, you’re.

Thankfully, somebody’s trying to do this. Like, I’ll give them five minutes of my time. And if you impress them in that five minutes, they’ll give you another five minutes. And then you have users like this one woman from Canada, Colleen, who’s been with us. She was user like a hundred, 1,500 or something.

She was one of the first people and she still uses the app, which is just like such an honor and a Testament to the character. These people being like, I mean, it was a crappy product for a long time. It’s pretty good now, but they stayed with it. They, they saw what we were going for and they, they hopped on the train.

And I think that all you gotta do. Get out there and tell the people like, tell ‘em and they’ll join you. Most people like you, you run out the flag eventually somebody’s gonna salute. And I think that was what recover did

[00:18:27] Joe:
I think there’s a lot of things in there to potentially, you know, take away or emphasize. And that, that point is especially as like young entrepreneurs in a community where like running or, or finding that type of community where the, the kind of audience or the customer is very engaged and tapped in.

Like you mentioned, you know, Whether it’s in person at these like running groups, whether it’s at running stores or at races on the digital communities around races and running and training. Obviously we’ll talk about Strava a little bit, but like there’s communities around that. So it’s like thinking about how you’re going to access them and what those distribution channels are and where they already congregate and spend time.

And then like how you tell your story within those channels. yeah. It makes, it makes all the sense in the world. And I think, you know, what’s the worst that could happen. Right? You. Get kicked out of like the Facebook group for, for posting about the thing. Like,yeah, I think, you know, even where we are today, it’s like, how do we get the word out about the newsletter or the podcast or whatever it is.

And you’re, you’re, just constantly reverse engineering. Like where are these people? How do we reach them? How do we provide value for them in reaching out to them? But like tell ‘em a story, make it engaging. And like if they download the app or if they subscribe to the newsletter, We hope and think, right.

They’re gonna be better off for it. So that transaction is like genuinely,better. And, and certainly,with the best of intentions.

[00:19:47] Nick Kafker:

[00:19:48] Nick Stewart:
Couldn’t agree more. We, we’ve got so many user stories that we could tell Joe about people who like joined our community really early on and who are still with us today. But I feel like you probably question we, we could

[00:19:59] Nick Kafker:
Burn we, yeah, we should let, I was about to launch into like one of our, our first customer story.

Who’s still a friend, but that that’s, that story is like another whole podcast and it’s just, yeah, just get out there and sell.

[00:20:12] Joe:
Yeah, we’ll just fast forward a little bit. So obviously conceiving of the idea, getting off the ground, starting to get users now I’m sure like iterating with, with features and product and things are breaking right on a daily, weekly basis.

You said earlier, right? It’s. Three years since you started the company, which is pretty incredible. So what happens after that kind of inflection point? You’re starting to get users it’s out in the market now. It’s, it’s obviously gaining some traction and you start to think, Hey, where do we wanna take this? How big can it be? What partnership opportunities there are,all of this being a leading question with two, you. How did you get plugged into Strava?

How did those conversations start to happen? And, and what was that like? You know, I’m sure among two founders who are still early in the journey, like, do we wanna do this? Do we not wanna do this? What are, What are, our options? And, and maybe how it played out.

[00:21:04] Nick Stewart:
Yeah. I mean, I can start maybe backtracking a little bit from the acquisition. In the earliest days, because we were athletes on Strava ourselves, and we saw what a powerful training log in, in community that, that this ecosystem is.we knew that Strava was a long term, really critical ecosystem partner for us.

So that was just like an insight that we had on day one, again, by being members of this market ourselves personally. And so the first API integration we built into recover was using Strava’s public API tools. So when an athlete created an account on recover, they could choose to integrate their Strava so that anytime they’d upload or run to Strava, we’d be able to pull that data down into recover as well.

And we found that to be a really valuable engagement channel for us too. And that just messaging to runners around their workouts was so valuable for driving retention on the app. So that was, that was something that was key for us early on. And. couple other key points to mention about the relationship with Strava earlier. we we got lucky, you know, at the beginning of COVID, we’d initially thought before the pandemic, that races, as you mentioned before, Joe,we’re gonna be a really important channel for us,to to connect with runners at the right time to introduce,another product to them. And obviously when the pandemic hit, that vision kind of came crashing down.

And so we pivoted to thinking about stra. As a really critical top of funnel, user acquisition channel. and we launched a run club on Strava at the beginning of the pandemic that went viral. Like all our friends, all of a sudden didn’t, weren’t able to go to their workouts in Boston. and so we thought we’d try to fill the void with a club.

And that was our first moment seeing like truly viral user growth. We launched the club in a couple weeks later, we had a few thousand runners in it. It was like just crazy seeing the power of the Strava feed. It’s like virtual word of mouth, basically happening. Like right for our eyes. and so we took that, you know, attention and energy that we had in the club on Strava and then effectively like triaged that into our app.

So that was a real inflection point.a critical growth moment for us early on that kind of proved the power of the Strava ecosystem. And we never forgot about that. and then the other thing that I’ll mention is that we, we got really lucky. and caught mark Aney the chairman and co-founder of Strava, his attention early. he really helped us think about our product strategy and one of the challenges that Strava had to face. and that I think as a company we dealt with really well,during the pandemic was just aligning on the customer and creating value for them behind the paywall. Obviously STR is a huge community of, you know, over a hundred million athletes.

Now there’s many folks that use it as sort of a community social networking tool. but something that mark and Michael had to figure out was how do we create a sustainable profitable subscription business? I’m grateful to, to mark because that was a mistake that K and I never made.we laser focused early on on figuring out.

What our strategy was for bringing runners behind the paywall, getting them into the subscription. Our first monthly price was like 2 99 or 1 99. It was really cheap, but we just knew that we needed to figure out how to charge, how to monetize our product early. and so I’d say like, honestly, we can thank Strava for both of those, both realizing that, that it was such a powerful user acquisition channel and that this, this ecosystem in this community was the place to scale recover.

And also. Focusing on the customer, figuring out your monetization strategy early was so important. Yeah.when I look back, those were just two really key lessons for us that we totally on. It’s like

[00:24:34] Nick Kafker:
The chicken and the egg is, do I meditate because I pay for calm or do I paid it for calm to meditate? this is an unanswerable question and it’s, and it goes both ways. And I think that we were mark really pushed us in that direction at the early stage. He. Build for your customer build for the person who pays the people who don’t pay. Like if they’re not willing to join as a, kind of like an early adopter, like you just, you can’t solve, you can’t boil the ocean, just focus on this one group of people.

So, I mean, in countless countless meetings about product in the early days of recover was basically just the same story over and over again. How do we provide more value for our customer? How do we get our customer to keep coming back? What, what do they need that we’re not giving them it wasn’t. How can we get free users to stick around?

Like, there was a lot of that. We, we obviously wanted them to convert and we wanted them to be a part of the community. But like in terms of our core business objective was to provide value to those who paid for the recover subscription.

[00:25:26] Nick Stewart:
Yeah. We used to kind of,we used to compare ourselves to the Patriots, forget who’s I, I think I was Randy Moss and you were Tom Brady, but I mean, KR did a lot of the,marketing and I designed the onboarding flows and paywall,for recover.

And we used to joke that, our, our user acquisition strategy was KR would throw the ball to me and I would catch it and we’d bring somebody behind the paywall.

[00:25:47] Nick Kafker:
It was that, that was that simple. It was like Brady de Moss touchdown Brady de Moss touchdown. I tried to throw him 300 people a day. If he could get 30 of them behind the pay.

Then the business was running, you know, like I think that, that it was that simple, but obviously what was behind the pay? Well had to be really good, but we focused on those 30 that made it through not the 270 who weren’t ready to buy right now. Like there are, if there are 30 who are willing to buy today, there are a million who are ready to buy today.

So get those like focus on that group rather than the sort of those who are on the fence, especially when you have limited resources. I mean, it was. Nick, Nick and Jaffer our CTO at the time in a garage, we like, we had no resources. We had to pick one thing and try to do it. Right. So it was actually

[00:26:26] Nick Stewart:
A, it was a basement. It was a metaphorical garage. It was a metaphorical too cold to work in a garage in Boston.

[00:26:32] Nick Kafker:
Yeah. I wish it was a Palo Alto garage, but in

[00:26:37] Joe:
And that’s something, the, the story as it relates to, you know, mark and Michael I’ve, I’ve talked to them both how to both on the podcast, they’re, you know, obviously amazing operators, but it’s something that they lived right firsthand with Strava, like going through monetization, how do we figure it out, choosing different paths and doing that over the course of 10 years.

So having that relationship to be able to do that and. Whatever it was 10 months or 10 meetings as opposed to those 10 years.I’m sure it was super powerful and it sounds like it was, it was also an opportunity to, to build that relationship, get to know him on a level where it’s like, I’m sure that’s how it sparked the conversation.

You know, what would it look like to join forces in some way, but from their perspective, And, you know, me putting words in their mouth, but from, from the outside, looking in, as they’re thinking about as well, we have all these free people coming to the platform. How do we build more value behind the pay wall?

What could we possibly put behind there that would, you know,increase that, that value proposition to get them to pay and seeing something like Recover Athletics, it makes a whole lot of sense that they say, Hey, this would make sense as a, you know, service product. In our kind of sweet offering.so yeah, I, I think it, it played out obviously really well.

So you do that, you know, you have the kind of viral growth on Strava. You get to know mark,at some point. The conversations happen, where, where you guys, as, as operators kind of have to, you know, are we seriously considering this? What would it look like? What does it mean for the kind of trajectory of the company? not getting, you know, putting all your business out there, but,what was that like as a kind of young operator thinking about, we have basically. Our whole lives ahead of us in terms of like potentially building this company, you know, why make that decision? What does that opportunity look like for you?

[00:28:26] Nick Stewart:
Yeah, totally. And I think there’s probably actually one intermediate step too, Joe, between. The earliest days where mark was helping us think about the right product strategy to scale the business. The acquisition and that was ultimately, you know, moving up a tier on the API. So for a while, we were just using the public API tools.you know, we were getting thousands of athletes to integrate.and at that point, mark introduced us to Michael and we took the partnership to the next level, which was actually figuring out a way to do product led growth on Strava. So not only were we pulling athlete’s data from Strava into recover, but actually when an athlete finished a prehab routine, On recover.

They could share that back to Strava, just like a ride or a run or a hike. and so that really started to accelerate our, our growth flywheel. And I think, we realized some things. So the conversion rate, of Strava athletes on recover and specifically Strava customers actually was just crazy.

Like we were seeing double the conversion rate amongst the Strava population as we were from athletes Weren’t integrated with Strava.and so we had some, you know, we could kind of lead with the data and figure out that the ecosystem for us to scale long term, where we could really have next level impact on the running community was with Strava because that’s where the, the affinity was already. and this was, you know, data that, because we were an API partner, we all had like, Strava could see how many athletes were integrating with recover them, sharing their content back into the Strava feed, which provided more value to the community. The more content on Strava, the richer, the experience for, for all athletes.

So there was, there was that draw and then they were looking at their athletes, you know, by our app. and think, you know, as you said before, We could, you know, we could bring that revenue onto Strava and what a powerful tool for retention. This could be for our subscribers. They’re loving this, they’re buying it in addition to the product already.

So, you know, we, we kind of had like a shared understanding of what the potential was, which I think in a lot of ways, like, Made the acquisition conversations like so natural and, and relatively easy. I think for all of us in the, in the grand scheme of things, because like we had the same set of facts.

Yeah. I was about to say, it’s

[00:30:30] Nick Kafker:
Like, you’re playing poker with your cards all on the table. So you gotta be honest. Everybody knows what’s going on. Their partnerships team could see that of all their 50 ish thousand API partners recover. Athletics had the highest, one of the highest in terms of percentage used by subscribers indicating that this value behind the paywall fits very well with those who are.

To pay for Strava. So it was like, everybody could see that the fit made sense and that motivated us.

And it motivated everybody to, to merge the two businesses.

[00:30:58] Nick Stewart:

As you can probably imagine, Joe, putting your entrepreneurs hat on, like, We’re a few years into running the business. We’re around 70,000 athletes on the platform,at the end of last year, when we started conversations and we’re looking at a community with a hundred million athletes, that’s our target market. and so the argument that we could go much further, faster, if we did this together was just such a no brainer, like totally. And we thought about both the product development resources we could tap into by becoming part of the team. And then. The impact we could have on the community. how much easier it would be to bring the app that we really cared about to more runners like us all over the world, was just so alarming. We, We, were so excited about that and we also hadn’t really scaled outside of the us at all. you know, 99% of our athletes, pre-acquisition were just Americans.

And so, you know, we knew we wanted to have international impact, but how to do that ourselves, was just, I mean, there’s no way that we would be where we are today, as far as scaling overseas. If we continued to operate as an independent company, like just, yeah, not, not even a

[00:31:59] Nick Kafker:
Chance. We launched our shared subscription in late may, and we’ve already doubled the scale of the business on our way, very close to tripling the scale of the business.

We have customers all over the world. We have subscribers by the thousands adopting recover every day, Strava subscribers by the thousands adopting the recover product. And like, we were highly motivated to help the. Fix aches and pains and prevent injury. And this partnership is what made that happen.

Also like one thing we haven’t said, but like the team, the founding team, the executive team at Strava is one of the most electrifying group of people. And. I mean, how could you not wanna be a part of that? And that was, that was, I could say, you know, we did have a pitch deck in like 2019, where we were like potential outcomes for the business and it was just sell to straw on a slide.

And we were like, we should put something else on there to make sure that we don’t look like total bone heads. But I wish that I had that deck, cuz like that was the, we were like, they have a hundred million athletes. We wanna go build a great thing for them. Put these two businesses together. Get that great dig up the pitch. Yeah, he

[00:32:53] Joe:
Yeah, I might have it. We I’ll look for it. might have it,

[00:32:59] Nick Kafker:
There’s some other, you know, run tech platforms in much

[00:33:05] Joe:
But that’s the thing, right? Like even the, at a certain point, I was gonna say that like, you’re sitting back when you’re starting the company and thinking about who could we sell to what was the best case scenario? And if we were to sell the business, Strava being, you know, kinda one of the, for all the reasons you laid out And the fact that from the team, but like they’ve built a preeminent digital platform for athletes and during athletes and now, you know, the evolving definition of athletes. so it’s like we could raise a bunch more money, hire a bunch more people like do all these, spend a bunch more money and time to like, maybe get to the point that is like we’re presented with now. thinking through that as well is just kinda like, oh yeah, it makes, makes a ton of sense.

[00:33:45] Nick Kafker:
Yeah, yeah. we were we were on a call where this sort of became a real option and afterwards Nick and I were like, well, yeah, I mean, that’s like what We do. Like there wasn’t like, obviously there was some deliberation, but it’s like, this is what we set out to do. This is the impact that we want to have on this group of people around the world. and this is the right way to do it. It’s like we really do feel super fortunate. I think we built a really good strategy and executed on that strategy in a way that was like, well prioritized. But I also think that we were very fortunate to be in the circumstances and have exposure to this group of founders and to be able to make this happen.

And like, We should give ourselves credit. We should be thankful, but I think the thing we should really give ourselves credit for is like maximizing these set of circumstances. Like this was the perfect outcome and we’re just really glad that we were able to like, get it there and now start this new journey of growing these two things

[00:34:31] Nick Stewart:

Yeah. I think also it’s so it’s so much about the people. Yeah. And,you know, we were lucky in that because we’re a partner and because mark was guiding us on product strategy early on, and we got to know Michael through the partnership, you know, years before the acquisition.we knew that. Michael was a leader that we would run through walls for.

I was literally going say,

[00:34:51] Nick Kafker:
Michael’s the guy you run through walls

[00:34:52] Nick Stewart:
For. It’s no brainer. Yeah. Like we just, we knew also that this and mark and Michael, I think know this too. Like, I don’t think this is gonna be the only business that K and I built together. I think, We love entrepreneurship going from zero to one is something that’s really thrilling to us.

And we, felt like, okay, we’ve learned a lot in the first few years of running recover. We know that this is the logical and the desired long-term outcome for our startup. And also what better place for us to learn both, to see what it’s like to really quickly scale a business up from tens of thousands to millions of athletes. but also like who are people that we feel like we can learn from. To better chart the path to our, you know, our company that goes public one day.

[00:35:33] Nick Kafker:
We, we, I mean, come on, we were offered the opportunity to learn how to go zero to one and how to go billion to 10 billion before turning 30. Like you gotta take that opportunity, especially if you wanna try to do this again.

So I think that we’re, we’re in an amazing place to learn from an

[00:35:50] Joe:
Yeah. for sure. And I think that’s, that’s also a good transition potentially as we get towards the end of the conversation and do look ahead, right. You have gone through these steps, you have that kind of accelerated,learning experience and journey. And now you’re here.you mentioned at the onset, like. Now evolving from just runners to cyclists, to hiking, to all these obviously activities that that Strava has on its platform and then your roles right within the company and how that evolves. what should we be on the lookout for? What does the kind of plan roadmap look like going forward?

[00:36:25] Nick Stewart:
Yeah, well, first off can’t overstate,how excited we are about our Android app finally launching. So that was something that, you know, was really critical to our first year roadmap at Strava, obviously like, figuring out how to turn Strava into a single sign on service, like Google, apple,Facebook, that was something we were really curious about integrating the subscription and then getting platform parody.

So. Runners or athletes all over the world, regardless of what device they were on, could take advantage of our technology. Those were all really critical milestones for us.and as calf mentioned, you know, something that’s on the docket for us in H two is moving to the upper body, so that we can expand. The range of programs that we can recommend for cyclist swimmers at even runners who have problems above the lower back right now. you know, we, we haven’t really expanded our content database to the point where it needs to be so really excited about the strides that we’re gonna be taking on content. And then I think what you can expect to see in the future, is starting to already play out on the progress tab of the Strava app. So if you’re within the subscription and you scroll down, there’s a, module right now, that drives to the recovery app,that helps athletes on Strava.discover our app.

It’s kind of the engine of our, of product led growth for us right now. That’s what we’re gonna be looking to do more of in 2023 is understand what are the key places in the user experience on Strava, where we can start to embed experiences from a cover,to bring these two products closer together and make it easier for Strava athletes who, you know, either are in a, in a training cycle and they wanna get stronger and optimize their performance.

How can we surface rehab content at the right time? Or. If you’re getting aches and pains or you’re, you know, gonna fall off from injury, how can we get the recover app in front of you to help keep your body on the, so at a high level, those are some of the things that we’re thinking about.

[00:38:10] Joe:
A lot to work on, right? A lot to look forward to as well.

One of the things I’m most excited about, and this goes back to—we’ll put it in the show notes—a few episodes ago, talking to Michael about what’s next for Strava. It seems like on a monthly basis now, or every other month, there is new trail running, new content partnership, some type of marketing push. So it’ll be awesome to see how that evolves and how you guys are able to integrate into that. As we’ve talked about, it makes all the sense in the world.

The broader point, which is something back to the impact, is having the access now to these tens of millions, a hundred million athletes to really help people prevent them from getting injured, help them get back out there sooner. I think in the scheme of things, when you think about running and racing and being active, it’s not always top of mind, right? Because you’re hoping you’re not going to get injured, but when you do, that nagging injury can turn into months long, and then an imbalance, and so on and so forth, and you can be sidelined forever.

So, helping people continue to live that healthy lifestyle, I’m super stoked on. It was great getting a few minutes with you guys today to share this story with the audience.

For anyone listening who wants to check it out, is the best way to download Recover? Go through Strava? How do you point people to navigate that and learn more?

[00:39:35] Nick Kafker:
If you already have a Strava account it’s pretty easy. Go to whichever app store you choose. That feels good to say—feels awesome—and type in “Recover Athletics.” You’ll see the developer, Strava, Inc. We’re very proud of that, and you can get that and log in with your same account.

So if you already pay for Strava you’ll have access to 100% of Recover’s feature set.

If you don’t already pay for Strava you can make an account on Recover. Convert on that paywall and start a trial which will unlock the Strava app for you as well. We have subscription parity, and that is exactly what everyone should do.

[00:40:05] Joe:
Awesome guys. I hope everybody does.

If, like you said, they’re not already subscribed, go check it out, get the app, and check out the full experience.

But yeah, I’m definitely excited to share this conversation. I appreciate you making some time to chat with us today, and we’ll catch up soon.

[00:40:18] Both:
Thanks so much, Joe.

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