Executive Q&A: Wahoo CEO Mike Saturnia

Wahoo

Outdoors and at home, cycling boomed during the pandemic. As the era of the connected athlete takes shape, we spoke with Wahoo CEO Mike Saturnia about the evolution of endurance tech, launching Wahoo X, and the power of community.

Digital/connected fitness is facing headwinds. How will the category evolve?

Mike Saturnia: It’s going to come down to staying true to the soul of the sport they address. For example, the endurance market shouldn’t be addressed like the mass market.

Wahoo is all about meeting consumers wherever they are—on the road or at home—with an ecosystem that supports indoor and outdoor training seamlessly. Brands, especially in this space, need to create seamless experiences that just work, because nothing should stand in the way of you and your training.

Our goal is to build a better athlete in all our customers, and our sports science-based approach gives endurance athletes confidence they can become better with Wahoo.

How does Wahoo navigate building a closed ecosystem versus maintaining an open platform?

MS: Wahoo was built on the foundation of simplicity and the mindset that “there’s got to be a better way.”

Consumer choice and the best customer experience are our top priorities. We may choose to build our own solution with the goal of providing the consumer with the best experience, however, we are committed to allowing customers to choose what’s best for them, including working with a partner.

We consider our partnerships a very valuable part of the consumer experience and do not see that changing, so if there’s a partner that already is giving athletes options, convenience, and control over how they train, we’ll consider that.

Regardless of if it’s a partner or built at Wahoo, it has to work seamlessly within the Wahoo ecosystem. And athlete choice is at the heart of Wahoo — we balance vertical integration and partner solutions with the caveat that expansion has to allow Wahoo to remain open and compatible.

Wahoo X sets us up to be exponential. A single subscription allows Wahoo to continue to build and develop our software offering through both vertical integration and acquisitions. It helps us build equity for the Wahoo brand and efficiently reach more endurance athletes with new services.

From VR to web3, immersive exercise is trending. How will it impact fitness?

MS: That seems like an obvious progression for the category and us.

When we launched KICKR BIKE, the goal wasn’t just to replicate your outdoor ride — it was to replicate your entire outdoor bike setup. The culmination is a fully customizable indoor smart bike, with grade simulation, that uses the intuitive interface of your device to recreate your outdoor bike ride-feel, including exact fit, gearing, and crank length.

What key trends will shape the future of endurance tech?

MS: The future will be about customization and individualized training plans, but ones rooted in science and data will set brands within the endurance industry apart.

Also, addressing accessibility, opening up the sport to more people is a path to success. In turbulent times, like what we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, consumer habits are changing as a result, and brands that offer solutions rather than additional obstacles stand out in the long run.

Community is at the heart of cycling and running, so brands that are finding ways to bridge the real and virtual worlds together will be at the front of the pack as well. And to that point, offering athlete choice—how and where you train—will be key to survival in this nebulous post- or ongoing pandemic phase we’re in.

If one thing is for certain, it’s that indoor cycling is constantly evolving. We saw continuous growth across the category pre-pandemic, and we’ve certainly seen that throughout. As we hit a post-pandemic surge, we expect it to once again return to a period of sustained growth.

Brands that are continuously evolving with the industry will ultimately be the ones shaping its future.

Wrapping up: Anything else we should keep in mind?

MS: Sports science is an integral part of Wahoo and our desire to build the better athlete in all of us. We have recently opened a state-of-the-art facility in the endurance capital of the world—Boulder—which houses a team led by Neal Henderson.

Also, the recent launch of Wahoo X sets us up to grow our software offering exponentially, and we plan to continue to evaluate ways to develop that membership with offerings that will enable our community to become better athletes.