3 min read

Facebook For Fitness: Strava’s Quest to Become The Fitness Social Network

There’s no one way to work out. And, given the growing number of options—from boutique studios and connected equipment to going for a run or hitting the gym—that’s never been truer. But, regardless of how you exercise, when it comes to logging, analyzing, and sharing your sweat session, Strava wants to be “the home of your active life.”

What it is: Strava is a fitness app popular among runners and cyclists. Founded in 2009, the company has raised more than $70M in funding. It’s already the go-to app for endurance enthusiasts. Now, the company wants to become an all-encompassing fitness social network.

  • Although Strava has 42M accounts and is adding a million new users/month, only a small segment of users pay for its premium “Summit” service.
  • In addition to focusing on continued growth, the company is also working to monetize its user base.
  • In its 10-year existence, Strava has yet to turn a profit.

Strava has a part freemium, part subscription business model. With access to the premium subscription (called Strava Summit), users pay annual or monthly fees to unlock features like training plans, workout analytics, and beacon location tracking.

While Strava CEO James Quarles is emphatic that the company is “overwhelmingly a subscriptions business”, they also offer Strava Business and Strava Metro products. The former includes brand sponsorships and licensing by hardware devices. The later is a Foursquare-like play in which Strava sells data about where people run and bike to governments and transportation planners.

The challenge ahead: From a business perspective, Strava needs to grow subscription revenue and/or add new revenue streams, like advertising. On the product front, Strava thinks it can go beyond tracking to offer users a calendar, blog, photo album, message boards, and more.

The catch? They have to navigate those challenges without alienating their core (paying) users who, to this point, have been serious endurance athletes. By the way, they’ll also have to generate a return for their investors. And if that wasn’t enough, they’ll have to contend with a growing number of competitors, each taking their own approach to building a fitness social network.

Zooming out: While many have tried, there’s no one definitive winner in the realm of social fitness networks.

Back in 2015, there was a run on fitness apps. That’s when ASICS scooped up Runkeeper for $85M. It’s the same year Under Armour paid $475M for MyFitnessPal and another $85M for Endomondo. Two years earlier, Under Armour forked over $150M for MapMyFitness. Although these platforms have amassed huge user bases, none have succeeded in creating a truly social experience or centralized fitness hub.

Surveying the current landscape, Fitbit and Nike Run Club dabble in social sharing and competitions, but most users will only tune in to track their activity or a run route, respectively.

If Strava starts feeling the heat, it’ll be coming from two groups.

  • Their investors have been patient, allowing for the implementation of a super-long-term vision. Sooner or later, though, they’ll come calling. However, Strava co-founder Mark Gainey said he’s not interested in an acquisition and the company doesn’t quite have the trajectory to go public. So profitability it is.
  • The second group applying pressure is the growing number of connected equipment and on-demand fitness startups. From Peloton and Mirror to Aaptiv and Zwift, the equipment and/or subscription model packs a much higher RPU (revenue per user) than Strava’s freemium hybrid.

In the months ahead, Peloton will go public. Tens of millions of dollars will be invested in digital fitness startups. New competitors, like Future (read more below) will emerge. And a roll-up of health and fitness apps, content providers, and hardware companies is looming.

Meanwhile, Strava will attempt to become the Facebook of fitness. Is that what users want? Can Strava execute? We’ll likely know soon.

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