Thought I'd share this interview here as we had a really cool conversation with Mark Gainey, co-founder and chairman of Strava, were he touched on the early origins of Strava, how rowing crew at Harvard was more important than his degree, how they were able to build such a strong community, the future of Strava, and much more. You can find the podcast on YouTube here and on Spotify here.
Also, for the aspiring entrepreneurs out there, I'll add some really insightful takeaways from the conversation below:
1. Don’t confuse go-to-market strategy with a vision
Mark: The phrase I often use is “inch wide, mile deep” — we picked a very niche and specific target audience. Our target audience initially was cyclists. We knew that cyclists by definition are in love with their data and we knew that we could do something with this information.
2. Focus less on growth and more on engagement
Mark: This may seem counterintuitive, but one thing I learned early on at Strava is to focus less on growth and more on engagement. We spent much more time thinking about when a member found us – if they would stay with us.
3. Sometimes less is better
Mark: It's important to not lose your north star in terms of what you're actually trying to offer your customer. At Strava, we've been very cognizant from day one that Strava is at its best when it's fun and entertaining. We never set out to be a preeminent intense data analytics platform.
4. The importance of first principles thinking
Mark: We always went back to that first principle – engagement, engagement, and engagement. Strava is more fun when your friends are on it, so if people are engaged – they're going to tell their friends.
5. Always listen to your customers
Mark: We made two big commitments: 1) we would be as agnostic and as ubiquitous as we possibly could – whenever a user requested to connect a device, we never wanted to say no. 2) we were not going to be in the hardware business or launch our own wearable. We would work with providers, not compete with them.
6. Don’t be afraid to do things that don’t scale
Mark: Although there's always pressure from investors, it's important to do things that are not scalable and simply show up. In the early days of Strava, Michael and I would show up at cycling and running events to cheer people on during the race. Afterward, we would help them upload to Strava and just introduce them to us – we would not simply try to sell them something.
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