If I Were Strava CEO

I believe Strava has something like 30-40 million registered users and that’s seriously out there as market leader.  I also know that they have  just brought back their original CEO after seeing the business decline in paid for subscription numbers.  Its image isn’t too healthy too, after withdrawing support of sensors, kicking out Relive and failing to introduce new features, there is talk of a potential sudden decline in what is everybody’s favourite app.  Just not their favourite app to pay for. 

I used to pay for Strava and it was around £40.00 per year.  But then I asked myself what I was getting for my money and the reality isn’t I couldn’t think of anything that was worth that fee.  And that’s the problem, they’ve given too much away for free and can’t really add too much that’s worth that monthly or annual subscription.

My Thoughts

When I post a ride on Strava I’m not looking at the segments, something I used to do almost obsessively after every ride. I don’t check them because there’s no point for the simple reason I ride to ride most, not to be on a league table. That’s what I kid myself, when in reality I don’t check but there are just way too many people going faster than me that it’s now really all about ME.

Perhaps the only time that differs is when I’m doing indoor riding or out doing training rides in the summer. And then I don’t really feel I am getting enough out of it as ultimately I still want to know if I AM GETTING FITTER, not how fast everyone else is or if I did a certain bit of road in a certain time.

There are though lots of things I think Strava could do differently. Clearly I am not their CEO, but I decided to give this area some thought anyway and below are features I genuinely think I would use and maybe even pay for – especially if I got the features it already has too.

Temperature

The temperature doesn’t matter too much but what you wear to suit it does. Without going into details in the Gear section you can’t easily record what you wore. If you could quickly click on body parts and select what you wore the benefit could be that you then record whether you made the right choices. Next time rides are booked, the app could make suggestions for what you need based on the ride and weather conditions in the area.

This should matter to Strava as they could capitalise upon the data capture and both sell the analysis to the clothing manufacturers as well as seek their sponsorship within the App.

Singles

If I’m riding at 14mph on loops around Bristol how do I know if someone is doing the same? I don’t and it’s not easy to find that someone either. Ultimately I guess this is to protect privacy and I get that. But what if I had marked my profile as open to invitation? Just as one does on LinkedIn to alert a recruitment company that you don’t mind contact? What if other riders could use a ‘who rides near me’ type feature so that they could take a look at summary data and identify and potentially arrange a hook-up?

It’s a totally flawed idea on the surface because the immediate reaction is to think of bike thieves, or worse, people with much more sinister motives. But that’s no different to Instagram is it? You could mark your privacy section as being much larger (say 5 mile radius) or it could pick-up on your heat map without knowing when or how often you ride. Obviously you would want to potentially limit what gender of person is contacting you so females can only be contacted by females (if chosen) but with that amount of people with common interests, with geographical data and good privacy settings -it’s got Dating App for Cyclists & Runners written all over it.

And that’s the commercial point. Introduce your members (Athletes) to each other and it opens up the fun and creativity that goes into posting the social aspects of the riders such has the photos and comments shared. All social media platforms are built around connecting with strangers and doing so based on a like minded interest and Strava is the only one that facilitates it but makes the members do all the work in finding people. Fix that you have a whole new host of revenue stream from advertising and member subscriptions.

“If It’s Not On Strava”

The wearables market is booming and Strava has done a good job on the whole of adapting it’s app to work on those devices. However, it tends to be working exclusively on the basis that you run that app when you exercise. That’s fine, but the rest of the industry is tapping into the steps and activity of the wearables owner and Strava isn’t recording it or tracking it. That means Strava can’t become your ultimate health tool and it should. It should be the hub of your exercise data and walking is exercise – even if you didn’t start your Strava. “If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen” is true when puffing out chests at the coffee shop but it’s now completely untrue because Apple Heath and other other apps know how busy your day has been – Strava doesn’t.

Rescue Me – Recovery Angels

You are riding down a lane and you’ve hit your second puncture. Your partner won’t pick up the call and you are cold, wet and facing a long walk home in your cleats. Ever been there? We won’t know how many have because it’s not recorded. If you were in the AA, or if the AA offered bike recovery, you would be happy to join up at that moment to get home, to get a new tube, to get your chain fixed or whatever. You certainly would be happy to pay a monthly premium if you lived in a remote area, felt insecure about yourself or simply wanted peace of mind.

If Strava joined forces with a recovery service, and I am amazed the RAC and AA haven’t jumped on this yet, they could have within the App a rescue me request service that transmits who you are, your location and your problem. This could even be sent out to other members of Strava that have designated themselves as ‘recovery angels’ who don’t mind voluntarily popping out for a few miles to help a fellow cyclist or runner that needs help. Huge data protection and security clearance checks would of course be a major factor in this, but if a voluntary service were set-up outside of Strava and Strava merely linked to it, the disclaimer would be pushed to that service provider who in turn could charge a fee to any caller or subscribed member. If the ‘recovery angels’ then received a credit on their account for payment later every time they helped someone, it could be a win-win’. All recoveries would be reviewed (just like Uber) and once again you have Strava at the centre of a database that becomes valuable to new service providers.

Know Me Better

Garmin Connect is significantly better than Strava at data analysis and the presentation of that data. For Strava it seems to be an after thought and yet it has the same data that Garmin Connect does. Who hasn’t got back from a ride and zoomed in on graphs, wanted to compare their average heart rate with the same ride last time and so on? Probably most people haven’t and that’s because it’s not always that easy to do! It’s all very well dumping all this data into a database, and boy there must be a huge amount of FIT files being uploaded every day, but it’s seemingly stored in a chronological way without the dynamic ability to draw upon it intelligently. Cumulatively yes, but not intelligently.

How about a new personal assistant (Sally Strava!) that pops up and says, ‘Hey Paul you did a similar route to this 18 months ago and you seem to have slowed down’, or ‘you did five segments faster than last time’. Sure that’s huge amounts of processing, but given I am only interested in comparing my data with my own historic data I wonder if it’s as bad as first thought?

Strava needs to be my personal coach, a voice that sits on my shoulder and one that over time, like Alexa, Siri and other apps, tailors its data around what it thinks I need to know, not only what I ask for. It needs a personality, someone that I get used to like Alexa and frankly someone I trust is looking after me and tailored purely around my needs.

Goals

Why oh why are the goals options so limited? In Garmin Connect I can set monthly or even weekly goals and yet in Strava it feels like I can set either one Time based goal or one Distance. Really? Am I missing something? What if I wanted to set goals based on doing 10% more mileage than the previous year and Strava recalculated my new monthly or even weekly goals based on last years’s activity? Why can’t it simply set those up from a series of options? If my Strava personal assistant (and let’s call her Sally) offered me the chance of setting up such a goal, reminded me of it, reported against my progress and even gave me a nudge if I was below schedule for that period, would it make me work a bit harder? Of course it would because every other app that has ever integrated such a feature has done that.

Professional Coaching

Trainer Road is seen by many cyclists as the elite end of the sport and somewhere you go for hardcore data and for professional coaching. It seems crazy to me that their data analysis is ultimately coming from the same files uploaded from a Garmin or similar as Strava is using and yet they can offer so much. How many Strava riders would be interested in a professional coach? I have no idea whatsoever, but how many will be in the future is the bigger question. Those training for a charity bike ride or similar may well be following a training plan but I suspect most wouldn’t use the Strava one but instead their own ill advised plan or hopefully one offered by the charity. But who is helping them? Imagine if for two months of your training you could ask for some analysis on your runs or rides from a coach who could perhaps say ‘try and get your pedal stroke a bit faster on the flats as it will save your legs on the long ride’, ‘try and get your heart rate up a little by pushing harder for 30 second bursts’. Ie. it doesn’t have to be all about the elite end of the market and much of this could be automated with the right goal setting and data analysis.


These are just my thoughts and I am sure you will have your own. The conclusion being that my Strava personal assistant could suggest who I could ride with, help me choose the right clothes for the weather, monitor my fitness alongside my goals, help me get home if I get stuck and it could take more of my money.

The good news is these thoughts are now documented and in the passage of time I will find out how many of these were ever adopted either naturally, because someone noted this blog or because I was CEO of Strava. Either way, thanks for reading and feel free to leave your comment below.

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