Thankfully for tens of millions of cyclists around the world, Mark Gainey didn’t walk away from the athletic when he had a nasty crash back in 2002.
Racing his bike down a steep road in California, he reached a pothole and ran flying, shattering his left limb and elbow. He involved no fewer than 11 operations to repair the damage.
Many of us wouldn’t want to look at a bike again after that, but Mark got back in the saddle and a few years later he and a friend came up with the idea for what has become the world’s most popular cycling app – Strava.
If you aren’t a keen cyclist then you may not have heard of it but for those of us who do like pedalling around on two wheels it isn’t an exaggeration to say that the app has been revolutionary.
Utilising the GPS( global positioning system) software on your smartphone, it enables you to record your ride, and then see an accurate line of the route you have cycled on an electronic map.
It tells you how far and fast you have cycled, and you can compare your times over certain sections – such as popular hill climbings – with both how well you have done before and with other Strava users.
This means that you can compete to beat other people’s days and aim to be “the king( or queen) of the mountain” on a certain stretching of road.
First launched in 2009 and since expanding to working and other sports, Strava now has tens of millions of users around the world, many of whom find it wholly addictive.
The word Strava is even used as a verb, as in “I’m going to strava this ride, ” and then there is the saying: “If it isn’t on Strava then it doesn’t count.”
While it has numerous rivals whose apps do similar things, such as Map My Ride and Endomondo, Strava’s user numbers tower over the others. It claims that an additional one million people join every 45 days.
But despite its vast popularity and the facts of the case that it is backed by $70 m( PS54m) of investment, the company( which doesn’t expose its financial results) is widely reported to have not yet made a profit. So what is the problem and how can it change it?
Mark Gainey, 48, said today the original genesis of the idea for San Francisco-based Strava came when he and co-founder Michael Horvath moved away from Harvard University.
“Back in the late 1980 s Michael and I rowed together at Harvard. It was an incredible experience, pretty special, with great camaraderie.
“The only problem was that we then graduated and – whoosh – that all just disappeared.
“So brainstorming notions for businesses we said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to replicate that camaraderie in the boathouse.’ The notion was to create a virtual locker room for athletes to compare periods. Regrettably the technology simply didn’t exist at the time.”