If you’re trying to build the Instagram for exercise, it helps to have the guy building Instagram for Instagram. That’s why Strava has added Instagram head of product Kevin Weil to its board of directors. Formerly SVP of product for Twitter, Weil has proven his skills through a rapid set of launches at Instagram, including its surprisingly successful Snapchat Stories clone.
Now Weil will lend a hand to Strava, which lets runners and cyclers post maps of their routes, track their physical activity and connect with potential workout buddies. His expertise around social networking could help the startup become popular enough to drive a big funnel into its premium features subscription business. Strava Stories, perhaps?
Why did Weil want to get on board, literally, with Strava? He tells TechCrunch, “I actually wrote my own software back in high school to track my training, and made it freeware so others could use it. I got maybe 10,000 downloads, which seemed like a lot back in 1999 🙂 So I’m passionate about the space.”
As for where he sees growth opportunities for the app, “Hundreds of millions of people exercise every day, and for almost everyone it’s a social activity — whether you’re running or cycling with a group, or just meeting friends for a class at the gym,” Weil says. “Strava has the opportunity to expand upon these existing real-world communities, to deepen the connections you have in real life and also help you make new ones.”
Strava was founded in 2009 and has raised well over $40 million, including an $18.5 million Series D led by Sequoia in 2014. It’s recently been expanding the range of activity-tracking gadgets it syncs with, and added a real-time safety feature so athletes can sweat with confidence out on the mean streets.
Strava informed TechCrunch of Weil’s appointment over the weekend. He joins CEO Mark Gainey, co-founder Michael Horvath, Madrone Capital Partners’ Jamie McJunkin, FlySports CEO Sarah Robb O’Hagan, Jackson Square Ventures’ Greg Gretsch and serial entrepreneur and investor Ariel Poler on the board. [Correction: O’Hagan was not originally included as she’s not listed on Strava’s team page. We regret the error.]
Weil says he’s been a user for years and is actually running partners with Gainey. He says, “I’ve always been passionate about the idea that everyone can be an athlete if they want to be.” It’s a market the big athletics brands are trying to compete for. ASICS bought FitnessKeeper last year, and Under Armour acquired Endomondo in 2015.
But Strava isn’t trying to subtly sell people shoes. Its sole purpose is to make exercise a social activity so it’s fun and people stick with it. Now it will have the expertise to make getting healthy more… viral.