Strava is an online network where runners and cyclists can record their activities, compare performance, and compete with their community.

Personal health and fitness has been a popular consumer activity, with ~20% of people working out daily. The demand for fitness and wellness platforms spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, jumping from 50% of gym-goers using social workout platforms to 75%.

Though Strava was founded before the pandemic, its social platform allows individuals to log their exercise and receive data analytics while connecting with others. Unlike other apps specific to wearable devices, Strava welcomes all athletes regardless of device or training level.

Founding Date

Jan 1, 2009


San Francisco, California

Total Funding

$ 152M


series f



Careers at Strava



July 25, 2023

Reading Time

13 min


In professional and amateur sports, technology is playing an increasingly major role. VCs invested $1.4 billion into sports tech startups in 2020, a number which grew to as much as $9 billion by 2022. Startups in the sports tech space are, among other things, taking a data-driven approach to help coaches guide players remotely, measure their workloads, and optimize training schedules. But a growing number of companies are focusing on more than just organized sports.

Meanwhile, personal health and fitness have become a popular consumer activity, with 1 in 4 Americans regularly visiting a gym or fitness center in 2019, representing a 27% increase since 2010. Running, meanwhile, increased by 57% in popularity during the 2010s, part of a continuing long-term trend (one 2014 report found that running had grown in popularity by 60.6% since 2004). As fitness becomes more prevalent in daily life, so does the desire to connect with others with similar exercise habits.

Strava is a platform for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Its platform serves as both a fitness tracking tool and a social network, empowering users to record and share their workouts, connect with others, and engage in friendly competition. Athletes can track various activities such as running, cycling, swimming, and more, while also analyzing detailed performance data to monitor progress and set new goals. Strava's user-friendly interface and features have made it a popular choice among those seeking motivation, accountability, and a sense of community in their fitness journey.

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Founding Story

Strava was founded in 2009 by Michael Horvath (CEO) and Mark Gainey (Chairman). Prior to founding Strava, Horvath and Gainey met while on the crew team at Harvard and later reunited when Horvath took a professorship at Stanford. After their successful venture, Kana Communications, which went public in 1999, they would go on to pursue their passion project: creating a fitness social network designed for athletes.

Gainey credits his love for sports to his upbringing in Reno, Nevada, where he enjoyed outdoor activities like skiing and soccer from a young age. His parents were supportive of his interests and encouraged him to pursue his passion for sports. During his college years, Gainey's focus shifted from soccer to running and later to rowing.

When Horvath and Gainey graduated from Harvard and its crew team, they missed the environment of friendly competition and support from teammates. They saw an opportunity to combine their passion for sports with technology, leading to the launch of Strava, a fitness tracking and social media application intended to recreate the Harvard rowing team’s atmosphere of motivational camaraderie and competition. The app quickly gained popularity among athletes and sports enthusiasts. “Strava,” Swedish for “Strive,” is a social media platform for athletes of all levels and sports to motivate and encourage wellness.

Gainey and Horvath were particularly focused on the cycling community in the early stages of Strava but always envisioned expanding to serve athletes across different sports. As of July 2023, Gainey serves as the co-founder and chairman of Strava, while Horvath is the CEO. Horvath announced in February 2023 that he’d be stepping down from the CEO role for the second time, but the company has not yet found a replacement. Horvath holds a Ph.D. in economics from Northwestern University and an A.B. in economics from Harvard. Gainey was previously a venture capital executive and serial entrepreneur and is on the boards of Alter-G, BoardVantage, Daum, Clari, and Coaching Corps.


Strava is a platform intended to help athletes track their workouts, find new jogging routes and exercise regiments, connect and compete with other athletes, and publish their training with titles, captions, and photos. Its tracking features record workouts and analyzes data produced by wearable devices like Garmin or Apple Watch. The app includes a social platform for friends and family to connect and see each other’s workouts. It’s also a competitive motivational network with workout analytics, fitness data, achievements, and leaderboards. The social media component creates a community for athletes, from professional and Olympic runners to cyclists riding for fun. Every activity displays a map (if applicable) and statistics (duration, pace, calories, vertical) shown in a feed among followers.

Athletes can give “Kudos” to each other and leave comments on other people’s activities. A "Groups" feature allows athletes to start group challenges, join clubs, meet other users, and join existing challenges. Users receive trophies for course records and personal bests and can view who beat them on the same segment (on the “leaderboard”). Some organizations sponsor challenges with rewards (i.e., Adidas, Nuun, Salomon), while others are simply personal goals to keep athletes motivated.

Upon opening the app, users see a feed of other athletes’ activities. They can view activity data, a map, photos, achievements, and more information (i.e., gear and collaborators). The app also gives users access to a vast road and trail network that helps with route planning, accompanied by recent photos that show current trail conditions. Strava's acquisition of proprietary 3D mapping technology company FATMAP in January 2023 further enhances this part of the user experience. In April 2023, Strava added a Spotify integration to reduce app switching.

Source: Strava, Contrary Research



Strava's ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) typically includes people who are active and enjoy sports and fitness activities. The app caters to a wide range of athletes, cyclists, runners, swimmers, hikers, and other sporty individuals who want to track, analyze, and share their physical activities. Strava's target audience, in particular, consists of people who are motivated by challenges, competitions, and community engagement. The platform provides a social networking aspect where users can connect with friends, join clubs, and participate in challenges, which appeals to those seeking camaraderie and motivation in their fitness journey. Additionally, Strava's ICP may include fitness enthusiasts who are interested in improving their performance and achieving personal goals by leveraging the app's data-driven insights and training features.

Market Size

As of 2022, Strava operates in the $5 billion global fitness app market, which is expected to grow to $15 billion by 2028.

Several significant acquisitions in the space show potential for Strava’s future. Francisco Partners acquired MyFitnessPal in 2020 for $345 million, and Google acquired FitBit in 2019 for $2 billion. Those previous successes have been more limited in terms of their addressable markets. Strava can enroll every athlete while its competition focuses on fitness niches. FitBit is like Strava but requires athletes to use a FitBit device. MyFitnessPal is a food-tracking platform with minimal data and no social functions.

An estimated 23% of all Americans regularly exercise. Michael Horvath, Strava’s CEO, said the company believes there are 700 million people worldwide who “wake up every day wanting to be active,” and can benefit from using Strava.


Strava tries to position itself as a fitness app for everyone, spanning a large range of activities and fitness pursuits. Competing apps offer communities and motivation, fitness classes, or data analytics for a specific sport or purpose. MapMyRun, RunKeeper, Nike Run Club, and Runtastic all offer GPS tracking and workout analysis, but strictly for running. Likewise, MapMyRide and RideWithGPS solely analyze bike rides.

Some of Strava’s competitors provide virtual classes, but none of them capture as wide a variety of sports, athletes, and athletic levels. Garmin, Fitbit, and Apple offer similar services but limit themselves to athletes using their devices. In 2022, Strava’s community of over 95 million athletes competes with MyFitness Pal’s 140 million users, Nike Run Club’s 100 million, MapMyFitness’s 40 million, Garmin’s 18 million+, Apple’s 100 million+, and FitBit’s 31 million.

Strava emphasizes inclusivity in its mission statement:

“If you sweat, you’re an athlete, and Strava’s mobile apps and website connect millions of active people every day.”

By offering 41 different sports (as of September 2022), Strava is open to everyone from fitness enthusiasts to Olympic athletes. It logs activities ranging from running and cycling to skiing and canoeing. Strava is compatible with 400+ devices, including gym equipment, smart watches, and cycling computers. Nike Run Club, for example, is only compatible with devices made by Garmin, TomTom, Wahoo Fitness, and Netpulse, and only offers running.

Business Model

Freemium vs. Premium

Strava’s “freemium” model allows users to use the app for free with limited capabilities or purchase a “premium” subscription with enhanced features. As the company grew, it dialed back some free components and turned them into premium capabilities (i.e., segment searching, leaderboard viewing, and ride matching). Strava users can access several features for free: Activity Recording, Compete on Segments, Accelerate Training, Device Support, Social Network, and Beacon on Phones.

For $79.99/year or $11.99/month, Premium users access all features such as Beacon on Devices, Route Planning, Segment Competition, Training Dashboard, HR & Power Analysis, Advanced Metrics, Goal Setting, Training Log, Compare Efforts, Personal Heatmaps, and Partner Perks.

Strava Metro

Strava Metro allows governments and agencies to buy Strava data to understand cycling and running patterns. The data can help them create better urban spaces for bikers and pedestrians.

While most of Strava’s revenue comes from subscription users, Strava Metro and sponsored challenges have also become revenue drivers. Strava Metro partnered with several cities and their transportation and city planning departments to improve infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Strava offers cities help with planning, measuring, and improving infrastructure through Strava Metro. Governments and agencies can purchase anonymized data from Strava in their city to help create safer commutes.

Strava Challenges

Strava Challenges are like advertisements. They allow companies to promote their brand but don’t appear as conventional ads. Companies pay $20K-$200K to sponsor challenges. These sponsored challenges serve as a “motivational influence” with organic interaction rather than the “disruption” of traditional advertisements.

Source: Strava, Contrary Research

For example, Adidas offered a Strava badge and commitment to a plastic waste cleanup project based on completing its Adidas x Parley Run For The Oceans challenge.

When a user’s friend opts to join a challenge it appears in the feed of their followers, alongside everyone’s activities. “Branded challenges” introduce companies to Strava users and allow them to market their brand and products. Many challenges give users prices, helping bring more customers to Strava Challenge Sponsors. Prizes can include discounts or free offerings with certain purchases.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, Strava experienced significant growth, with 3 million people joining monthly at its peak in April and May 2020, which was three times the rate before the pandemic. By April 2022, that growth rate number had settled back down to 2 million new users monthly.

Strava has extended beyond cycling to include 33 activities, leading to revenues growing 70% in 2020 with 90% coming from subscriptions, and Horvath claimed revenue spiked 68% in 2021, and was estimated by one source to have hit $110 million by 2022. Another source reported that Strava had 95 million registered users as of January 2022 and up to $220 million in revenue.


In November 2020, Strava raised a $110 million Series F from TCV and Sequoia Capital at a $1.5 billion valuation, which brought the company's total funding amount to $151.9 million. Notable Strava investors include Sequoia Capital, TCV, Sigma Partners, Dragoneer Investment, Jackson Square, Madrone Capital, and Go4It Capital.

In April 2022, CEO Michael Horvath said he was eager to take Strava public because he saw an IPO as “a way to ensure longevity and do certain things we can’t do as a private company”, but in February 2023 stated that the company had "no immediate plans to go public".

Key Opportunities

Tour de France

Strava offers partnerships with relevant brands (Red Bull, Adidas, and Le Col), races and competitions (The Virgin Money London Marathon, TCS New York City Marathon, NYRR Virtual Race), and high-profile athletes (Riejanne Markus, Andy Turner, and Julyn Aguila). The company’s three-year partnership with Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes allows athletes to share more information as they race and fans greater visibility into the event. Giving users close-up access to Tour de France brings the races to life for cycling fans worldwide; creating a storytelling hub for the cyclists.

The Tour de France Femmes will be the world’s largest and most competitive women’s race after its inaugural year in 2022. Strava supports the ecosystem of women’s cycling and athletics. In the male-dominated fitness world, Strava’s public support of women in sports, and other female-athlete-focused companies could foster a community of women eager to compete.

Device Compatibility

With so many compatible devices, Strava’s synergy with equipment makers will likely continue to be a valuable avenue. For example, over 50 million Peloton activities were uploaded to the app as of 2021, and Strava saw similar popularity among Zwift users. As a result, Strava has the potential to become the de facto social and competitive network for fitness. The company could seek to improve integration from more apps (i.e., Equinox+, Lululemon Mirror), equipment, and wearables, and offer more social network components (i.e., direct messaging). Individuals use several apps and platforms, and Strava may want to consolidate users from other applications to continue leading the market.

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Key Risks

Data and Privacy Concerns

After landing in hot water for inadvertently exposing the location of US military bases in 2018, Strava eliminated mid-workout and live tracking features. The company subsequently placed a bigger emphasis on privacy, like hiding an activity’s start and end points, making private profiles, hiding profile pictures from non-friends, and hiding entire activities. The GPS component works well for fostering community, but some athletes experienced privacy breaches by individuals who found their locations from the app. If Strava continues to have data and privacy concerns it could severely limit its long-term potential.


Users have expressed concerns that the company may begin selling their data to find new revenue, though the company has committed not to sell user data except in the case of Strava Metro. Since 95% of Strava’s users opt for the free version, it’s unclear how willing most athletes are to pay for the premium offering. As the company figures out how to structure its “freemium” business model, Strava has upset many users by revoking previously-free features and turning them into premium perks. Athletes enjoy the ad-free nature of the platform but an ad-supported tier could become potential territory for Strava as it starts to focus more on profit.


Between their broad addressable market and minimal direct competition, Strava is positioned well within community-oriented fitness apps. Though many other companies overlap with Strava’s business, none directly compete with Strava’s entire offering. Strava unifies all athletes on a single app, syncs with hundreds of devices, offers over 30 sports, and promotes competition and community engagement between users of all skill levels.

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