Social fitness app Strava opening office in Denver to take advantage of outdoors, tech talent

Social fitness app Strava opening office in Denver to take advantage of outdoors, tech talent

Social fitness app Strava is making a run for Denver and announced plans Tuesday to open an engineering office in downtown this year.

The San Francisco tech company started by leasing space at the Galvanize facility on Platte Street and plans to hunt for its own office as it expands its software programming team to about 15 this year, and up to 90 people — mostly software programmers — within three years. Denver’s main attraction? The talent, said CEO James Quarles, who joined Strava from Instagram Business last year.

“Looking between Denver and Boulder, there’s a lot of great technical talent,” Quarles said, also noting the state’s commitment to outdoor activities and improving transportation for commuters, cyclists and runners. “The proximity as far as time zones when doing software development was also important. We certainly considered Austin, Salt Lake City, Portland, Bend and Los Angeles and places that were in Mountain or Western (time zones). It’s the workforce skills, and I credit the Office of Economic Development and the Denver chamber for providing the data and showing the investments in innovation and the growth of the startup community. … It is a great choice for us.”

The state, through its Office of Economic Development and International Trade, approved a $2.3 million incentive in December — a tax credit that kicks in only if the company adds 89 full-time jobs in Denver that have an average annual wage of $107,174. Strava has eight years to do so.

Strava was founded by Mark Gainey and Michael Horvath in 2009 as an app and website to help people track their runs and rides, and a plethora of athletic activities. But it also added a social touch so users could encourage one another, share achievements and offer support. It has a free version for tracking activity and building routes, and a $7.99 monthly subscription to get live feedback, heart rate analysis and more. The company, which has raised about $70 million in venture funding, now has “tens of millions of members,” Quarles said. “We add a million members every 40 days.”

The app is also one of the more popular health-and-fitness apps on the market, according to App Annie, which tracks app downloads and subscriptions worldwide. Last year, Strava ranked 11th based on revenues for U.S. health and fitness apps.

“Strava has seen strong growth in both downloads and revenue in the U.S.,” App Annie insights manager Lexi Sydow said in an email. “Strava’s iOS and Google Play combined revenue in the U.S. has grown 125 percent in 2017 year over year. This indicates that Strava’s features and value proposition are resonating with users, users are deriving value from these features and they are willing to pay for it, which is a huge testament to Strava’s success.”

App Annie said the top health-and-fitness app by gross revenue is MyFitnessPal, part of the Under Armour family that swallowed up Denver startup MapMyFitness in 2013.

With so many users sharing their activities, the company expanded into new business segments, such as Strava Metro. Using anonymized user data, Strava works with local government agencies to study traffic patterns to help guide future city planning for roads, bike trails and running paths. In Portland, Ore., for example, Strava data showed riders often went a mile out of the way to cross the Willamette River, which persuaded the state’s transportation department to build a new bridge across the waterway. The Colorado Department of Transportation is a customer, Quarles said.

The Denver engineering team will be building products with a special focus on security, spam prevention and user privacy. The company also has offices in Hanover, N.H. and the United Kingdom. The bulk of its 150 employees are based at its headquarters in San Francisco.

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