Let’s Do This is the world’s most active platform used to find then book one of more than 30,000 adventures, the kinds of which include endurance, running and cycling events, in addition to triathlons, swimming and obstacle courses, and more. Today, they announced investments by Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, and Paula Radcliffe. This $5 million seed round is backed by Peter Flint, Managing Partner of NFX, and the co-founder of Trulia. Athletes that want to try their first 5K race or those that want to crush an Ultra every weekend are now using this web site, app and it’s online services in droves when 18-months ago they had practically zero users. When arguably the best female and male athletes in the world not only invest capital but gladly give their business advice, this sports tech startup is definitely past the start line and onto bigger things now and into the future. Sam Browne, Let’s Do This, CEO, chatted with The Sports Techie community blog from across the pond about his experiences running the company with co-founder, Alex Rose. The two are childhood mates and Cambridge University graduates where they found time to race in a variety of adventurous races. Brown just turned 27-years old making him one of the youngest in the company. The former hardcore runner and now daring cyclist was full of energy, passion for his vision and the kind of uninhibited charm both a parent or investor would be proud to be associated with. If you are searching for a 10K run, half marathon or Ironman, look no further than the largest marketplace on the planet at as they push into the United States, Australia and around the globe after dominating their own backyard. To facilitate this growth phase, they signed a major partnership with Hearst to be the technology component to all race listings for Runner’s World, Men’s Health and Women’s Health across the U.S. and UK. I found it refreshing to know I asked Browne questions he had not been asked before which made our interview even more enlightening.
Sports Tech Investor Serena Williams
Serena is the GOAT of professional women’s tennis after an impressive career winning 22 Grand Slam Championships and earning her 10th US Open final appearance last night at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Many of her fans may not know she was also one of the first investors in Let’s Do This.
Williams came out of the blue after her husband; Alexis Ohanian, finished a Spartan race together. He is the co-founder of Reddit and a Y Combinator partner. Sam says Serena and Alexis wanted to invest, and Rose and Browne felt lucky at the time as they were 24 times oversubscribed on finding an investment round. “Both have been super generous and so supportive,” said Browne, adding they had a deep understanding of digital businesses and made introductions. He says Serena had empathy for runners doing their first 5K.
Sam and Alex went to the French Open about 14-months ago with tickets to Serena’s private box when she was wearing the Catwoman suit into the quarters. Serena got injured and bowed out but Sam was impressed by her want to help in the middle of pursuing a Slam. “It’s kinda mad, she was one of my idols,” said Browne.
Williams took time out of her busy schedule this week during the US Open to provide Let’s Do This with a quote about her involvement with the sports technology startup.
Williams said, “I’ve seen first-hand the incredible impact these events can have on making people fitter, healthier and happier. I love that Let’s Do This is not only making events like these more accessible, but also helping to support athletes of all different fitness levels. Women are especially less likely to participate in marathons and obstacle races, so it’s really important there’s a platform encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and make a positive difference in their lives.”
Usain Bolt’s Investment
Perhaps the greatest male athlete of all-time, Usain Bolt is the pride of Jamaica alongside Bob Marley. He holds the World Record in a number of track & field events including the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100. Sam and Alex initially approached Mo Farah about investing but he could not at the time but recommended they reach out to Bolt. Besides Bolt Scooters, he had never invested in the technology sector before. Browne said he was impressed by how Usain did a deep dive into the business side of the investment drilling down on the numbers and asking thoughtful questions.
Bolt said, “Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to inspire people to follow their dreams, get off the couch and get exercising. That’s what attracted me to Let’s Do This. It’s a company that is totally committed to changing the world and inspiring more people to get out there. Like me, their team doesn’t believe in limits and is totally committed to being the best in the world. It’s a really natural fit with what I care about and what I believe in, so I am very happy to be supporting their mission to inspire more people to have epic experiences.”
Let’s Do This Growth
As a first to market in the space, Let’s Do This wanted to build out their technology then focus on marketing and communications. Problem was, both co-founders had little experience with scaling a technology company so they struggled for the first 18-months of existence according to Browne. One thing they had going right for them was hiring talented people with proven work experiences that came on board with the same type of passion for their niche as the founders. This included Olympic Gold Medalist, Constantine Louloudis, a Cornell graduate, to quality hires that dreamed of finishing their first race no matter the distance or difficultly. The staff has a 50 percent makeup from Facebook, Google, Oracle, Deliveroo and SkyScanner.
Flint said, “As an entrepreneur turned venture capital investor, I’ve seen firsthand that companies like Let’s Do This are extremely rare. Given their talent, passion, and vision, this is the right team at the right time. This is a $30bn global market with enormous growth potential and already 100 million people crossing a finish line in the US each year. In just 18 months they’ve gone from launch to building the world’s best online marketplace to find, learn about, and book your next race. With over 30,000 events across the US, UK, and Australasia, this team is just getting started. At NFX, we were thrilled to lead their seed financing round after they completed Y Combinator. We are excited about supporting their mission of connecting the world, getting them moving, and helping them attain health, happiness, and personal achievement.”
The other VCs in the round are Shasta, Index and FJ Labs, together with angels Paul Buchheit (YC, Gmail), Yuri Sagalov (YC, AeroFS), Simon Nixon (MoneySupermarket), Tim Thackrah (Elmsleigh), Paula Radcliffe (Marathon World Record Holder) and Andy Philips (Booking.com).
Sam had mentioned his parents early to me early in our talk so later on I asked what his parents think of the fundamental life shift, working in a technology startup as a CEO. He liked this question as it had never been asked of him before. He feels millennials can feel that startups are risky as are working in them but the bigger risk he believes in not pursuing your dreams. Having a stable family unit in a startup environment has been a major factor in his successes to date.
This is Sam’s second startup, the first being, ‘I Go Adventures’ which he sold his equity shares to start Let’s Do This.
His co-founder Alex, is a rower who took up serious cycling and runs triathlons, having just completed an Ironman competition in Sweden. They met in a bar after Rose rowed across the Atlantic and spoke about changing others lives for the better through life changing experiences.
I asked about the role Y Combinator played. Brown said, “Joining Y Combinator is like Hogwarts, when we got the interview, I think it was the second sports company after The Athletic.”
As the CEO, his role changes week to week. He is responsible for hires and managing the culture internally. Team triumphs are important to him. He wants to hire only the best people in things they do. Their employees are passionate about what they do. The startup began with 7 people on the team and soon thereafter got some developers from top tech companies to join and now they have a head count of 32 going forward.
Browne has expectations of 5 times growth over the next 18 months and will test the US market. Initially, they treated America the same as the UK but soon realized that was a mistake. They split their headquarters in London in two opening an office in San Francisco while targeting both California and New York to build up credibility. The rest of Europe and Australia are other keys to expansion. Recently, the whole company was in Cambridge for 6 weeks of training and a cultural exchange.
With the extra equity, “Look for the same amount of acquisitions to change the market with more experiences as the US is a way bigger market to go and hit,” says Browne.
While Cambridge did not exactly train him for this exact job where he studied philosophy, as well as cricket and running in his spend time, Sam tells me he often reflects on what he learned from his college majors when making decisions, talking to investors and team building. While running a start-up Browne often encounters the human problems he must merge with the company mission to shape the world with these positive racing experiences. He says having high level conversations can more resemble philosophy rather than an MBA.
I looked over their website and saw it had an Instagram tab but no other social media channel links and wanted to know why this was. Browne acknowledged the absence of more social media presence and says they will get better at the marketing and comm side after the investment. The company was so focused on building the tech and scaling it as a first-mover because no one else had brought all the races together, other business needs suffered. Alex and Same felt the priority was to focus on producing twice as many races as anyone else in the industry which they did.
At their Instagram handle I noticed ‘The Challenges Awards’ and wanted to know more about this social initiative. Brown shared some data as to how big the market is, stating, “88% of athletes that have a positive race experience will race again, 13% that have a bad experience with their first race, will race again.” Let’s Do This aims to ensure a positive first race for all by reviewing sites and races in order to support race directors via the Challenges Awards. He mentioned this concept becoming the Oscars of races.
In terms of the significance of Hearst as a partner, Browne said, “They have a dominating race platform, we got in touch with them wanted to give users a better experience, easy registration.” As a result of this arrangement, the community at Runners World, Men’s Health and Woman’s Health has an improved ability to find and sign up for more races while racing directors can find more racers.
I asked Sam what their exit strategy is. He replied, “Good question, building a startup for an ends to get out, you often end up in a scrap with deep believers, with someone that believes in making the world a better place with a financial upside.” He added, “Doing good in the world, having a good business, working with best people, I can’t think about working anywhere else. These are the most talented men and women I have met in my life, and good people. Warren Buffer says, why would you ever sell a good business?” Sam and Alex both agree.
Finally, Browne says the VC market is at $2.5 trillion of underplayed capital, they are making big bets, and it has never been more encouraged. He said, “A crash is coming in not too distance future but we have never been with less than 6 months of runway, we are sustainable.”
Look for more deals in the next 3-4 months, says Sam.
Sports Techie, finding the right investor is a critical step in any startup looking to raise money. The right investment often goes beyond capital.
Sam is proud to offer more epic experiences than any other company on the planet.
Find a race that fits your lifestyle at Let’s Do This and book it. You can cancel any booking up to 4 days before the event hassle free. If you find the event for a lesser price, they will match it and give you a $50 voucher. The 24/7 customer service is there for your virtual convenience.
Thanks to Sam for the interview opportunity.
Go race and thank Let’s Do This later!
See you later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!
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