As Brawn goes from strength to strength, we meet CEO Sohail Rashid to talk funding and the future of fitness tech company
The past year has changed many things including the way we exercise. For those who rely on the social interaction side of sports, it’s been difficult to factor isolation into training.
Sports and training apps have helped a huge number of athletes stay connected during the pandemic. As events were postponed, gyms closed and competitions were cancelled, many wondered where to workout. Apps helped to bridge the gap between the gym and lockdown. As a result, the World Economic Forum estimated that health and fitness apps saw a 46% increase in downloads globally.
The secret to their success lies in their ability to tap into the sense of community that sports can offer. Brawn, a platform for strength athletes has done just that. They offer lifters a chance to analyse, compete and track their progress. It allows users the chance to compete against anyone in the world. Brawn has just secured early-stage investment to support its ongoing growth from leading investors and innovation firm, True.
We speak to founder and CEO, Sohail Rashid about what inspired the start of Brawn and where its strengths lie.
Sohail has a long history in tech entrepreneurship. He combined his experience in tech with a love of lifting to start Brawn with cofounder, Andy Smith. He started powerlifting in his early 30s and went on to become a multiple British Champion, including representing Team GB.
“When I had my eldest son, I wanted to do something that was away from work where I could put my headphones on and lose myself. I wanted some me-time and lifting became that thing I did on a daily basis. I started doing strength training which led me to follow training programmes for powerlifting competitions.”
He found a sense of community in checking the numbers. “I got hooked into the numbers because it’s tangible. I could go back to old cycles and see what numbers I was doing compared to now. For me, the rankings kind of blind the professional experience of tech and data to the camaraderie and the fulfilment you get from the sport. It’s very binary.”
When it comes to funding, start-ups, apps and platforms can find it difficult to get off the ground. Sohail said that fundraising was easy but the brand said no more than yes. However, as there was no product out there for lifters, it created the perfect opportunity for Brawn.
“There is a huge opportunity to digitalise streams but it hasn’t been done. A Strava, Peloton or Zwift for strength doesn’t exist. People realised that if you took the community that My Fitness Pal created around weight loss, the community connection for people at different levels from Strava then the virtual community from Peloton that allows you to compete with anyone at any time then it is very numbers-driven. You can turn those numbers into a digital experience that helps people to stay motivated and helps them compete or train for longer. There is absolutely a product and need for that.”
As people start to make their way back to the gym post-lockdown, what’s next for Brawn? Sohail explains that they have big plans coming up.
“Brawn is a community and the app is one of the things we do. We invest in powerlifting and the sport of strength training through different measures. We’ve got Brawn helpers who physically go to competitions and help people. We are launching in America after running two successful trials out there.”
The American market is expected to increase post-lockdown, as users have become familiar with using technology for workouts. It was valued at $4.4 billion in 2020.
Alongside the American launch, Sohail hints at an exciting launch coming in a few weeks. “We are working with the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) on something very special that is coming up in the next few weeks. We’ve been in talks for three or four months and we’ve reached an agreement so that’s a very big thing that’s coming.”
Watch this space.