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Founder insights
March 23, 2022

Chris Bruchhausen on How He Got His Wellness Platform Up and Running

Strove is a startup that helps companies improve the physical and mental well-being of their employees.

Given the increasing pressure that employers are being placed under to make sure they’re taking care of their employees’ physical and mental wellbeing, they saw an opportunity to build a product that helps. Whether it's HR teams or C-suites, Strove aims to drive physical as well as mental wellbeing behaviour within organisations. 

Today we’re sitting down with Chris Bruchhausen, the founder of Strove, to hear how he got this sporty startup running.

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Image of person running happily with their arms in the air at a Strove community event on Table Mountain
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Written by
Chris Bruchhausen
Founder, Strove
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Strove Today, in 2 Years, and 10 Years 

Where is Strove today? 

Our product is live in the South African market with about 11 or 12 companies on board and using it. That’s a base of 1300 employees with access to Strove. 

We’re in the process of onboarding a few very large corporates in South Africa, which will exponentially increase the employee base. In about a week, we’re launching in the UK with four or five companies on board for the initial launch. 

We’re also going through the process of raising another round of funding as it's still very early days. The business is only a year-and-a-bit-old but there's been some nice momentum over the past little while, so we're getting there. 

How do you see Strove changing over the next 2 years and how will you create these changes? 

From a general value proposition and product perspective, we're not going to go through any massive pivots. We've validated what we’re trying to do with the businesses we’ve already got on board and paying for the product. 

In terms of how the product itself might change, we would essentially just like to build more features to help employees more comprehensively with their physical and mental wellbeing needs.

On the general business op side, ultimately we want to try and build a global business with a massive user base. The UK is one of the starting points to Strove’s international expansion and we want to go to Europe shortly thereafter. There are also a few interesting opportunities that we’re exploring in a couple of African countries like Kenya and Ghana to start with.

What's the dream for Strove? If everything goes perfectly over the next 10 years, what does that look like for you? 

So much can change in 10 years. When you start a business, you have an idea of what the exit plan looks like, at least in the back of your mind. But that isn’t what I’m focussed on at the moment.

Because we're a mission-driven business and we want to make sure that we build a product that pulls on that mission on some level, our focus is always on building a product that creates value for the end-user.

I want us to have a team that is super energised and aligned with the mission of the business. I want us to love working on the products and have beliefs that embody the core value proposition and mission of the business. Then we’ll have a product that is delivering meaningful value in people's lives.

Getting Funding and Finding Balance 

Last year, Strove raised 4 million ZAR in seed funding from Launch Africa. Can you explain the process of how you achieved this funding and why you went with Launch Africa? 

In terms of the process, we went around and pitched to a few Venture Capitalists based in South Africa. We connected with some of them through networking and others came from cold calling. We also pitched to a few high-net-worth individuals.

Launch Africa, the leading investor in our round, operates as a true early-stage VC and is willing to take risks with businesses that are still very new. Their managing partner is also just a super nice guy. He’s very intelligent, super well-networked, and we wanted to work with him. 

On top of that, they were offering really fast funding. I had dinner with them where we discussed the funding and about three weeks later they sent an investment offer. As an early-stage company we needed things to move fairly quickly and a lot of VCs can leave you hanging for months after you pitch so their speed was a factor that played into our decision to work with them. 

It was a combination of willingness to take risks, their dynamic managing partner, and their speed that made Launch Africa super valuable for us to bring on board. 

How do funding rounds work and what kinds of questions should founders be prepared to answer? 

Despite popular belief, it's not like an episode of like Shark Tank. It’s only ever you and one or multiple of the partners from the fund that you're busy pitching to. If it's a cold presentation, you’ll speak over an investor deck about your value proposition, product, business, traction, revenue model, et cetera. 

However, if the person you're speaking to has already seen the deck and they've got context, you’ll probably get asked strategic questions such as: 

  • Are there adjacent markets that you could potentially be operating in at some point?
  • How do you go about your GDPR compliance process? 
  • For big corporates, are there any key risks that you see to the business and how are you going to mitigate those risks? 
  • What does the team look like? 
  • What are your hiring plans for the future?

What other founders do you look up to and how have you applied their wisdom to your day-to-day? 

He's a little bit controversial, but I look up to Jack Dorsey, the ex-CEO of Twitter and current CEO of Square. I like how he’s able to run two public companies while still making sure he takes care of his physical and mental health.

The way he structures his life to be able to do all of that into a single day is impressive. I think a lot of these big-time CEOs are solely focused on work or don't prioritise things outside of work concerning family or physical and mental health.

I've been hesitant to idolize people who work 24 hours a day because I don't think that's how you build a sustainable business and it's just not a very happy existence.

I have interests and hobbies outside of work, sport being one of them. I make sure that I prioritise time in my day where I dedicate time to engaging in those kinds of activities, whether it's going for a run in the morning or going for a cycle on the weekend. 

I set boundaries and make sure I don’t just roll out of bed at six o’clock and go straight to my laptop even when I know there’s work to be done (there always is). If someone’s trying to ping me during the time I’ve blocked out for myself, unless somebody is actually dying, I’m not going to answer them. 

I also think structuring your days so you’re able to do things you enjoy makes you more productive at work in the long run anyway. 

Passion and Community in Startup-Building

When you’re not running Strove, you do a lot of running - and swimming, and cycling. It seems that your business is closely tied to your love for sports and physical activity. Do you think there’s value in using your passions as a starting point when coming up with business ideas? 

It definitely helps. You can't, at least in my opinion, build a business solely based on passion. I think on some level you need to be intellectually capable as much as you are passionate.

Let's say you want to build a space tourism business because space and travel are two major passions of yours, but you are not an engineer or you haven't worked in that kind of environment before. Despite your passion, trying to start a business in that space might not make a whole lot of sense.

So I think it's a bit of a balance. It does help to have a passion for what you're building, but it needs to be within your domain where you have some sort of expertise as well. 

A large part of Strove’s presence on socials is tied to your community events. How do you think community building is valuable as a tool to get a startup off the ground? 

There are a few reasons community events are working well for Strove. 

As a startup, you probably don't have a ton of money to spend on marketing. Building a community is an organic way to market your business at a very low cost. It drives organic brand awareness and gets people invested in the business.

The events we put together embody the value proposition that we’re pitching which is about being active, healthy, and outside. Because of this, we've been able to align the community events with some of the social media marketing content that we do.

Our events are also a nice way to meet new people and network. We’ve had a few prospective clients come out of the community events where they’ve heard about our events through the grapevine and rocked up to go for a run with us. From there we’re able to build intimate connections with them that we couldn’t have built by putting content out on our socials.

Beyond that, it's a powerful way to find people that you can hire who are already a culture fit for Strove. The type of people who enjoy our events are the exact type of people we’re looking to hire. We’ve already found one or two people who we think would be quite interesting to bring on board. 

So our events serve multiple purposes at a very low cost which makes them a super important component of getting Strove off the ground. 

Strove's community events are always fun, active, and outside. Here's a video from their LinkedIn of their recent Run-Dip community event:

Game-Changing Advice for Future Founders

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business? 

There are multiple things but the main one is just to be prepared. 

First, you need to be prepared for how difficult it is to get something off the ground from scratch and how many problems you are going to face along the way. The media portrays the startup world as this glamorous place but it isn’t like that. 

Start your business with an understanding of how emotionally draining it’s going to be. There’ll be something challenging that appears almost every day, at least in the early stages. But when you look back three or four years down the line, you'll have a team, the business will be humming, and it will be worth it.

Second, you need to be emotionally prepared to have people depend on you financially. When someone has children and you’re paying their salary, it's a big responsibility. There's a lot of emotional pressure that comes with that. 

If someone wants to work with Strove, get set up or learn more, how can they get started? 

The best thing to do is to send me a message on LinkedIn. Or, you can visit our website, which is Stroveapp.com, to set up a chat with our sales team.

If you’d like to keep up with The Delta as we support founders like Chris in building the future with innovative startups, follow us on LinkedIn. If you’d like to join Strove as one of the startups we support with our venture-building services, get in touch here

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