“Our goal is to provide the best muscle data”
When Nikola Mrvaljevic developed Strive Tech’s first athlete performance product, he didn’t want to focus on internal load data (heart rate and muscle activity) or external load (movement and distance) because, did he then said, “Each independently adds value. . . the power comes when you can start to correlate that data.
This first cellphone, a pair of compression shorts with a pod on the waistband, had a cornucopia of tech: ECG, EMG, GPS, accelerometers, and gyroscopes. But Mrvaljevic decided to refine this offering to focus on muscle data, how it is processed and how it is presented to the user, whether it is a trainer or an athlete. As part of this review, Strive phased out the GPS component earlier this year, a by-product of which is a significant reduction in size. To ensure that users who wanted precise location data can always get it, Strive has partnered with Kinexon.
Mrvaljevic, a former professional basketball player in Montenegro and Founder-CEO of Strive Tech, recently spoke to SportTechie to share information on the development of his business.
What has been your goal since our last conversation three years ago?
With perfectly integrated compression garments, we can provide complete, accurate and actionable data to athletes to always compete at their best. This mission has therefore not changed over the past three years. What we have done is changing the way we deliver that data (the vehicle or the equipment we provide), and then we understand how to deliver the data to coaches in the best, easiest, and most intuitive way. So a lot of product reviews, a lot of evolving our platform, evolving our data handling and delivering a solution that in my opinion is second to none in the market.
How has the material changed?
When working with professional athletes, providing the most seamless solution when it comes to hardware is extremely important. So we’ve taken a long time to reinvent the way we look at our clothes and gear, and we’ve reduced the size of our product by 75%. We’ve doubled battery life, increased memory, and for the first time essentially developed a cutting-edge computing platform that provides machine learning on board. Essentially, it’s about sustaining our system to deliver this in the most transparent, integrated, and timely manner to athletes, coaches, and military personnel.
Has the change been made to the garment or to the capsule?
Equipment. Our system, clothing, therefore has a processing unit, and we decided to just make it smaller, lighter, simpler – improve it on just about every front. It is placed on the belt buckle area.
When it comes to onboard computer and machine learning integration, does that mean you don’t need to go to the cloud to get immediate feedback?
No, actually, that’s an excellent observation. In the future, we will be able to process more data on board with the mobile app in an offline environment where we can get the data without needing to upload it to the cloud, which will basically streamline the data highway. from body to [app] as an end product, because our goal is to provide the best muscle data and the best platform for muscle data.
Does that mean you can monitor the data in real time?
Exactly. For an athlete or a military person, Wi-Fi and cellular connections are always a challenge. So we found a way to remove some of those barriers.
So was it largely motivated by the military?
The two. Even the athletes, you go to the big facilities during the game, you have cell phone problems, you have Wi-Fi problems. So we can start to rethink the way we deliver data and become more independent in the how we deliver this data. So it’s extremely exciting for us. And it’s a value proposition that coaches find very attractive given the internet infrastructure at local facilities.
Are compression shorts still the only item of clothing?
For now yes. We always focus on the legs, absolutely. But the roadmap is quite large and quite advanced. We’re not going to stop there.
What features are most commonly used?
We are the only company that basically monitors the entry and exit of the body. We provide information on load symmetry and fatigue using both IMU and EMG. Strive is a business that goes beyond an external load, and if you think about it from a contextual perspective, in a sports environment, it’s a performance app that a lot of people are tapping into.
By understanding the outcome or the outcome – if you think about how much a player is moving in space, acceleration and deceleration, etc. – we can now superimpose the muscular data and understand the effort, understand the internal load, understand the muscular symmetries. We can basically see the cost of that production.
I like to tell people that with Strive it’s basically the [monitor] training. We can understand, do our athletes run at 7,000 rpm or do they run at 2,000 rpm? Common applications that trainers use today are for performance optimization. That being said, are our athletes exercising too much or too little, how do they compare day to day, week, week, etc.?
We also see application in injury prevention and return to play where if an athlete is at risk for injury, make sure to monitor muscles, we monitor symmetry, ratios, etc. Or if an athlete is injured and they come back from an injury, they use the data from Strive from when the athlete was healthy, and then we know what the Pole Star is. We know what we are training for. Thus, both injury monitoring and performance monitoring, performance monitoring being the main application so far.
External load is measured through IMU units, but are you still using GPS as well?
We have an IMU. We do not use GPS. We recently partnered with Kinexon, a company that pretty good in this space. And we see ourselves more as a strong company and recognizing our position, our added value and our differentiation from the rest of the market. We like to focus more on the muscle, again, in the context of the external load via the IMU. So we don’t do positioning data through GPS satellites, we just look at acceleration, deceleration, jump height, etc.
Is the partnership with Kinexon an exclusive agreement? Or do you see yourself perhaps working with other post providers?
We see ourselves as a muscle platform and are very excited about the opportunity we have with Kinexon and given their track record we are delighted to partner with them. There are different data sets, not just movement data sets – there are heart rate data sets, blood tests, temperature, and more. on the market.
Are there particular sports where you found the greatest traction?
So far we’ve worked with teams from the NFL, NBA, MLS, EPL. We have found that the applications are plentiful, even recently when working with Olympic baseball teams. Football, basketball and soccer, I would be hard pressed to pick the favorite. I tell people we haven’t even focused on baseball, and then recently we realized how many opportunities and how many patterns of use there are in baseball. So far, of course, the traction has been mostly in soccer, basketball, and soccer and almost equally to some extent. So these three that I mention as a kind of flagship solutions.
What are the use cases of baseball?
That’s a lot of activation with launchers, in particular. Where does the strength come from? Where does this pitch come from? Younger guys tend to use their upper body more for strength. Experienced guys tend to rely on their legs for [extract] the strength of their legs. So, we like to see, is there proper muscle activation and distribution to reflect this? This is one of the examples that we can quantify: is the pitcher leaning on the upper body or is he leaning on the lower body?
You mentioned having an ambitious roadmap. Other than maybe other clothes and other muscles are counted, what else is there?
Really focus on the data. We are a data platform and as such there are many opportunities to streamline this data to present it in new ways and through new vehicles. So we are very excited to start involving the athletes, the coaches. And again, I want to specifically highlight the commitment athletes Following. We will be looking for a more streamlined distribution of information and much of this data that has been provided today by human performance trainers, strength trainers, sports scientists, athletic trainers, and making it more digestible there. where you don’t need so much time to process it all but really get straightforward information, simple take out and engage athletes on a more real level.
If you start to focus more on talking to athletes directly, is that a way to talk more to consumers in general, that type of prosumer, CrossFit enthusiast?
Absoutely. Even today, as we work with sports and military teams, we receive a lot of inquiries from the consumer market. This is something that we are really passionate about. We are very aware of how we design the system today, how we innovate today. I like to think that the way innovation is structured today is not just for tomorrow, but focuses on the next few years and what we can offer future customers.
Have there been more investments? Are you looking for more funding right now?
Absoutely. We raised more money. Right now we’re in a fundraising process, sort of closing the round, slowly bringing it to a close. We are very excited about new opportunities and new investment partners. But as a startup, you are perpetually in growth mode. Given all of our traction and the enthusiasm of our customers in several different verticals and markets, we will continue to focus on innovation and growth and on building an evolving team to support these opportunities.
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