eRoutes has made some pretty big steps this year, working together with one of the largest national walking events and landing an investment from Carduso Capital in April of this year, to help accelerate their growth plans. Founder Edwin Kuipers discusses future plans, the cardiac arrest that led to developing eRoutes and helping charity events.
Kuipers was also one of the founders and CEO of Crowdynews. eRoutes, his newest startup is a platform for recreational routes worldwide, designed to make daily healthy exercise accessible and attractive. The platform currently has over 130,000 individual users and also supports large virtual running and walking events.
Where did the idea come from?
“It started with a very strong personal motivation actually. When I was 43, I suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. I survived because I'm an avid hiker and was in pretty good shape. And as part of the recovery process, I would frequently go out for a walk, but walking that same route every time tends to get a little boring. So that’s where the idea came from, to develop an app that creates different circular routes to break the monotony. I had to leave Crowdynews behind because of the cardiac arrest and decided to pursue this idea.”
That sounds like an incredibly tough decision
“It was. At the time, in 2017, Crowdynews had a team of 70 people and was active in 30 different countries. That's not an easy thing to leave behind as one of the founders. And as the CEO, transferring those responsibilities also wasn’t something that’s easily taken care of. It’s 10 years of my life that I had to leave behind.”
What has the process been like?
“We started in 2017 and spent the better part of the year developing the idea and the functionalities, under the name Imagine Run, named after the Lennon song. We had our first virtual running event, avant-la-lettre you could say, in September 2018. We launched the app that same year and the web version a year after that and changed the name to eRoutes.”
And then came a pandemic and national lockdown…
“It feels weird to say, but things really took off because of COVID-19. I mean, we already had a good amount of individual users, but when hiking and walking events started getting cancelled, we already had the working tech for digital events, coupled with the fact that you can create different routes to help maintain social distancing and avoid things becoming crowded. So for us, it was just a matter of quickly switching gears.”
“We went on to work together with the Avond4daagse, one of the biggest walking events in the Netherlands, and made sure that around 60,000 families could still join the event, with safe routes generated to and from home. That was pretty amazing to be able to do. And October 3rd, we helped the Dutch Heart Foundation with their charity event called Hartstocht, where we had almost 5000 people walking for charity, raising about €275,000. It’s great to be able to help charity events continue like this.”
What makes eRoutes different from other apps?
“We’re different from apps like Strava or Runkeeper in terms of functionality, but the biggest difference of course is that we’re able support events and customize features according to their needs. For the walking events for example, we added virtual checkpoints and had a live radio broadcast for the app, to help give people more of a shared experience.”
And what’s the business model behind it?
“The app is free for users and the revenue comes from the event organizers. We’re also working on enriched walking routes with third party content. It’s somewhat like adding Wikipedia to the app, where you get to explore historical places in the neighbourhood for example. But you can use it for many different things. We’re planning on scaling things up in the coming year.”
Any future plans like scaling up internationally?
“When you compare it to scaling up a company like Crowdynews, it’s very different of course and also a little more challenging, because you basically need to rely on manpower for eRoutes. But in terms of going international, without giving away too much, there are plans for a big international running event in France next year. We’re also in talks with a number of large national charity organizations and we’ll be doing a winter walk for the Heart Foundation in January, as well as another virtual edition of the Avond4daagse.”
Anything you’d like to add?
“These are trying times and physical and mental relaxation and resilience are key here to remain healthy. I’m proud that, as a startup, we can help contribute in making sure people can get some fresh air and exercise, while also helping to maintain social distancing policies.”