Startup Spotlight is an ongoing series that profiles Canadian wireless and mobile technology startups. This month we spoke to Dennis Cottreau, Co-Founder & CEO of Bereda Training.
What’s the background and inspiration behind building Bereda?
Cycling became my primary sport when I was studying Mechanical Engineering at McGill. As a numbers junkie I loved how it was such a data-drive the sport, and so I started building really quantitative and analytical training plans. They helped me improve to the point where I went on to race semi-professionally around North America for two years after graduation.
When I finished racing I started a small coaching business. When I had to build these training plans for my first six athletes, two things became clear. Firstly, it was incredibly time consuming: I would spend over 12 hours building out a year of training for one athlete. And secondly, it was an incredibly robotic process. I could see patterns and progressions running through these plans and I thought, if I could model them mathematically, then I could make a computer do the whole thing.
After crashing my computer with excel spreadsheets enough times, I linked up with my to be Co-Founder, Blake Pucsek. He studied computer science and is also from an athletic background, captaining the rowing team in his senior year at Harvard University.
Describe they key value that your platform offers, the problem it solves for your market?
Bereda offers a very niche product, and it’s that intense focus that’s helping us get traction. Our vision is to build a tool that’s incredibly efficient at creating and manging training plans for endurance sports like cycling, running and triathlon. However, we launched our MVP with a feature set that covers just the first step of the planning process.
We took a very popular chart which models an athlete’s response to training load over time and reverse engineered the algorithms to make an interactive chart for planning.
Coaches spend hours entering values one by one into a spreadsheet in order to project an athlete’s response to the training plan they’re building. If they don’t like the shape of the chart, they iterate, changing all the values in the spreadsheet once again.
Keep in mind that this is a process used to plan the training for IRONMAN World Champions and Tour de France winners. This is as good as it gets.
With Bereda, a high-performance coach can just click and drag the chart directly, causing all the data to respond underneath to show what it takes (training wise) to make that chart shape a reality. Coaches save so much time as they can build and iterate through multiple strategies for a season to find the best plan of attack. So not only are they saving time, but they end up building better plans because of it.
How did Wavefront help you in your journey to date?
We found out about Wavefront through Volta Labs in Halifax, and realized pretty quickly the benefits of participating in an accelerator program.
The National Entrepreneurship Program has been fundamental to our growth. It was where we heard about the lean startup principles for the first time, and it spurred us to pursue a lot more learning on our own. Before the program we were a couple of technical co-founders with a lot of product and no users. The program transformed how we think about what we’re doing and the way we execute. Everything we do is now focused on building a business instead of just building a product.
“Getting involved at Wavefront gave us the framework to start building a business, instead of just building a product,” says Dennis.
The most valuable thing we learned about was figuring out who our sweet spot customer is. Who is the most qualified user and the easiest convert to a paid customer? Who are you best set up to serve right now?
When we launched in June 2017, we had messaging that was geared a bit more towards the everyday athlete rather than performance coaches. We found that we were attracting an audience who was expecting something a bit different than what we had to offer. Going through the training helped us realize how important it is to define the customer it is you want to serve, focus on that and steer away from anything else.
The process of discovering your customer and refining your business strategy is continuous. You put something out there, learn from the feedback, improve the product, tweak your messaging, launch, learn and do it again. Customer discovery is an ongoing process that never ends.
Where is the company at today?
We launched in June 2017 and had a global user base from day one. During the summer we learned so much from our first hundred or so free trial users, and with that we were able to go back to the drawing board and put forth a more complete and compelling offering this October.
Since then we’ve continued to expand and see momentum, adding new customers every day. We’ve even had multiple world-famous coaches sign up to use Bereda because they saw one of our Facebook ads. That is always exciting.
Can you share how you see the future of training 5 years from now, with new technologies developing?
There is a ton of wearable technology out there and it’s all providing amazing data to dig into and analyse athletes’ training. Performance is the product of good training but also good rest, nutrition, stress management, etc. There are a lot of people trying to predict athlete performance based on training alone, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. In the next five years I expect we’ll see some wearable technology that tries to quantify the other variables in athletes’ performance other than just training.
What advice would you have to give for a fellow entrepreneur?
Constantly learn about your customer. At Bereda we’ve had a total transformation with this. When we started with Wavefront we thought we knew our customers because we thought we were our customers. The truth is, there aren’t thousands of Dennis’s out there. You have to constantly learn about who you’re trying to serve and what’s most important to them.
We’ve even built this mindset into our product. With every customer interaction, I am trying to learn everything I possibly can about their perspective on the product.
Another piece of advice is to get involved in the startup community as early as possible, with an organization like Wavefront for example. After I had the idea for Bereda, we spent 15 months on our own working on product (mostly part-time) before plugging into the community.
I don’t want to think of where the business would be if we never came out of our basements and got involved. You can learn so much faster from people who have done, and even who are doing the same thing as you.