Strava – Why on Earth did they acquire FATMAP?

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Strava Acquires Fatmap

Strava has just announced that it has closed the acquisition deal for FATMAP.

That may come as a shock to some of us. Perhaps we imagined that the secrecy behind Strava’s recent price rises (link to dcrainmaker) signalled that the company was in some sort of financial trouble. Perhaps the slowness with which it dealt with the self-created PR disaster implied it had no one left in the marketing team or no externally commissioned PR agent (they do!). Well, apparently not. Strava has probably just shelled out some big cash to buy FATMAP.

If you want to know why then read on. But first…what the heck is FATMAP? I’d never heard of it either.

strava logo big icon brand image



FATMAP’s speciality is 3D maps for outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and mountain biking. Typically the focus is on off-road and outdoor activities. Its maps feature detailed terrain information and can be used in an iOS/Android app or online. It also offers additional features such as route planning and personalized recommendations for outdoor activities.

The detailed terrain models include: topographic contours; accurate trail data (claimed); natural features such as rivers and lakes; and man-made features like lift systems and mountain huts. These are all included in map layers along with other, more standard map layers to provide a rich mapping experience.

But there’s more…

Interactivity is also at the heart of the FATMAP experience. For example, weather and snow reports can be overlain on the 3D map.

Then there’s the social side of things where users create and share their own routes, and access a community of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts to share information and advice.

FATMAP…What is it in a nutshell (ideally the shell of a small nut)

FATMAP offers a one-stop solution for outdoor enthusiasts to plan, navigate and share their experiences.

FATMAP – Why did STRAVA buy it?

Any current STRAVA user who has been on a hike or a skiing holiday will probably already have realised many of the gaps in Strava’s app that FATMAP’s features could fill.

Here is a bit of a brainstorm on the attractiveness of FATMAP to Strava

  1. Complementarity: Strava does cover hiking to some degree and it does have 3D mapping to some degree. However, Strava’s strength is with the running and cycling crowd.
  2. Engagement: By adding more detailed and interactive map features to the STRAVA app, users may be more likely to spend more time using the app to plan and participate in outdoor activities.
  3. New users: FATMAP’s focus on outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and mountain biking will bring new users to STRAVA.
  4. Feature Expansion: Fatmap’s capabilities will enable Strava to expand the scope of its product offering both in terms of new types of users and new types of features
  5. Competitor Differentiation: Companies like RwGPS and KOMOOT get ever-closers to offering similar features to those on offer by Strava. FATMAP’s detailed and interactive maps will help differentiate Strava from the evolving competition
  6. Kerching! (Revenue): Strava has also bought FATMAP’s user base as well as its feature sets. Some of those users may become paying Strava subscribers. However, there is additional value in FATMAP maps and content which  might be able to boost the quality of Strava’s overall Subscription deal and, again, attract more paying subscribers
  7. Brand extension: Strava will become more visible to a new outdoor customer audience
  8. Efficiency/Synergy: STRAVA might save resources and time that would have been spent on developing similar features in-house.

FATMAP  Why the acquisition might fail

I’m guessing that from a technical perspective, Strava will be able to integrate FATMAP readily enough. It’s an IT project or two in the offing which will invariably overrun and underdeliver. However, Strava will see the technicalities through to completion.

That’s not the issue for me.

Strava’s USP is Segments. That is, dividing roads, paths and trails up into little chunks and then motivating us to do each chunk a little bit faster or a little bit more often. Segments attract a certain kind of performance-focused person, albeit that performance might be tempered within a casual social Sunday group of like-minded cyclists.

I can’t see how FATMAP adds anything to segments or the traditional performance-focused cyclists. And I can’t see how Strava adds that much to hikers and skiers. Sure many of us might like to complete that RED run at Aspen a little bit faster than last year but hiking and skiing don’t lend themselves too well to Strava’s traditional segment experience.

Thus, if Strava is trying to grab an entirely new fitness market for its traditional Subscriber features, I reckon it’ll fail. On the other hand, if Strava is merely boosting the features on offer, then …fine!

Ultimately, my opinion of Strava is that it is not the most pleasant of apps to use. Despite a relatively recent rejig I still find it hard to navigate and sometimes baffling to use. Cramming in yet more features to a relatively poorly designed interface will almost certainly NOT improve the user experience.


Much, much more about Strava…


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Suunto adds Plotaroute support for Advanced Route Creation & Easy Syncing

Strava, “You’re worth $125” plus 2 other stories.

STRAVA Stats Show Surprising US vs UK Differences: starting with…America is Bigger

STRAVA Stats Show Surprising US vs UK Differences: starting with…America is Bigger

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4 thoughts on “Strava – Why on Earth did they acquire FATMAP?

  1. Another candidate for “why”: threat removal (“if they displace us in parts of the market that’s perfectly fine for us as long as we own them”), with an element of acqui-hire. If it’s not too expensive that could be well worth it for a leaking money-bag like Strava. And with fatmap being European (where startups tend to be a lot more modest in funding, cost and what they’d consider a victory exit), not too expensive might in fact be true.

    And another possible element of the acquisition: if (no idea if that’s actually the case, but certainly not impossible) fatmap have spun up their own OSM update supply chain pipeline instead of relying on a service provider like mapbox the whole thing might just be a cost saving step, cutting the dependency of a (perhaps) costly supplier. A bit like getting your own servers when your AWS bills start getting too high, but in this case with a portfolio angle added as cherry on top.

  2. Strava public heatmap data easily overlaid on a good mapping platform would have me sold right there. Its a great tool for exploring an area especially finding trails or routes that aren’t well mapped or known.

    I can bring the later into Gaia but it’s a real pain and you have to re-do it every time.

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