Fenner's, start-ups and sport-star investors - Sam Browne
Sam Browne (Fitzwilliam 2011) explains how he and Alex Rose (St John’s 2008) co-founded 'Let’s Do This', the world’s largest online booking platform for mass-participation sports, and secured investments worth £4m from Usain Bolt, Serena Williams and YCombinator.
You’ll probably never be the best but it’s totally in your control whether or not you try the hardest.
Sam Browne (Fitzwilliam 2011)
Alex and I have known each other since childhood and are both passionate about endurance sports and fitness. The idea for our start-up, Let’s Do This, was born, as is so often the way, with a chat, over a pint, in the pub.
I was working in the sports industry at the time and we were talking about how hard it was to find and sign-up for races. For example, there are thousands of 10k races or half-marathons organised across the UK each year, but they can only be found and booked through independent websites. We saw that there was an opportunity to gather all of the event information and booking admin in one place for a streamlined, convenient user experience.
In the two years since that drink in the pub, we have built a website where people can find events across running, triathlons, road cycling, obstacle races, swimming and more. Users can filter by distance and location so that they can find the perfect race for them.
By making races more accessible and attractive, we hope to inspire and encourage more people to exercise. Ultimately, this is all in the hope of making the world a healthier and happier place.
An unconventional Cambridge success story
If I’m honest, I’ve never felt like I got the most out of Cambridge from an academic perspective. I blame myself, not the University. However, in a couple of ways, I now see that Cambridge’s greatness extends far beyond the lecture halls of the Sidgwick site and the grade of your degree.
My major sport was cricket. What I seriously lacked in talent I made up for in hours of training; I feel confident that my ratio of hours spent training at Fenner's to hours spent in the middle at Lord’s was the highest of any Cambridge undergraduate ever. Whatever you do at Cambridge there will always be people who can instinctively do things you could only dream of, but with a serious amount of grunt you can close the gap a bit. The same is true in start-ups. You’ll probably never be the best but it’s totally in your control whether or not you try the hardest.
The other huge benefit to going to Cambridge was the friends and contacts I made along the way. I genuinely believe I learned more and gained more from the people I met and the conversations I had, than any lecture I attended. For starters, Cambridge is where I became great mates with my co-founder Alex Rose. Alex is phenomenally good at everything I’m useless at and was much more the golden boy than I ever was. There’s no way Let’s Do This could have got to this stage without him, so developing a friendship with him has had a far higher impact than if I’d done better in my finals. The number of other awesome members of the team who were a direct result of the Cambridge network is just ridiculous. Tom Elliot (Girton 2001) now heads up engineering for us in London and Manon Van Thorenburg (St John’s 2009) manages product development in London and was at College with Alex.
Backing and investment from sporting stars
Fortunately, investors have matched our passion and excitement for what Let’s Do This could achieve. We grew out of YCombinator, which helped launch Airbnb and Dropbox, and then we had a £4m funding round led by NFX legend Pete Flint, which has been amazing for our growth. On our investor list are Serena Williams, Usain Bolt and Paula Radcliffe - it’s pretty incredible to get such high-profile athletes backing our mission and being on the same page about how important it is to inspire as many people as possible to take up sport.
Over the last 18 months, we have built up our technology, so we now have the best product on the market and have expanded our company to have offices in London and San Francisco. We have an incredible team in both offices, most of whom are similarly mad about sports. At the last count, over half of our employees have done a marathon, five have finished full Ironmans, and we have an Olympic gold-medallist.
Globally there is a £24bn market in race events and so the potential for growth remains excitingly large. Our aim for the next couple of years is to replicate our UK success over in the USA, and eventually we hope to expand into Europe as well. By 2025, Let’s Do This aims to inspire more people to have epic experiences than any other community on the planet.
Find out more about Let’s Do This
Sam Browne studied Theology and Philosophy and attended Fitzwilliam College. Alex Rose studied Chemical Engineering and Management and attended St John’s College.
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This article has been written by Sam Browne and the opinions expressed are those of the author.