grind

Meet WHOOP, the Wearable That Top Athletes Are Using to Optimize Their Bodies and Reach Peak Performance

A comprehensive device for improving sleep, recovering faster and training smarter

WHOOP Will ahmed desktop
Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm

Fitness has been a fascination with men and women for decades. Nowadays, everywhere you look, fitness is staring you in the face. Whether it is the fully equipped gym at the five-star hotel you booked or the ad you’re served on an Instagram story, health and wellness are more popular than ever and dominating in pop culture. In the fitness consumer market, wearables, or tiny devices used to track your body's performance and habits, are helping people track and reach peak performance. With a plethora of options on the market that offer various functionality, one wearable recently caught our eye: WHOOP. It’s a 24/7 coach to help you improve your body that is changing the way professional athletes, trainers and high-performance individuals optimize their operating system, consciously and safely. 

 

The WHOOP Strap 3.0 is both lightweight and waterproof, and it’s bundled with a comprehensive membership that provides users with physiological data for improving sleep, recovering faster and training smarter. With a five-day battery life, WHOOP supplies members with accurate and efficient feedback to last them throughout the week. The subscription includes hardware, software and analytics around sleep, recovery and strain and costs $18 a month, which makes it one of the more affordable options on the market. Fascinated by the highly acclaimed health band that’s used by some of our favorite athletes like LeBron James and Keenan Robinson, ONE37pm sat down with WHOOP founder and CEO Will Ahmed to learn all about the wearable’s technology and his quick success story.

Will Ahmed 6212
WHOOP Founder Will Ahmed / Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm

ONE37pm: How did you get started, and what inspired WHOOP?

 

Will Ahmed: Our mission at WHOOP is to really unlock human performance. We believe that every individual has an inner potential that they can tap into if they can better understand their bodies and behaviors. I got into this space because I was always into sports and exercise. I was playing squash while I was at Harvard and I felt like I didn't know what I was doing to my body while I was training. Most people go through this period of getting fitter and fitter and then all of a sudden fall off a cliff, also known as overtraining. I believed there was this over-emphasis on exercise, sports and what you were doing in the moment and a lack of emphasis on the other 20 hours of the day.

 

What does it truly take to optimize performance?

 

Ahmed: The short answer is that there are secrets that your body is trying to tell you that you can't feel. So basically, your physiology has key indicators about the status of your body that you aren’t aware of. I believe that athletes would actually get better if they focused more on sleep and recovery than if they place most of their focus on more exercise. A lot of athletes overtrain, but it turns out if you get eight hours of sleep versus six hours of sleep, you're a better-performing human being.

 

So you’ve linked up with some key figures and important people, how did that come about?

 

Ahmed: I think the secret to connecting with a super successful or well-known person is to connect with a person who has a big influence in their life that isn’t as well-known. And in the case of professional athletes, that tends to be their trainers. With LeBron James and some of the other athletes, we got to know their trainers first, who then started using the product and recommended it to them. Eventually, we went from working with individual professional athletes to teams and then consumers. In the last two years, WHOOP has exploded and seen so much growth in the consumer market.

What are some sacrifices that people don’t talk about when starting a business?

 

Ahmed: I founded WHOOP when I was 22 years old and almost everyone told me I was going to fail or that I didn't know what I was doing. For a young person, that's really hard to hear and you have to find a way to put up a wall to all the negativity. Having so many people who I respected doubt me was hard to deal with. In part because you're trying to do something that no one else has done and also being really young. The truth is that founding a company is much harder than you think it will be, but it's not nearly as hard as everyone says it will be. You have to have the confidence to keep marching and to find little wins along the way that you can use as a form of momentum to keep you energized throughout the process.

 

What’s been your greatest struggle in building WHOOP?

 

Ahmed: Managing the psychological aspect of it. People don't talk that much about the beginning and the phase of the company when you only have five or ten people. Today we have close to 100 employees, and we've raised over 100 million dollars of capital, but I still remember vividly what it was like when we had five or ten people and one person quits. You've lost 20 percent of your company. So over time, as an entrepreneur, two things happen: losing one person no longer becomes 20 percent of your company and you learn how to manage the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.

 

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as a founder?

 

Ahmed: 

  1. You have to have a point of view on the world that is different from what everyone else is saying. Mine was contrarian, and the way to become a more optimal individual was to focus on sleep and recovery instead of stress and strain.

  2. You have to be incredibly persistent. You’ll keep finding ways to approach whatever problem you come across. No one says you're entitled to be a great entrepreneur.

  3. Surround yourself with people who are more talented than you and hire great people to tell you, what to do.

Was there ever a time in your career where you felt the most stuck? 

 

Ahmed: I reached this point of crisis where I felt like I wasn't able to manage the business and meet expectations. I was incredibly stressed and wasn't sleeping a lot. So I got really into transcendental meditation and it actually changed my life and helped me with managing the business. In my opinion, meditation is vital, especially for young founders who are figuring out how to balance everything in their lives.

 

Where do you see wearables headed in the future? Your product was around before the Apple Watch launched, so how did you react when that debuted?

 

Ahmed: I was actually a little relieved when the Apple Watch came out because I thought it was going to do more innovative things around health and fitness. I have a lot of respect for Apple and I think over time they'll continue to do more and more things in the space, but I generally think you're lost if all you're focusing on is the competition. You have to have a core reason for why your product should exist, and for us, that was creating a great member experience around sleep, recovery and strain. WHOOP is focused on human performance, and that feels like a different lane than even what Apple or Nike is focused on.

 

What sets WHOOP apart from its competitors? 

 

Ahmed: I think WHOOP is great at very specific things because of all the other things that we don't do. When you look at the WHOOP strap, for example, it doesn't have a screen on it. It's not doing push notifications. Instead, it's just focused on health data. And by doing that, it allowed us to be much better at collecting health data than other products. We're trying to marry the best athletes in the world with people who are aspirational, people who want to better understand their own bodies. And it was always encouraging to me that WHOOP was by far the most adopted product at that super high-end level of professional and college sports, and now we offer that same technology to optimize everyone else under a cool brand umbrella of WHOOP. We collect so much more health data than a Fitbit or an Apple Watch in a given day, just because we're so focused on it. But you're not going to call an Uber with this thing. Instead of trying to be good at everything, we keep our focus on one thing: health.

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