M’sian social running app holding virtual marathon challenges
About the author : Payee Solutions
Author’s blurb: I’ve tried a couple of fitness apps before, most notably the Nike App for indoor strength training and Zombies, Run! for outdoor running. Despite following the latter’s simulated zombie apocalypse podcasts, it never kept me motivated enough to run, as no one could hold me accountable if I cheated and just took a brisk walk until the episode was over anyway.
Major sporting events are one of the industries that was halted to stop the spread of COVID-19. Simultaneously, people became more health conscious and finally had more time to exercise thanks to the flexibility of WFH.
Apart from home workouts, jogging and running was one physical activity that was allowed outdoors. But, it tends to be a sport that can get lonely and even boring after a while.
With more runners craving social interactions through the sport, interest and adoption in virtual runs peaked. Social running app, BiiB, thus saw an increase in their user base.
Hence, we caught up with its co-founder and CEO, Sheyong Tan, to find out how they’ve adapted and kept users engaged during global lockdowns.
Running as a team-based activity
Since we last spoke to BiiB in 2017, the platform has added more challenges to their app—which is how they monetise—to encourage team spirit and cross-border competitions.
For example, their #RUNwithOLYMPIANS allowed people to support our national athletes in the Olympics. Here, teams could opt to sign up to have a mystery Olympian join them in the marathon, and exactly who they’d be would remain a secret until the end.
Another event is their Round Country series which started in 2019 in Malaysia. “That was a phenomenal year as we were able to set a record in the Malaysia Book of Records as the largest virtual running event in Malaysia,” shared Sheyong proudly.
Since then, they’ve brought it to Taiwan in 2020, where Macau teams also began joining.
The challenge basically works by getting one community leader to form a team, and members must run a collaborative distance to hit the minimum target set by BiiB. The app is able to track your running activity regardless of whether you’re in a neighbourhood park, stadium, or on the road.
In Singapore’s version (Round Singapore Challenge) that’s currently ongoing, members must run along the island’s coastline for a total of 10 rounds collaboratively to hit the minimum target.
“For larger or stronger teams, they can always push further to achieve the Gold tier or even compete with other teams on the live ranking to be named as one of the greatest teams in the region,” explained Sheyong.
Furthermore, BiiB has extended this event to allow communities from Malaysia and Macau to join this challenge. Sheyong told us that it’s one of their methods of encouraging friendly competition and collaboration across borders that the pandemic has forced to close.
“This is also part of our experiment to replicate our success in Malaysia to more active and developed nations such as Singapore,” he said.
Round Singapore Challenge initially targeted onboarding 2,500 participants, but has now recorded a total of 4,123 participants from 80 teams. “With the great results we’ve achieved in Singapore so far, we are now confident to move further into other countries too,” Sheyong shared.
Fostering team spirit for good
On top of setting up friendly competition between SEA countries, BiiB has also worked with companies and NGOs to encourage employee involvement and raise funds for the needy.
Locally, LHDN has used the platform to host its employee engagement programme to promote health and fitness within their workforce while they work remotely. Bukit Jalil Sports School has also used BiiB to engage with their alumnis who could team up virtually based on their graduation years to run with their batchmates.
Additionally, teams have leveraged the Round Singapore Challenge to fundraise for people in need. One of their ongoing campaigns has so far raised over RM2,000 for a baby requiring reconstructive surgery involving her skull and implants in her face due to a neurological condition.
“We hope more communities will do the same to make this event more impactful,” Sheyong expressed.
Setting the path for active and fulfilling lifestyles
Moving forward, BiiB’s team is looking to organise more events that can cater to different groups of people. They include those who want to contribute to charity, or those who want to run as a way to be active with a community that can motivate them.
The team is also working on creating a feature in their app that can help organisations easily create in-house events to promote active lifestyles in employees.
Sheyong hopes to make BiiB an app that will become the largest digital running arena in the world, where individuals can represent their communities in global challenges.
Networking will be one key to that, and being a MaGIC alumni, BiiB has been able to meet other entrepreneurs with insights to share via various programmes. Currently, they’re involved in MaGIC’s Global Market-Fit Programme that helps startups expand and accelerate growth in other countries, an initiative that’s in line with their plans to replicate their success in other nations.
Bottom line: With such a high level of emphasis put into team spirit on BiiB, it’s likely something that would actually push me to keep up with jogging/running even when doing it alone, since my data will be recorded into the app for all my teammates to see and call me out if I cheated.
Editor’s Update: Parts of this article have been updated to reflect greater accuracy of statements.