Zwift’s future direction: A doubling-down on project innovation and, eventually, VR headsets and AR
CEO Eric Min seeking a ‘more integrated experience’ between online platform and Tour de France Femmes.
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His answers are deliberately vague but Zwift CEO Eric Min has hinted at the future directions the company and the platform may take, including new product innovation and, in a matter of years, the possibility of virtual and augmented reality enhancing the riding experience.
“I can tell you that we are doubling down on product innovation,” the company’s co-founder told VeloNews as part of a long interview about the first running of the Tour de France Femmes Avec Zwift. “We’ve made some changes internally. And I’m super excited about what’s on the roadmap. I can’t share openly about what that is. But my co-founder, John Mayfield is back in the fold, and leading product innovation and product design.
“We’ve kind of gone back to basics. I’m super excited about what we what we are today, but more importantly what we can be going forward.”
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Min and Zwift worked together to develop Zwift, launching the beta version of the platform in 2014 and seeing the company flourish over the subsequent seven years. It has surged in user numbers, hosted UCI eworld championships online and grown to the point where it is the title sponsor of the new Tour de France Femmes.
Now it’s looking at the next phase of its development.
Given the chatter about companies such as Meta and their plans for virtual reality and the metaverse, VeloNews asked Min if Zwift would be embracing virtual reality as part of the platform.
“We’re a software company. We’re waiting for the hardware to arrive. And I don’t think the hardware is ready yet,” he answered. “I think industry veterans are saying it’s still a few years away.
“But many companies, whether it’s Apple or Meta, they’re all working really hard to figure out the hardware solution around this because once they do, it’s something that everyone will have.
“It’s going to be a blend of VR and AR. But the concept of like, having one of these lightweight headsets, you just jump on a bike and off you go…there’s something to that.
“That’s super for sure.”
Creating ‘a more integrated experience’ with the Tour de France Femmes
In 2021 Zwift inked a four year deal with ASO to be title sponsor of the Tour de France Femmes.
The company and ASO will continue to work together in the coming years to help the race grow. Given that Zwift is an online platform and the Tour de France Femmes is an outdoor event, Min was asked if there was a way to have more crossover between the actual race and the online world.
“I think so,” he replied. “We certainly have ideas brewing in our heads about how we can activate content, how to create opportunities for our community to engage with the event while it’s happening. Those are concepts that we’re trying to bring to life. But absolutely, that connection is super important.
“Zwift is something you do indoors. But our vision is that Zwift is cycling. It doesn’t matter whether it’s indoors and outdoors. I think that the two worlds will start bleeding into one another.
“And so yes, we are definitely looking at ways of creating a more integrated experience.”
Min’s answer will spark imagination and speculation about what that crossover could look like. Could, for example, a future stage of the Tour de France Femmes be held online on the Zwift platform, such a prologue? Alternatively, is Min hinting more at a way to enable those at home to ride alongside the stars of the Tour de France Femmes? Or is it something else altogether?
There are many possibilities, but talk of a crossover between indoor and outdoor cycling involving the race will make people wonder.
The company committed to a four year title sponsorship agreement with Tour organizers ASO, and recently saw the first edition of the women’s Tour de France take place.
The company has gained kudos within cycling and sport in general for this commitment, with Min saying that promoting equality within sport is one of the big goals.
As part of that, Zwift will hope to see a greater gender parity on the platform itself. Asked what the balance between men and women on the platform currently is sees him disclose a very skewed ratio between men and women.
“The balance is not good enough, from my perspective,” he told VeloNews. “Less than 20 percent are women. Just from the business lens, if we could bring more women into the sport, that is just going to be great all around. Not just for Zwift, but for the industry.”
Min sees the platform as a possible gateway for women to take up outdoor cycling.
“I think accessibility and safety are all concerns that probably many people have, both men and women. But I certainly believe that if you are stronger and fitter, you’re going to be more confident when you go outdoors.”
Zwift is boosting women’s pro cycling via the Tour de France Femmes, but the company may end up having a far-reaching effect on the women’s recreational and amateur scene too.