Illinois Tech Grad Connects Runners and Trainers
App Allows Runners to Hear Feedback and Connect with Fellow Runners
Finding the motivation to go out for a run can be challenging, but an app developed by an Illinois Institute of Technology alumnus might spark the inspiration to tie on the running shoes.
Matthew Knippen (CS ’12) just celebrated the second anniversary of launching Charge Running, which links runners with a trainer and other runners through an iPhone and a set of earbuds. The trainers track each runner in real time and relay advice and motivation.
“The trainer gets a ton of data,” Knippen says. “By accessing the GPS on the phone, the trainer knows your average pace and how many steps per minute. If you have an Apple Watch, it will measure your heart rate. So, for example, the trainer can say, ‘I’ve got you clocked at a seven-minute pace, and I can see you’re running at 120 steps per minute. If you take smaller steps, you can cover the same distance with less effort.’”
Nine trainers oversee about 10 scheduled runs per day on Charge Running. Knippen says the trainers were found through the company’s connections with the Road Runners Club of America, the oldest and largest running organization in America.
Runners sign up for a run ahead of time that lasts from 20 minutes to longer than an hour. Runners not only get feedback from the trainer, but they can also connect with their fellow runners on the same scheduled run through a chat room.
“When we started the app, it was focused on competition,” Knippen says. “But what we found out is that people cared more about not running alone. They liked the social aspect of the app.”
More than 50,000 messages have been exchanged through the chat room, and runners have been sharing #sweatyselfies with each other at the end of runs.
The idea for Charge Running was born when Knippen’s high school running partner and Charge Running co-founder Rory Justin joined the Navy. They were trying to figure out how they could still run together in separate locations.
“We asked each other ‘How would this look? Would it be a phone call? How would I know I’m keeping up with you or you’re keeping up with me?’” Knippen says. “Now I can be running with someone from the U.K., seven times zones earlier than me on another continent. But now we’re connected, and it’s like we’re running right next to each other.”
While attending Illinois Tech, Knippen says he learned he loved to write code. During the weekends he would work at the Apple store where he learned about Apple products like the iPhone. During his senior year at Illinois Tech, he took a course in iPhone development, which helped him secure an Apple scholarship to attend the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference with 5,000 developers from around the world.
Those experiences gave him the foundation he needed to start Charge Running.
Last month Charge Running received a $625,000 investment from Annagram Ventures, a venture capital firm in New York City, allowing the company to keep improving the app and to develop a version for the Android platform.
“We started with $50,000 we borrowed from friends and family, and we built 31 versions of the app before this funding came through,” Knippen says. “We were fortunate to find the right investor who fell in love with the product and was impressed with what we’ve done with so little money we had.”