Author's blurb: I've tried a few fitness apps, most notably the Nike indoor weight training and zombies app, Run! for running outdoors. While I've been following the latter's simulated zombie apocalypse podcasts, it never kept me motivated enough to keep going as no one could hold me accountable for cheating and just taking a brisk walk until the episode was over anyway.
Major sporting events are one of the industries that was stopped to stop the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, people became more health-conscious and, thanks to the flexibility of WFH, finally had more time for exercise.
In addition to home training, jogging and running were physical activities that were allowed outdoors. But it tends to be a sport that can get lonely and even boring after a while.
As more runners crave social interactions through sport, interest and acceptance of virtual runs peaked. The social running app BiiB thus recorded an increase in the user base.
So we caught up with her co-founder and CEO Sheyong Tan to find out how they adjusted and kept users busy during global bans.
Running as a team-based activity
Since we last spoke to BiiB in 2017, the platform has added more challenges to its app – how to make money – to encourage team spirit and cross-border competitions.
For example, their #RUNwithOLYMPIANS enabled people to support our national athletes in the Olympics. Here teams could choose to sign up for a mysterious Olympian in the marathon, and who exactly they would be would remain a secret until the end.
Another event is their Round Country series, which began in Malaysia in 2019. "It was a phenomenal year as we set a record in the Malaysia Book of Records as the largest virtual running event in Malaysia," Sheyong said proudly.
Since then, they have made it to Taiwan in 2020, which is where Macau teams have also joined.
The challenge essentially works by having a community leader forming a team, and members must travel a collaborative distance to meet the minimum goal set by BiiB. The app is able to track your running activity, regardless of whether you are in the neighborhood park, in the stadium or on the street.
Teammates can also meet and run together if they want (during SOPs) / Photo credit: BiiB
In the currently running version of Singapore (Round Singapore Challenge), the members must run a total of 10 laps together along the coast of the island in order to achieve the minimum goal.
"Bigger or stronger teams can always advance to the gold level or even compete with other teams in the live leaderboard to be named as one of the largest teams in the region," said Sheyong.
In addition, BiiB has expanded this event to allow communities from Malaysia and Macau to take part in this challenge. Sheyong told us that this is one of their methods of promoting friendly competition and cross-border cooperation that has forced the pandemic to close.
"This is also part of our experiment to transfer our success in Malaysia to more active and developed countries like Singapore," he said.
The Round Singapore Challenge was originally aimed at onboarding 2,500 participants, but has now drawn a total of 4,123 participants from 80 teams. "With the great results that we have achieved in Singapore so far, we are now confident that we will continue to expand into other countries," said Sheyong.
Sustainable promotion of team spirit
Some of the app's runners / Image Credit: BiiBs Instagram
In addition to building a friendly competition between SEA countries, BiiB has also worked with companies and NGOs to encourage employee participation and raise funds for those in need.
On site, LHDN used the platform to host its employee engagement program to promote health and fitness within its workforce while they work remotely. Bukit Jalil Sports School also used BiiB to interact with their alumni, who could virtually team up based on their senior years to run with their batch mates.
In addition, teams have used the Round Singapore Challenge to raise funds for people in need. One of their ongoing campaigns has raised over RM 2,000 for a baby who needs reconstructive surgery with a skull and implants on the face due to a neurological disease.
"We hope that more churches will do the same to make this event more impactful," said Sheyong.
Paving the way for an active and fulfilling lifestyle
Screenshots from the app / Photo credits: BiiB
In the future, the BiiB team would like to organize more events that are suitable for different groups of people. This includes those who want to contribute to charity or those who want to run to be active in a community that can motivate them.
The team is also working on developing a feature in their app that can help companies easily create in-house events to encourage active employee lifestyles.
Sheyong hopes to make BiiB an app that will become the world's largest digital running arena, where individuals can represent their communities on global challenges.
Networking will be a key to this, and as a MaGIC alumni, BiiB was able to meet other entrepreneurs and share insights about various programs. They are currently participating in MaGIC's Global Market Fit program, which is helping startups expand and accelerate their growth in other countries, an initiative in line with their plans to replicate their success in other countries.
Bottom line: With so much emphasis on team spirit at BiiB, it's probably something that would make me want to keep up with jogging / running even on my own, as my data is recorded in the app so all of my teammates can see and call If I have cheated on me.
Editors update: Portions of this article have been updated to reflect greater accuracy in the statements.
- You can find out more about BiiB here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups we've covered here.
Photo credit: Sheyong Tan, Co-Founder and CEO of BiiB