As a professional basketball player in Montenegro, Nikola Mrvaljevic got the idea that there must be a better way for athletes to train. “Not everybody trains efficiently. We tend to get tired and most of the time we don’t know why,” Mrvaljevic said.
So he started Strive, a wearable technology startup that seeks to answer how and why athletes fatigue. The Bothell, Wash.-based company aims to quantify the “miles per gallon” for a given athlete.
After hanging up his basketball jersey, Mrvaljevic went on to study biomedical and electrical engineering at the University of Rhode Island. He later got an MBA from the University of Washington before co-founding Strive with Carsten Winsnes, a former NCAA crew athlete who is now the company’s COO.
Strive’s core product is Sense3, a sensor system that is sewn into ordinary compression shorts that can measure muscle exertion, distance and heart rate.
“We combine metrics that nobody else has. There’s no product on the market that can do muscles, heart and motion in a single solution,” Mrvaljevic said. “If you put those three together, you can understand how efficient the athlete is.”
And because the sensors are part of compression shorts, the athletes don’t have to get used to any straps, wristbands or other wearables that might be distracting.
Knowing when athletes are tired can be vital to coaches. As players fatigue, they tend to fall into bad habits, their form becomes worse, and they’re more likely to sustain an injury.
“We will never predict an injury,” Mrvaljevic said. “But we will try to point out risk factors for injury or for body inefficiency.”
Used properly, this information can signal when an intervention is needed during a training session. Strive works with coaches to review the data and gain insights, a process that it plans to automate in the future.
“If we know that the right quad is cramping up or not firing properly during high accelerations, a coach should know that. And that information should that be communicated to the athletic trainer,” Mrvaljevic said.
While the average person’s interest in wearables may begin and end with counting steps and monitoring sleep, professional sports teams have been quick to embrace the mountains of data generated by more specialized devices. Among the most prominent manufacturers is Catapult Sports, whose wearables and software are used by teams around the world from college football squads to the UK’s Premier League.
Just down the highway from Strive’s headquarters is the Seattle Seahawks practice facility, where the local NFL team uses an array of sensors and other technology to get an edge on the competition.
The startup’s customers include the University of Maryland, Rutgers University and a few NFL teams. It is also seeking approval from the NBA to work with professional basketball teams.
The company is collaborating on research projects with Cal Poly and the University of West Florida. Strive is also working with the U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX program, which partners with entrepreneurs on projects that benefit the military.
Strive recently raised $1.5 million, according to a regulatory filing. The company has seven full-time employees.