Will sat down with Joe Bullmore to discuss everything about WHOOP and its journey over the last decade. This conversation is a deep dive on entrepreneurship, the future of wearable technology, and exactly how WHOOP strives to unlock human performance.
Joe and Will talk about the inspiration for WHOOP and the early days of the company, why the best ideas often start from a contrarian point of view, and the trials and tribulations of developing the WHOOP Strap and measuring heart rate variability from the wrist. They also explain the importance of following your dreams, how to deal with negative feedback, and how WHOOP got its name.
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Stay healthy and stay in the green!
2:53 – Using WHOOP. “There’s this moment of self-discovery that I think people get quite passionate about. It makes them intrigued and all of a sudden they want to know what their friends are doing for slow-wave sleep or REM sleep or how they’re getting more of it or why their recovery is so slow today after only having two drinks last night. Next thing you know, you go down this rabbit hole.”
4:16 – Inspiration for WHOOP. “I just broadly believed in the future of technology. Even from a very young age, I was saving up money to buy technology. I remember I had the first Palm Pilot I could get on the internet. I bought the first iPod in my 7th grade class. I remember being very interested in computing and I broadly believed that computers were going from being on your desk, to being on your lap, to being in your pocket, to being on your body, to eventually being inside your body. That, as an evolution, seemed incredibly obvious to me. The combination of [my] deep obsession that I had taken with physiology and my belief that technology would play a big role in health monitoring led me to founding WHOOP at the age of 22.”
8:58 – Believing in Your Vision. “Even if WHOOP had failed, it would’ve been the right thing for me to do because of how much I learned about myself in the process. … Starting a company was much harder than I ever thought it would be, but it wasn’t as hard as everyone else told me it would be, which was to say that it was impossible.”
12:33 – WHOOP and Positive Health Changes. “After you’ve been on WHOOP for 12 months you have a meaningfully lower resting heart rate, you have a higher heart rate variability, those are both fitness improvements. You’re getting higher quality sleep and you’re spending more time in bed, so those are great and meaningful behavior changes. I think improving health is the hardest thing to do in this space.”
13:20 – Being Told You Will Fail. “So many of the people I respected talking to about WHOOP were really telling me why it wasn’t going to work,” Will says. “It was really discouraging. … In some ways, I now look at it though as the reason that WHOOP was successful. We had an insight on the world that no one else saw. Many of the best ideas start from a contrarian point of view that later turns out to be right.”
18:21 – Why WHOOP Doesn’t Track Steps. Will explains why counting steps is a flawed process and why WHOOP chooses not to monitor how many steps you take in a day. “There’s a lack of correlation between step counting and strain.”
20:57 – Building WHOOP and Measuring HRV. Will details the trials and tribulations of building the first WHOOP Strap and the challenges he and the team encountered along the way. “When we were in a prototype phase, we were mostly focused on if we could measure heart rate variability from the wrist accurately, Will says. “The first 12 months of WHOOP were focused on that from a hardware standpoint. … It was like building a plane as it was taking off.”
28:37 – WHOOP as a Coaching Tool. “While a lot of the technology that WHOOP creates is designed for coaching, we actually never wanted to replace the professional coach or the trainer. We wanted to empower them. That is a slight nuance, but it was an important thing in helping us get off the ground.”
33:24 – Sleep: The Last Frontier of Health. “Someone said to me the other day that sleep is like the smoking of the 50’s and 60’s–we have no idea how bad bad sleep can be for us,” Joe says. Will notes that poor sleep is directly correlated with “every disease state and mental health issue.”
35:58 – WHOOP and COVID Research. Will and Joe discuss the groundbreaking COVID-19 research WHOOP has conducted over the last year and what WHOOP has learned about the connection between an elevated respiratory rate and COVID-19.
39:49 – Nick Watney Story. Will details how professional golfer Nick Watney detected coronavirus in large part due to his WHOOP data in June 2020. The PGA Tour procured 1,000 WHOOP Straps immediately after in an effort to help keep players, caddies, and staff safe.
42:16 – How WHOOP Got Its Name. “WHOOP was a word that when I was in college that a lot of my friends would say. It was a viral word for expressing happiness or excitement or energy. … It was a word that made people smile and it was a word that people don’t forget and so that made it, in my opinion, a good name to build a brand.”
45:00 – Future of Wearable Technology. “We want to be able to tell you the one to three things every day, week, month, and year that you need to improve and be healthy. Over time, I think that’s going to be a very wide set of things that we can tell you. … The promise of wearable technology is that it can really change people’s lives. It really can. It can measure things about your body that you don’t know, it can tell you about those things and, in turn, you can change your life.”
49:03 – Learning on the Job. “When you first start a business, and this was the case for me, a lot of your identity is tied up in the success of the business,” Will says. “If WHOOP was succeeding, I felt like I was succeeding. If WHOOP was failing, I felt like I was failing. That’s not the right lens to look at it through. The most important thing is that independent from what the business is doing, you continue to grow and improve.”
51:14 – Hiring the Right People. “What I’ve always looked for were people with a combination of high intensity and high humility. High intensity being a great work ethic, a great desire to excel at that thing they’re great at. … And high humility, recognizing that in the pursuit of excellence you don’t have all the answers.”
1:01:30 – Defining Success. “I think that the most internal reward I feel for WHOOP is when I get messages from people who wear the product and share how it’s changed their life. I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for that than the financial success that comes with it.
1:01:30 – Phil Knight. Will recommends the book Shoe Dog by Nike founder Phil Knight. “Nike is a brand I’ve always had enormous respect for.”