Chris Ruddock, founder of INCUS Performance, talks to us about his wearable sports tech company and their product, the INCUS | NOVA, which has been making waves in the world of triathlon training.
This device is unique, wireless and unobtrusive, sitting between the shoulder blades, and can measure and provide detailed measurements of the motions involved in a swimming stroke or running stride. Once this data is uploaded to the Cloud, the INCUS platform can crunch the data to provide useful analytics and insights to help athletes refine their training and become faster and more efficient.
What’s your business background?
While studying for my Product Design Engineering degree at Loughborough University I sought out Dimitris Katsanis, founder and CEO of Metron Advanced Equipment Ltd, and convinced him to give me a job. During the 18 months I worked with Katsanis we developed high-level bicycle frame and component designs for UK Sport, British Cycling, Pinarello and Team SKY. This included a carbon-fibre tandem frame used by Team GB at the Rio Olympics and a re-design of Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins’ Pinarello Dogma frame.
In the penultimate year of this degree, I also served an internship with Dyson. This experience in engineering for both small and large companies helped to shape INCUS into the company it is now. We are a relatively small team of 20 staff, but we have huge ambitions and want to continue to push boundaries and shape the future of sports technology like a large, well-established company.
Why did you get into the multi-sports technology market?
Quite simply, I identified a problem in the market and the engineer inside of me sought to solve it with a tech-based solution. As a teenager I was an ambitious athlete, highly involved in club swimming and competitive lifeguarding. I developed a very severe ear infection which eventually led to complete hearing loss in my left ear, making communication in the already challenging environment of the water even more difficult. I understood that I could use data and numbers to assist with the communication problems I was having in the water and it was from this experience that the idea of INCUS was born.
We’ve always believed that efficient self-led training in the sports of swimming, running and cycling was a possibility, so we set out to prove that.
How did you develop the INCUS brand and did you have any obstacles to overcome?
INCUS as a brand is about pushing boundaries and overcoming problems. We were developed from an ethos of ‘doing things better than we did yesterday’. Since day one this mantra has been central to the company, we are a collection of great minds solving problems. As ‘athletes’ and as a company, we look to create solutions.
So far, we have faced certain obstacles from within the market. We have been attempting to redesign the way people think about technology in sport, which means we’ve got barriers in the way of overcoming the existing cumbersome technology out there that ‘detracts’ from your training. INCUS adds to your exercise by letting you focus on your movement in the moment and analyses the data afterwards rather than encouraging a user to focus in on it. It’s one of the first fitness technology solutions that is truly unobtrusive.
We also had the unique obstruction of possibly being too early to the market, at a time where users were stuck in a rut with fitness tech.
How long did it take to develop it?
In total, the INCUS brand has been five years in the making from inception to where we are today. Within these 5 years we have created a groundbreaking platform with a unique device alongside a seamless CLOUD and app experience, as well as the apparel and testing to provide the data on which this is all based.
This mostly reflects the research and development that we have undertaken within the field to ensure our data is high-quality. The product updates that reflect this R&D and learning have been implemented in the last two years, and we have increased our progress exponentially since 2019. We have spent the last five years learning!
What makes your product different from others on the market and why does it matter?
We are the first, and indeed only, piece of fitness technology that is worn on the back to measure the left and right individually for the three sports involved in triathlon. The INCUS | NOVA provides clear feedback as to how the user is improving across three disciplines. This is valuable for anyone wanting to make improvements in technique that aren’t necessarily reflected in pace. This tech works with you, to measure you at your own pace.
We are also making huge steps in the production of educational content, to explain how and why we can use this data to get better. The platform allows us to take the next steps to provide predictive insights into a user’s training journey, to help anyone improve. Our focus is making behavioural change in endurance sports accessible to everyone. This is only possible with a powerful platform built from the ground up.
How has the market taken to the product?
We’ve been incredibly impressed with the use and development so far. We have had exceptional feedback from some of our professional athletes, such as Ruth Astle, who recently won Ironman Mallorca, through to beginner runners who are interested in their left/right impacts. Ruth credits INCUS with a breakthrough in her swim progress this season that helped her reach the top step of the podium for the first time. We were exceptionally pleased that the tech in the early stages of development was received in the way it was intended, and that users were able to view their fitness journey in a way that was not available before.
We also have been proud to provide para-athletes, such as Olympic and World Champion Claire Cashmore, with a narrative tailored specifically to them, taking into account any unique left/right imbalances that may come with their disabilities.
In terms of commercial progress, we have sold out three times in a row and are striving for even greater growth and more users in the months to come. Despite the successes so far, we have ambitious goals to become the finest self-led training experience for the sports of swimming, running and cycling.
How important are your elite athletes to the brand?
As we are paving the way with new technologies, it’s been excellent to see that those who are the strongest performers still get value from what we do. However, equally important to us are those everyday athletes that we help to improve themselves with each training session. The feedback we get from a variety of users has been crucial to help shape the platform into what it is today.
How important is your team to the success of the company?
For any start-up, the team is the largest part on the road to success. We have a clear goal and drive to deliver exceptional results, and that has been shared by every team member over the last three years. We are now growing exponentially as a result. The team INCUS’ values are innovation, excellence and elegance, and we are looking forward to continuing to grow with more like-minded people.
As a company you don’t just focus on elite athletes – how important to you is your role in the education sector?
Our dream is to make this tech accessible to everyday people. We want to create an impact in the industry and as part of that we take our role as educators very seriously. We are able to learn and understand the details of endurance training that elite athletes take for granted and share this knowledge with all other athletes. We will be able to better create content with engaging storytelling as we hone the system. “
What does the future hold – will you have more products to bring to the market?
Ongoing, we will continue to update the athlete-led experience that is the INCUS platform. We will provide even better analytics with smoother storytelling. We are working on ways to build these high-quality results together into simple, meaningful statements on how to improve tomorrow.
We want to reduce the barrier of entry even further into endurance sports, allowing improvements to be more accessible to everyday athletes. We will also be changing how we provide and use this technology, to help allow anyone to improve.