A dull autumn morning in a park in south west London, in 2004. Nine men and four women line up on an improvised start line. A lean South African called Paul Sinton-Hewitt takes a photo, then calls “Go!” and the first Bushy Park Time Trial is underway. He waits while they run out of sight around the park, then clocks the first two finishers, who cross the line side by side in just under nineteen minutes.

This was Paul’s way to keep in touch with his running club friends while he was injured. He recalled long sociable Saturday mornings in Johannesburg that started with a run and ended several hours and countless coffees later. The coffee bit was integral – he would time his mates but they had to come and spent time with him afterwards. It was that simple. Paul created something he wanted, that he knew his friends would find useful and enjoyable.

Twelve years and a name change later, there are over 1000 parkruns a week, in fourteen countries, with over three million registered parkrunners. Three new countries will host their first parkrun this year. A new parkrunner registers every 29 seconds. The 2k junior parkrun is also expanding rapidly. The growth is seemingly unstoppable. Yet it does not advertise and it operates on a shoestring. Paul says, “It was never supposed to be more than a single event.” So what kind of start-up goes global despite itself? What can businesses in pursuit of growth learn from it?

I interviewed the people behind this remarkable growth story – parkrun’s founder, its former UK chief (now global COO) and its first CEO – for the business journal, Market Leader. For the answers, read the full article here: Lessons from the ultimate start-up Market Leader June 2017

This article is reproduced with permission of Market leader, the strategic marketing journal for business leaders. To subscribe visit warc.com/bookstore. Copyright © Warc and The Marketing Society.
Thought leadership | June 2017