Slowtwitch Visits Zwift HQ

I recently had an opportunity to visit Zwift headquarters in Long Beach, CA. The visit was special for both me personally and for Slowtwitch.

The origin story of Zwift began in the Slowtwitch Forum. The short version of the story as told by Jon Mayfield is Jon first posted in the forum screenshots of the indoor riding platform he was developing, which were discovered there by Eric Min. After Eric visited Jon, the two would go on to co-found Zwift with Scott Barger and Alarik Myrin in 2014.

My history with Zwift started shortly thereafter as a beta tester. I first learned about Zwift in 2015, when my former teammate Scottie Weiss rode the first century around Jarvis Island. A month later, I was approved as a beta tester and bought an ANT stick to take my first few hot laps around Jarvis Island.

Fast forward to the present and I was headed over to Zwift in a rental pickup truck with my bike in the bed, not knowing what to expect like a fanboy visiting the mothership.

Derick Smith, Marketing Manager and our primary contact for Zwift triathlon initiatives, met me in the lobby of the building that has been the headquarters for Zwift since 2020. Since I had my bike with me, we took the cargo elevator up to the main lobby on the 21st floor.

What struck me immediately was the open concept of the place, bright colors that matched the game aesthetics, and ample bike storage for employees everywhere. In my day job, I do a lot of thinking about how a built environment shapes how people interact with one another, and it was clear that this space was designed for employees to communicate within and across their different teams and roles.

Within the open concept of the three floors with very few personal offices, there were intimate places for people to meet for private conversations, including privacy booths for video and phone calls. The work stations throughout the place are centrally booked, so that employees can designate where and when they want to be working alongside or apart from others.

During Derick's tour of the three floors, I was impressed by the capacity for bike storage on the walls and at the ends of work station areas. He said at their previous headquarters, there were bikes leaning against walls everywhere, so they designed the new location with bike storage in mind. Add to this that there are personal shower rooms on the second floor and you have the dream workspace for bike commuting and/or doing a midday workout on your lunch break.

Derick said that several employees have become more active cyclists as a result of how easy Zwift makes it to commute to work by bike and the culture of fitness and working out among the employees.

They make it so easy, in fact, the office featured several workout rooms filled with treadmills, smart trainers, and smart bikes of all makes and models. No doubt many of which are used for testing but also available for employees to use for workouts during their lunch break.

The combination of all of these features gave off the vibe of a playful, creative space for game development and recreational and competitive physical activity.

The day I visited, there were not as many people working as I had expected. Derick mentioned that many key personnel were in Denia, Spain for the Zwift Academy Road Camp. He also explained that the office currently had more capacity than needed due to scaling back the hardware division after putting their smart bike on pause as well as employees working remote throughout the pandemic.

After the tour, we visited the in-house bike shop maintained by Johnny Vanderwell, Workplace Specialist and Lead Bike & Lab Technician, to get our bikes prepped for the weekly employee lunchtime ride.

Every Wednesday, Zwift employees have two hours midday for a bike ride followed by a catered lunch. A group of seven of us led by Johnny, headed out for a quick out and back along the coastline. We had a pretty stiff headwind on the way out, which meant for an easy return with a tailwind back to the office.

After we showered, we collected for the catered lunch, which gave me more opportunity to chat with Derick and Craig Taylor, Director of Content Programming, about their experiences working for Zwift and their background as endurance athletes. They were tight lipped about upcoming world expansion and features, so I didn’t pry.

What I enjoyed most about our conversation is that Craig, Derick, Johnny, and the other folks I met at Zwift are just like so many of us. They are all athletes coming out of the pandemic with varying degrees of fitness with goals for future races and adventures. Like us, they are fitting their workouts in where they can with busy work and home schedules. A key difference though may be that they have a workplace that is designed to support their health and fitness goals in line with the overall Zwift ethos of helping us all stay active year round.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed spending time getting to know the people at Zwift and getting to experience a bit of what their work lives involve there. Meeting them in person and seeing the place gave me more appreciation of not only how far the game has evolved since those first few laps on Jarvis Island but also how expansive the culture they have created has grown bridging the domains of eSports and the live sports they are based on in unprecedented ways.