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Why I’m shutting down flink

Nicolas Zimmer
Sep 14 · 3 min read

It is with a heavy heart that I’m shutting down flink today. For those not in the know, flink was a platform that allowed you to visualize or export your Strava activities, synchronize them with your Google Sheets and apply rules to them for changing their titles, descriptions etc. It became quite popular over the last 1.5 year — with more than 5.2k active users and 3.4 million processed activities.

Why take offline a successful service?

First of all, it was always a (beloved but nevertheless) side project for me as an avid runner and developer. It started as a solution for my personal needs to make more from my running data to improve my training regimen. It was something I felt missing from Strava and also something I didn’t want to offer commercially. Obviously others felt that too, as flink only grew by word of mouth and without any marketing. From time to time I pondered the idea of premium services that could be monetized but that would have needed much more attention and a higher service level. I believe: If people pay you, you should better be worth your money.

Spending a lot of personal time — and money

However with growing demand I still implemented a lot of functionality that was quite costly on the infrastructural side. I wanted something that worked smooth and effortless on the users’ side and soon the monthly AWS bill was in the hundreds of dollars. This was partly due to Strava’s API and its strict usage limits but also on the initial setup. Building flink on PHP with a lot of transformations done server-side wasn’t scaling well. Today I would build a set of microservices and have them run on lambda functions.

And actually this was what I was planning to do: A complete rewrite to take flink to the next level. But that would have been another investment and instead of hacking away I started to ask myself questions about the sustainability of this venture.

COVID-19 changed a lot for all of us

One major factor that led to my decision to end flink was that COVID-19 changed a lot for me. My work became much more intense in my day job, so my free time was much more focussed on family and recreation. And my training went into maintenance mode as all races I was signed up for (Barcelona, Comrades, Berlin etc) were cancelled. Although my training is on its way back to “normal”, the intensity and responsibility in my job is still increasing.

Building a paid product is work, but not always fun

In order to continue flink, at least without spending money that has to be earned with another job, the transformation into a paid service would have been inevitable. Other alternatives, like raising funds, selling your data to third parties or littering the experience with advertisements were out of question right away. But did I want to become an entrepreneur (again), with all the responsibilities and necessary compromises attached? Honestly, the answer is no, as it was always a fun project.

You never know, when others pull the plug

Last but not least Strava is a problematic partner for developers. The cases where Strava pulled the plug for third party products, once they became popular, are well known. And this is very likely to be even more an issue after Strava has decided to cripple the free product in order to increase their paying customer base. With every feature they add to the paid product (like weather, a feature flink rolled out a year ago — there are a lot of other apps that include it, too) the third party add-ons that offered this are prone to being cut off form the Strava ecosystem.

I’m sorry

I know that my decision will be the source of some frustration for flink’s users, and I’m truly sorry. There have been so many inspiring exchanges with people who loved the product. Thank you some much for your support and brilliant ideas that made flink!

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