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Royal Docks: How the London Blockchain Conference is focused on finding practical applications as the technology matures

Conference director Alex Stein and sponsor Richard Baker of Tokenovate talk innovation and efficiency

Tokenovate’s Richard Baker will be speaking at the conference

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Blockchain is one of those technologies that can be daunting in its vastness.

First conceived in the early 1990s, not much happened until 2009, when Bitcoin arrived and its profile rose as the system underpinning that and other cryptocurrencies.

Then there was the mostly art-focused explosion and crash of the non-fungible tokens or NFT market.  

But quietly in the background – while the hype has raged – bright minds have been carefully considering what blockchain might most functionally and profitably be used for now and in the future.

What applications does an immutable, secure ledger for practically any kind of data, protected by encryption and distributed across a network of computers, actually have? 

It’s that question which lies at the heart of the forthcoming London Blockchain Conference – a gathering of experts, companies and individuals.

Set to be held at Excel from May 21-23, 2024, the event expects to attract more than 5,000 delegates in person who will be able to listen to more than 150 speakers and dozens of cutting-edge exhibitors working in the sector.

“Its purpose is to move the needle forward on enterprises and governments adopting blockchain technology,” said Alex Stein, conference director.

“What we want to do is cut through a lot of the conversations, which tend to be about cryptocurrencies.

“The event is about how useful the technology can be and its impact, looking holistically across different industries and government – we want to bring everyone together to move those discussions forward and educate people. 

“We’ve held conferences around the world on this topic but last year we made the decision to find a home in London.

“It makes sense because it’s a hub for fintech, finance and regulation, all of which are very important for the technology. 

“That’s why we’ve based it here and renamed it the London Blockchain conference.

“We want it to be the main event for businesses in Europe, and eventually globally, which will show people the practical applications of the technology – people who want to get together and talk about problems and solutions to them.

“This is the event for people with questions about blockchain to find answers – perhaps you’re the person who has been tasked with looking into a solution for your company or you’re a CEO or founder who would like to know more.

“The event is an amazing opportunity to be at the forefront of the technology and to meet people from startups, scaleups, investors and big companies.”

London Blockchain Conference director Alex Stein

One of those individuals will be Richard Baker, founder and CEO at conference sponsor Tokenovate.

He’s an electronics and telecommunications engineer by background and a self confessed lover of low-level engineering – good products and good systems, as he puts it.

“As a technologist, I always look at things through that lens,” said Richard.

“As an exhibitor of applications on blockchain I think the conference is at the heart of what London has always been really excellent at – curating the many faces of financial service offerings both nationally and internationally. 

“Tokenovate specialises in derivative trading  – we’ve built the next generation life cycle engine. 

“It’s a platform for how derivatives are getting tokenised, expressed as smart contracts and executing their life-cycle events on a blockchain. 

“There is no doubt in my mind of the journey that’s under way in financial services – not just in London, but globally.

“We’re seeing something in the order of $16trillion of assets expected to be tokenised in the next five to 10 years – land, property, commercial real estate, bonds and more. 

“This is probably one of the most exciting financial services transformations we have seen in 40 years – a real overhaul – and the economics that go with it as we adopt this new way of expressing value and building products.

“This conference touches on a lot of those really important characteristics.    

“In my humble opinion, blockchain has been one of the slowest technologies to come to market.

“It’s been more than 15 years and there has been a lot of misdirection with the journey of cryptocurrencies – but now we’re seeing businesses and organisations around the world look at it as an infrastructure technology, really focusing on its utility value.

“That’s what this conference is about.”

Both Alex and Richard agree that the potential for the technology is huge, making discussion of its implications and regulation essential.

“It’s fantastic to have people like Richard at the forefront to push the boundaries of what this technology can do,” said Alex.

“There are so many sectors that can be touched by blockchain, such as supply chains and healthcare as well as local and national government.

“There are so many opportunities and we want people to be able to see how blockchain can be a part of their digital transformation.

The conference is taking place at Excel in Royal Docks

“The point of the technology is to make things quicker, cheaper and better. What blockchain gives you in terms of its scalability, speed and stability will eventually change the world.

“It will become the plumbing that everyone expects to be in place and relies on to do business. In 10 years we’ll talk about it in less depth because it will be there.”

Richard added: “As a technologist, I often think in terms of 100 years.

“We’re only 30 or 40 years into a meaningful part of the digital age.

“Built into Tim Berners- Lee’s World Wide Web protocol is the fact that the internet was conceived as a medium of exchange for data but not money.

“There has always been a gap for the right financial system to be plugged in and that’s part of the journey we’re on in society. 

“Crypto has been a use case for the technology – it’s animated how smart contracts work, tokenising things and what a modern marketplace could look like and it’s certainly accelerated G20 regulators looking at blockchain and asking how it will apply to traditional instruments.

“I also echo what Alex says, that as a society we’re increasingly looking for provenance.

“In food, for example, using blockchain as an immutable, time-stamped record keeper, you could know when something was pulled out of the ground, when it was shipped, what the weather conditions were like and who the farmer was.

“I’m sorry to say this but we do live in a world where trust is being increasingly re-sought.

“We have a lot of disinformation and immutable record keeping is one mechanism we can use to help us re-establish that trust. I think it has an important role to play.”

The conference is pitched at all levels with the aim of including as many organisations as possible, so there’s very much a place for those whose understanding of the technology is rudimentary.

“On day one in the morning, we host a session called Blockchain 101,” said Alex. “We also have a session on what a smart contract is and so on.

“We’re located two minutes and 57 seconds from Canary Wharf or 14 minutes from Tottenham Court Road – there’s a whole expo floor and so much content and networking to get involved with.

“I just love bringing people together, out of the office, for face-to-face conversations.

“There will also be a fantastic, informal drinks reception on the first night, which will be really lively. 

“Having lived through the pandemic, when conferences were digital, it’s great to be hosting live events.

“Before the Elizabeth Line was in place, Excel used to feel a little out of the way but now it’s so well connected to the rest of London.

“Our event will take place in its dedicated conference centre, which is perfect for the kind of programme we’re hosting – although we’re certainly looking to the future and will perhaps one day occupy one of its halls.”

Anyone interested in exhibiting at the London Blockchain Conference or participating in its event can find full listings and information online.

Excel is easily reached from Canary Wharf in less than three minutes via the Elizabeth Line

WHAT’S ON

There’s a wealth of potential topics, but what can delegates expect from the event at Excel in May?

“We’ve got seven content-led tracks across three stages, our visionary stage, our big keynote stage and our inside stage – meant for panel-led discussions,” said Alex. 

“There’s also our spotlight stage out on the exhibition floor, so there’s great variation in what’s on offer.

“We’ll have session on the regulatory side of things, blockchain and AI plus blockchain and the Internet Of Things.

“We’ll be looking at business cases and opportunities to innovate in all of these areas.”

In addition to Richard, confirmed speakers include representatives from Channel 4,  nChain, Business Kitz, Ayre Ventures, BSV Blockchain, Project Babbage, Gate2Chain and Family Office Venture Capital.

—–

key details

The London Blockchain Conference is set to take place at Excel in Royal Docks over three days from May 21-23, 2024.

Excel is easily accessed via Custom House station on the Elizabeth Line (less than three minutes from Canary Wharf) or Prince Regent DLR.

Networking tickets for the event cost £49, while three-day delegate passes are £399. VIP access costs £799.

Group discounts are available for those buying three or more conference passes.

Find out more about the London Blockchain Conference here

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Royal Docks: How Disney100: The Exhibition is packed with cultural touchstones for all to enjoy

Exhibition at Excel showcases stories from a century of output by the world famous entertainment company

Disney100: The Exhibition is currently on show at Excel in Royal Docks

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In a world where people’s experiences and cultural references are increasingly diffuse, Disney100: The Exhibition prompts a conversation pretty much anyone can participate in.

The question: “What’s your favourite Disney movie?” is one that, perhaps, unites more people globally under the umbrella of a single producer than any other.  

Its answers are frequently generational, surprising and in some cases contested – can Marvel and Star Wars really be counted when so much of the original development of those brands happened before they were brought into the fold?

But almost invariably, it’s a question that’s met with fondness and warmth – often a connection to a childhood remembered or time spent with one’s own children.

That, of course, is before we even consider the TV output, the theme parks and the theatre shows. 

With such resonance in the public mind, curating an exhibition that celebrates the output of The Walt Disney Company to mark its centenary, is a mammoth undertaking. 

Little wonder, perhaps, that this creative titan has risen to that challenge with characteristic zeal resulting in Disney100: The Exhibition running at Excel in Royal Docks until January 21. 

“Selecting the exhibits was probably the biggest challenge we had because Disney has an embarrassment of riches in terms of the assets we can show,” said Matthew Adams, manager, exhibitions for the Walt Disney Archives.

Matthew Adams of the Walt Disney Archives

“We’ve had 100 years and we have so many different business units now which have all contributed to Disney’s success, so it was really difficult.

“The great thing about Disney is, because it’s been around for so long, I can’t think of another company that has left such an indelible mark on people’s lives.

“There are meaningful moments for baby boomers all the way up to the children of today and everyone in between.

“I think about all the films I watched as a kid including all the movies like Hocus Pocus that came out in the 1990s.

“I was also a big fan of Sword In The Stone – those are two that really resonated with me when I saw props from the movies, so I can imagine how other people will feel.

“I often joke with people that the archives are the keepers of their childhood memories – but I also really mean it.

“Many are unique and we have both a domestic version of the exhibition in the US and an international touring collection, so deciding what would be in each was challenging.”

With the exception of the first gallery – which tells the story of how Walt set up the company and created his first animations including the pioneering Steamboat Willie with its synchronised soundtrack – the exhibition is not arranged chronologically.

The exhibition features a host of exhibits from Disney’s first 100 years

Instead its nine galleries are thematic, each looking at a different aspect of the company’s operations. 

“That really helped us narrow down what we were going to put on show,” said Matthew, who started off his career in theatre before going on to work at 20th Century Fox in themed entertainment and joining Disney when it bought his previous employer.

“Everything after the first gallery is based on the philosophy of Walt Disney – whether that’s storytelling, creating believable characters, adventure and discovery and so on, which helped us decide what to include. 

“Then we were only selecting exhibits that were in service to that story of each gallery.

“For example, everything in the music gallery helps tell the story of how important the music and sound effects are in Disney films.

“One thing that Disney is really well known for and comes into clear view when you’re in the exhibition, is the attention to detail with everything the company does.

“For instance there’s a display about creating the sound effects and you would never think those noises were made in the way they were – the minds that came up with those ideas were pretty astounding.

There’s also an extensive gift shop selling official merchandise

“Another example is when you’re looking at the costumes for The Lion King stage show and the level of detail that goes into them, which audiences would never even see at a distance.

“It’s those things that make the Disney difference.

“In The Illusion Of Life gallery, we talk about all these individual characters and what makes them seem real.

“There are the minute personality details, which may seem obscure and unimportant, but combine to create the effect of a living, breathing character.

“To me, seeing those things is a ‘wow moment’.

“In the exhibition, you really get a sense that everyone, from Walt Disney up to the people who work for the company today, has been really passionate about the work and our history, our legacy, and the stories we continue to tell today.

“These people really believe in it and really love it. 

“They realise what they are doing has made a huge impact on their lives and makes a real impact on other people’s lives – that’s why being part of the exhibition is really something special for me.”

That Disney100: The Exhibition is in the UK is apt.

Walt and the company he built has had a long association with Britain.

Its first live action film, 1950’s Treasure Island, was shot in Cornwall and Buckinghamshire with Robert Newton creating a host of immortal pirate tropes as the wild-eyed, one-legged Long John Silver.

Walt also traced his roots to the village of Norton Disney in Lincolnshire, visiting during filming and cementing the link by placing his family’s coat of arms above the archway to the company’s famous castle.

“This started something that was consistent with many of the company’s most famous stories like Mary Poppins and Bedknobs And Broomsticks, which feature in the exhibition,” said Matthew.

The exhibition features all kinds of exhibits including costumes from live action movies

“There’s a definite affinity with London and the UK. I hope that seeing the exhibition will reignite people’s passion and love for Disney films, parks and everything else we produce.

“There’s so much content out there these days – it’s over-saturated – but it’s really nice spending an hour or two going back and looking at those touchstone moments in our lives, saying: ‘I remember this being really important in my life’ and remembering.

“An exhibition spanning 100 years is a really huge moment that will only come once in our lifetimes, so we want everyone to feel inspired and happy when they leave, and hopeful about the future.”

Spare a thought, then, for the next generation who will likely have more than double the archive to draw on when 200 years have passed. 

“The collection is huge and already spans multiple buildings and locations,” said Matthew.

“We have buildings that are dedicated to our three-dimensional assets, others that are dedicated to our photo collection – it is a pretty enormous operational undertaking.

“We rely on the actual creators and the production teams of those films or park attractions to tell us what’s important to keep.

“Similarly, with park attractions, when they are changed or updated, we ask what the fans’ most popular items are and which are worth keeping.

“We wish we could keep everything, but that’s just not possible when we have a finite amount of space and, with the advent of Disney+, output has increased significantly.” 

Fortunately, thanks to the acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, there is potentially a solution.

That deal means it now owns the warehouse from Indiana Jones flick Raiders Of The Lost Ark – plenty of room for another century of stuff. 

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Royal Docks: How The PA Show trains and serves executive support professionals

We catch up with organiser Mash Media to understand the Excel event’s highlights

The PA Show takes place at Excel from March 8-9, 2022
The PA Show takes place at Excel from March 8-9, 2022

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Executive support is what Liz Agostini is here to talk about.

The portfolio director at Mash Media, which is set to host The PA Show at Excel in Royal Docks on March 8 and 9, is quick to point out that the event is a larger umbrella than its name might suggest.

“It’s for personal assistants, executive assistants, virtual assistants and office managers – it has really broad appeal,” she said.

If anything, that’s a bit of an understatement. Spread over the two days, thousands of visitors will be able to attend dozens of seminar sessions, listen to dozens of speakers and interact with more than 100 exhibitors.

In addition to a theatre for keynote speeches the show will feature a Key Skills Theatre, a Personal Development Theatre and a Tech Theatre with a packed programme of trainers and industry experts.

It will also host the Office Management Conference with discussions on topics such as project managing office moves, supporting a positive culture in the workplace and engaging staff in sustainability.

“Whether you’re working as a PA, EA, VA or office manager, or considering a career in an executive support role, this show is definitely the place to be,” said Liz.

“There are several ways to attend, with a free visitor pass granting access to the Keynote Theatre and the exhibition floor.

“As a business, we’re real advocates for live events – with exhibitions, it’s about touching, feeling and experiencing products and meeting people.

“We’ve all attended webinars and virtual events, but there’s nothing like being in the room with others – humans are social beings, that’s how we’re hard-wired.

“Events like The PA Show also allow for those serendipitous conversations with people you bump into – a chance to build and expand your network.

“Those who don’t want to take part in the paid programme are absolutely welcome to come along.”

Mash Media's Liz Agostini
Mash Media’s Liz Agostini – image Matt Grayson

Delegate passes – £149 for one day or £169 for both (get 10% off with code PA2216) – not only include entry to the office management conference and all of the theatres, they also unlock Planet PA post-show video content, access to premium suppliers and the option to use The PA Show networking app.

Liz said: “One of the key things about the event is that the educational aspect is absolutely stand-out.

“The whole programme is CPD accredited and the other thing that makes it outstanding is that, within the paid-for programmes, all the people delivering the training are seriously qualified in the area of executive support.

“To go on a day of training with any of these people would normally cost hundreds of pounds on its own.

“At the show what you get is a substantial taster of what they offer. That means you can attend lots of different sessions, see what they are doing and know what you’re in for if you were to book a course with them.

“We cover all sorts of different areas, so it’s a buffet of education – people can choose what they want to attend at the theatres over the two days.”

The PA Show features a number of expert speakers and trainers
The PA Show features a number of expert speakers and trainers

The roster of speakers and trainers includes Lauren Bradley of The Officials, Shelley Fischel of Tomorrow’s VA, Joanna Gaudoin of Inside Out Image, Paula Harding of The Meee Partnership, Kay Lundy of The Expert Admin Coach, Rosemary Parr of the Global PA Association And Training Academy, Paul Pennant of Today’s PA and Lindsay Taylor of Your Excellency.

Liz said: “We’re working with people who are at the absolute top of their game in terms of the PA world – the cornerstones of the training market.

“Outsiders often greatly underestimate the importance of executive support roles.

“But when you sit down with people working in this field and really take time to understand what their jobs entail, it’s absolutely mind-blowing.

“The roles are so varied and strategic – these people are partners for the executives they support. 

“They often have to participate in all aspects of an organisation whether that’s finance, marketing, employment, corporate governance, human resources and sustainability issues. Their remit is absolutely massive.

“I spoke to one PA who answers 90% of her boss’ email as him. Her understanding of the business has to be as good as his.

“That’s why a lot of EAs and PAs move into critical roles within organisations – because of their knowledge of the business they work for.

“I know PAs who have gone into underwriting, stockbroking and mergers and acquisitions. 

“At the top level you need to know how the business works and that’s about a million miles away from the stereotype of getting an executive’s clothes dry-cleaned for them.”

The event is now in its 11th year
The event is now in its 11th year

New for its 11th year is the collaboration with the Office Management Group, bringing the conference into the show’s stable.

“That’s an entirely new stream of content that we’re putting out,” said Liz.

“It covers areas such as facilities and office management and, what’s particularly relevant about that right now, is that so many businesses are focused on bringing their staff back into the office, doing that safely and establishing how they create the right office environment in 2022 and beyond.

“Regardless of how many staff they have in the office in person, businesses are conducting both internal and external meetings virtually, so what kind of facilities do you need to have in place? If people are working remotely, how do you keep everyone connected?

“That might cover questions around scheduling if people are working more flexibly – for example, how do you make sure project teams are running efficiently if participants are only in on certain days?

“Because the whole subject of technology in business is so important we’ve introduced the Tech Theatre to The PA Show this year too and that’s focusing on a whole raft of tools that are now available, not just the Microsoft and Google toolkits.”

PAs, EAs, VAs and office managers are welcome to attend for free
PAs, EAs, VAs and office managers are welcome to attend for free

Liz said for businesses wanting to reach the spending power of executive support professionals, exhibiting at the show was a “no-brainer”.

She said: “Nothing beats the personal touch and the budgets people in these roles have access to are significant.

“Our campaign for the show this year focused on PAs and EAs as the power behind the throne – exhibitors need to come along to make sure they are aware of your products, otherwise you’re just leaving them to search the internet, where it’s much harder to stand out.”

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Royal Docks: Hyrox debut at Excel will be UK first for the emerging fitness race

Co-created by German Olympian Moritz Fürste, the event will see thousands compete at the venue

Hyrox co-founder Moritz Fürste
Hyrox co-founder Moritz Fürste

It’s fair to say Moritz Fürste has a bit of a soft spot for east London.

The German won the second of his two Olympic Gold medals for hockey at the 2012 Games in Stratford, celebrating victory in Canary Wharf – although he can’t remember exactly where. The party was obviously a good one.  

 But what do you do after you’ve reached the pinnacle of success in your chosen sport? 

In Mo’s case, the answer is to team up with global sports event expert Christian Toetzke and advertising and marketing specialist Michael Trautmann to create something new. Then spread it all over the world.

Hyrox is that thing and it’s set to arrive for the first time in the UK at Excel in Royal Docks on September 25 with sister events in Birmingham on October 30 and in Manchester on January 29 as its fourth season progresses. But what exactly is it?

“Hyrox is a new sport that doesn’t fit into any existing category,” said Mo. “The idea was not just to create an event, it was about founding a complete new sport in the world. We’re pretty convinced that we’ve discovered a field where there is a niche not used before.

“Go back 10 years and people would go to the gym, but they were often basketball players, football players or whatever.

“Nowadays more that 50% of the people that go the gym say that fitness is their sport, so that was the founding idea of our company. We had this thought of a competition, a race for those people.

“People want to show their skills and what they’ve learned. Fitness people are often very competitive, but there’s no obvious way to showcase what you’ve got.

“Of course, there are very cool sports like Crossfit, which is like for the top 0.1% of the fitness world. Then there are obstacle races, which are cool, but they’re not meant to be competitive – they’re more about completion.

“Hyrox is a mass participation event for fitness, just like triathlon is a mass participation event for endurance. Essentially it’s a combination of fitness and running, so that’s why I call it a race.”

Participants complete eight, 1km runs during the race
Participants complete eight, 1km runs during the race

The format is comparatively simple – eight separate exercises separated by eight 1k runs. The aim is to complete the whole course in the fastest time possible.

“The exercises are always the same,” said Mo. “The eight workouts after each run are always in the same order and they are doing 1km on a SkiErg, which is like a vertical rowing machine, then a sled push, where you have to push it over 50 metres of carpet.

Next you have to pull the sled back, then there are some burpee broad jumps for 80 metres in total and 1km on a rowing machine followed by a farmers carry with kettlebells.

“Then there are the sandbag lunges, with the weight on your back for 100 metres. The whole thing finishes with 75 or 100 wall balls.

“It’s always the same workout, because we are convinced that successful sports all over the world don’t change their logic every year. I think that people want to get better at what they do.

“The first question people ask when you finish a Marathon is what time did you finish in? Everybody can compare it, and then the next time you start you can compare it to your own time.”

Burpees are also part of the challenge
Burpees are also part of the challenge

Mo himself completed the course in an hour and 20 minutes – about 15 minutes quicker than the average men’s open race time – and holds the current Hyrox office record. 

With events held across Europe and the USA, the current world record stands at 55 minutes while Mo said the slowest recorded time was “by a really nice guy in Chicago” who did it in three hours and 25 minutes. 

With around 3,000 competitors at each event, a battalion of judges keeps watch over each event to ensure nobody is cheating. Those flouting the rules get a warning, a second warning and are then disqualified. 

The UK represents a significant expansion for Hyrox, which will hold 35 events worldwide this season. Competitors compete for a place at the World Championships, where those with the very best times vie for the title.

“We’re excited to be in the UK, because the UK is a massive fitness market,” said Mo.

“The percentage of people signed up to gyms there is so much higher than the rest of Europe, except for Scandinavia for some reason.

“It’s very interesting to see the amount of money that’s spent in that area. People who do stuff like that buy the best shoes they can possibly get, because even the worst runner doesn’t want their shoes to be any worse than they already are.

“London is the biggest city in Europe, so we’re more than excited to get over to Excel. 

“The biggest difficulty for us, regarding the UK events and introducing Hyrox to a new market is that people think it’s not accessible from a strength and performance perspective – that’s so far from the truth.

“We have a 99% finish rate – 99 out of 100 who start, finish the course. It is tough, really tough, but it is accessible – everybody can do it.

“There’s not a workout where people keep telling me that they couldn’t move the sled – we haven’t seen that, ever. It’s on a carpet, it’s tough, but you will finish it. That’s really important for us to explain from the beginning.

“Also, if they don’t want to do it by themselves then they can do it in the doubles competition, because there’s the mixed option where you share the workload.”

The sled push is followed by the sled pull
The sled push is followed by the sled pull

Prospective individual participants can register for the standard men’s and women’s races or the pro men’s or pro women’s competitions for £74 per person.

Single sex or mixed doubles registration costs £129, with spectator tickets available for £10, including a £5 gift voucher for use at Hyroxworld.

“Training for Hyrox is very tough and you have to run, so endurance is very important but, at the same time, you have to be a complete athlete and training for that is healthy,” said Mo. “It’s not like doing a marathon which is very hard on your feet and calves.

“Not a single muscle gets bigger than it should be – you don’t have to run 42k – it’s eight times one and that’s a big difference.

“Running 8km is one thing, but running eight singles is a completely different ballgame.

“I really think Hyrox has the potential to be an Olympic sport one day. It’s the perfect competition missing from the fitness world.

“Many people have been waiting for this kind of race to show up. Will we be at the Olympics in five years? Probably not. In 10? I don’t know, but I think that’s the path we should aim for.

“If not in the Olympics, at least making it that big and, if that doesn’t work out, we’d like to grow it to something like the Triathlon World Series or the Marathon World Series and have it known as this huge world fitness event or race that people like to attend.

“In Germany we have about 450 gym partnerships – places that pay a small licence fee for a year to use the name and the workouts, which is a very cool offline marketing tool for us and allows people to train.

“I know that we have 18 partnerships in the UK so far and counting. That’s something we’d like to expand as Hyrox continues to grow.”

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