Will Dean, MBE (born November 8, 1980) is a British businessman and former counter-terrorism officer who is the founder and CEO of Tough Mudder, and often is called "The Mark Zuckerberg of Extreme Sports". Dean was named to Sports Business Journal's prestigious 2017 "Top 40 Under 40 List." Tough Mudder currently employs over 150 people worldwide. The company repeatedly has been identified as one of the live streaming industry's content leaders.

Early life

A native of Great Britain, Dean was born in Sheffield, England.


Will Dean attended the University of Bristol, where he graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree. Dean later attended Harvard University Business School where he received an MBA.


In between his undergraduate and graduate studies, Dean spent five years working in counter-terrorism for the UK Foreign Office.


Dean founded Tough Mudder while attending Harvard Business School. The company now hosts events in 10 countries, including the U.S., China, Australia and Dubai; more than 2.5 million people participated in Tough Mudder events last year, when the company generated over $100 million in revenue.

Dean has been named to Sports Business Daily's 40 Under 40, Crain's annual 40 Under 40 list (2012), was included on Fortune's 40 Under 40: Ones to Watch List (2013), and received the United States National EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Emerging Award (2013).

In 2014, Forbes profiled Dean, and asked him for his five top tips for entrepreneurs.

In 2015, the New York Times profiled Dean and explored what the CEO personally does to stay in shape while running the Tough Mudder business.


Tough Mudder has raised over $13 million for a variety of charities including Help for Heroes in the UK and other charity organizations around the world. In the 2017 New Years Honours, Dean was made MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his charitable contributions to sport.

Tough Mudder/Origins

While at Harvard Business School, Dean's professors were skeptical that Tough Mudder could become a thriving business.

When Dean entered Tough Mudder in a business-plan competition at Harvard Business School, judges questioned the viability of a team-centered, obstacle course combined with an untimed distance run as something people would enjoy - and willingly pay money to do.

Dean started Tough Mudder to provide camaraderie for participants — challenges that offer a variety of physical and mental and fun. Dean started the business in America because of its market size and the country's positive attitude toward start-ups and entrepreneurs. Dean designed Tough Mudder to foster teams working together towards achieving common goals.

Tough Mudder/recent news

On October 1, 2016 in Jimbaran Hijau, Bali Indonesia, Tough Mudder held its first event in Asia, drawing 1,500 competitors from more than 37 countries including Jakarta, Singapore and Australia. On December 9–10, 2016, up to 5,000 participated in Tough Mudder's first event in the Middle East that took place at the Hamdan Sports Complex.

Tough Mudder's television partnerships with CBS and Sky Sports have accelerated its development into a full-fledged lifestyle and media company; the company expects non-ticket receipts to account for half its annual revenue within five years.

How loyal are Tough Mudder participants to the brand? Over 10,000 people have a Tough Mudder tattoo - and counting

Tough Mudder/Expansion Plans

Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean revealed that the company will seek to launch a chain of fitness boutiques in the United States in 2017 to expand the brand beyond Obstacle Course Racing events.


Tough Guy

While at Harvard Business School, Dean studied Tough Guy, a UK company that specializes in survival competitions. Dean explored the feasibility of international expansion for Tough Guy. When Dean launched Tough Mudder in 2010, a lawsuit ensued, alleging Dean had used confidential information to start the company. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2013, with no admission of wrongdoing.

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