A Q&A with HealthRally co-founder and CEO Zack Lynch. The San Francisco–based company was founded in March of 2010.
SUB: Please describe what HealthRally is, and the value proposition you bring to health and wellness.
Lynch: HealthRally is a crowdfunding platform for personal health motivation. HealthRally offers friends and family a powerful new way to motivate one another to reach health goals with money. We’ve designed an approach that marries social inspiration and financial motivation to push people to achieve important health goals like losing weight, quitting smoking, and excelling at fitness.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Lynch: Our real competition is the couch. People have access to plenty of information about why they should get healthy and an ever growing number of apps that can help them track everything from their eating habits to running routines. Despite all this information and personalized feedback, most people still lose the focus and motivation to get and stay fit after a few weeks of trying. This is why we developed HealthRally.
SUB: What differentiates HealthRally from the competition?
Lynch: Everybody likes to celebrate reaching important milestones, so every rally has a reward that the leader gets if they reach their goal. Supporters inspire their friend with comments and chip in money toward the reward throughout the rally to motivate their friend to succeed. Rewards can be social, like a spa day with friends; personal, like an iPad2, new outfit or running shoes; charity-focused, with a donation to a favorite non-profit; or can even be flexible, with a cash rewards card. The motivational momentum of each rally is monitored and users are nudged to share their experiences and to motivate their friend with money and inspirational support over the course of the rally.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?
Lynch: I founded the company in March of 2010. The first thing I did was sit down and scope out a patent describing how we intended to use financial incentives in a social networking context to motivate behavior change. While there is plenty of debate about the validity of software patents, I, nonetheless, found the rigor required to specifically define our core value intellectual property and processes to be extremely useful in guiding product and business development decisions. Next, I pulled in the best minds in financial incentives and social networking to help guide my efforts.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for HealthRally? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Lynch: I’ve been playing around with different aspects of the idea for years, but there was also an “aha” moment. I was participating in a small meeting on the next ten years of neuroscience and behavior change hosted at the Princeton headquarters of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A few of us were talking about behavior change, when I shared with the group that it would be great if I could find a way for myself and my family to support my brother to quit smoking. I said that I wanted to pay him a few hundred bucks and I bet my family would too. And that’s when the rest of the table spoke up about someone special in their lives that they wished they could motivate to be healthy with the use of money as a reward tied to social support. Whether it was losing weight, taking diabetes meds, or just getting off the couch, everyone had a similar story to share. That’s when I realized there was a missing support system out there that would harness the desire of friends and family to participate in and help motivate behavior change.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Lynch: There are always challenges in a building a company. The trick is to realize that this is part of the process and to not let any one issue dominate your time too much.
SUB: You just raised $400K in seed funding—how do you plan to use the funds?
Lynch: We are using the proceeds to build an engaging experience for our users and partners.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside funding?
Lynch: There are lots of trends driving the emergence of the wellness space, as opposed the regulated healthcare marketplace. There is a realization that major changes in both how we care for healthy and sick people, as well as how the system can become more efficient, will be heavily influenced by innovation in the health and wellness sector. Improving health behavior is a massive $2.5-trillion opportunity, so the medical establishment and wellness technologists are getting heavily involved, creating many opportunities for new solutions and discontinuous innovation. Investors realize we are at the beginning of this wave of change and that this represents a good opportunity to get in early.
SUB: Do you plan to raise additional funding in the near future?
Lynch: Yes, we are raising a Series A in 2012.
SUB: What are your goals for HealthRally over the next year or so?
Lynch: Our goals are to engage our users, iterate our product with their feedback and expand the pool of motivators that can influence everyone’s health and wellness.
HealthRally – www.healthrally.com