27 Feb / Are we there yet?
by Mike Tinney
My company, FIX, turns 6 years old in March 2018. I left the video game industry to start it. I believed that if you could deliver an experience that had the entertainment caliber of a video game, but focused on health and well being, that you could help people change their lives. We’ve been at it for close to 6 years, and I still believe it. In fact I know it, because we’ve done it. But in truth, like all founders, I didn’t expect it to take this long.
We are on the 3rd generation of our hybrid walking challenge video game, and we think we have it now. The challenge with technology is… each “at bat” is 12-18 months of development work and the better part of $1 million of development expense. It’s not the major leagues, but it’s also not amature hour. It’s somewhere in between.
“In addition to figuring out how to make people behave differently, we found we’re using some pieces of technology (like Fitbits) in ways they haven’t been used before.”
We’ve been bootstrapping FIX most of the way. Many of the people who work at the company have “skin in the game,” as they say. We don’t really have a big VC involved. Every VC we’ve talked to wants us to be one step farther along than we currently are… Have an idea? Build a prototype. Have a Prototype? Validate it with a couple of customers. Have some pilot customers? Get to $1 million in annual revenue. Have a $3 million sale contract? Check back with us in a year. And so on… So we’ve bootstrapped our way to our current product.
It’s a really good, stable product. It counts the things it needs to count and delivers the experience we promise to deliver. If you work in tech, you know this is easier said than done.
See, our product is something that hasn’t been done before, so in addition to figuring out how to make people behave differently, we found we’re using some pieces of technology (like Fitbits) in ways they haven’t been used before. In our early product iterations, getting these third party technologies to do what we wanted them to, when we wanted them to, how we wanted them to, all within the context of a game was challenging. Much like cars come out with all new models every few years, software has a similar life cycle, and our new product is just that: built completely new, from the ground up, standing on the shoulders of all the knowledge and experience we gained from two previous versions.
“Benefits brokers that we work with tell us that our product inspires more steps and retains users longer and better than any health challenge they’ve ever seen.”
We launched the new version of our Health Entertainment game, called The Outbreak, in June of 2017. We nailed our primary benchmark: 90+% sustained/retained users. Benefits brokers that we work with tell us that our product inspires more steps and retains users longer and better than any health challenge they’ve ever seen. It should. We cheat. We use lots of dirty tricks from the video game industry to create a dopamine feedback loop in our users brains. It helps people make it from one little goal to the next. Complete enough little goals and surprise! You’ve nailed a big goal.
We headed into 2018 with 2 major breakthroughs, one’s we’re hoping to make the most from. First, we signed a distribution deal with Rally Health. That’s a big deal and one we’re excited about. They’ll take some time to ramp up, but we’re excited about getting our products offered to United Healthcare clients. The second big break, though, fell into our laps. We had a client do their own ROI study on our services. Their results were astounding. They recognized a 7:1 return on their spend on The Outbreak challenge, primarily from mitigating medical risks by moving 25% of their participating population from inactive/sedentary to active. We turned it into a wellness ROI case study. Still, we’ve been plugging for 6 years and we’re still small. These two breakthroughs will take months, if not the better part of the year to begin to result in more sales. We’re still… a start up. Are we there yet?
Until Next Time,
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