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Our guest this past weekend on the GeekWire Podcast was Russell Benaroya, the CEO of EveryMove, a Seattle-area startup that lets users track their exercise and other healthy habits either manually or using gadgets such as high-tech pedometers. Rewards for participants include everything from gift cards to reduced health-care premiums.

Russell tried to win over John Cook, who doesn’t want technology interfering with the purity of his recreational soccer games. (John is becoming increasingly curmudgeonly about these things.) And Russell talks about the EveryMove’s 2013 Resolution Challenge, which encourages members to sign up teams to help each other stay active, with the potential prize of a FitBit Zip pedometer.

If you missed the show, or just prefer text, continue reading for selected excerpts from his comments.

Todd Bishop: What’s your elevator pitch?

Benaroya: “EveryMove is the equivalent to a mileage rewards plan for your health. We want to help people turn their healthy lifestyle activities into reward from companies that want to support them like your health plan or retailers or employers. It’s kind of like your mileage rewards plan: you fly about the country you earn points. EveryMove is the same way, but for your health.

John Cook: For what sort of things can you earn these points from and what type of rewards do you get?

Benaroya: We made some in-roads early with a number of health insurers — in fact, we took an investment back in April from Blue Cross. Blue Cross is really intersted in using EveryMove to reward people for their lifestyle activtiies in the form of maybe a gift card or maybe lower premiums  maybe a lower deductible  Maybe we can actually help lower your out-of-pocket healthcare costs. So that’s on the health plan side. On the retailers side, today brands like Blue Nile, the Pacific Science Center, Bartell Drugs and Born to Run are giving gift cards through EveryMove based on you demonstrating that you are doing healthy things in your life.

Cook: Probably not Dairy Queen, though?

Benaroya: No, no, Dairy Queen might be interested in talking to us, but I’m not sure we’re interested in talking to them (laughs).

Bishop: So at a basic level, you have a website connected to Facebook and an iOS app. If I’m a member of EveryMove and it’s incentivizing me to be healthier, what do I do to track my mileage?

Benaroya: One of the key themes that we play on is the proliferation of mobile apps and devices that are making it easier for people to track their lifestyle activities. People can’t see it right now, but I’m holding up a FitBit, a pedometer device I wear in my pocket. I’ve connected it to my EveryMove account so whenever I’m just walking around, I’m earning points on EveryMove. There are hundreds of these apps and devices out there. Just in the last week — Shine, LarkLife, Jawbone — all these new devices.

Bishop: I have no idea what any of those are (laughs).

Benaroya: I know, and they’re coming out every week. These are all devices that are helping you track your activity. We allow people to connect to them and EveryMove just runs in the background. We organize all that data for you without have you think about it.”

Bishop: How does the manual-entry work and how do you verify that I actually did, say, climb that flight of stairs?

Benaroya: About 35 percent of our users today, when they create an account, are connecting to an app or device on EveryMove like a RunKeeper or Map My Run or Nike Plus, for example. You’re right — manual entry still exists, but the way our point system works is you can’t earn nearly as many points on EveryMove as you could had you captured that same activity with a tracking device or if you did that activity socially. Let’s say that the three of us went for a run together and I manually entered that we went for a run and I tagged both of you that we ran. You’d get an email that said ‘Russell said you went on a 5-mile run.’ You could approve that and I’ll get more points for that because it’s a mechanic of social proof. We did it together.”

Bishop: John, you’re a big soccer player. But you’re not fully on board with this concept. Let’s hear your case for why you wouldn’t use it.

Cook: Well let me start with the positives. I do like getting rewards and earning things for free, so you got me there. But the sports field for me is a place for me where I get away from technology. We are immersed in technology with our jobs day in day out. When I go out to play soccer, it’s with a group of people from all over the world and I love that the people have no idea what GeekWire is — although some people figured out we’re on this show here now. But it is kind of a sacred time for me and I don’t want to be interfered with with a gadget in my pocket or device to track what I’m doing. I just wanna play sports and be free from all that.”

Bishop: So Russell, make your case.

Benaroya: O.K., my sleeves are rolling up as we speak (laughs). We, too, are all about integrating into the fabric of how somebody lives their life. We think very consciously about being as passive and unobtrusive in someone’s life as possible because we don’t want John on the soccer field to think expressly about, ‘Oh, I need to capture this data.’ That’s why many of these devices that are rolling out are as simple as hey, it’s already in your pocket, it’s a companion for you. I don’t want you to think about it. Even if it had to be manually entered, if even one of them on the soccer field cared and wanted to enter it and tagged you that you participated together, you wouldn’t have had to do anything. You’d just approve it and get the points. We’re very conscious about the life you want to live.”

Bishop: There is a proliferation of technology that’s allowing people to track movements and plug it into services. A lot of the promises some tech companies have talked about are these sensors and tracking. Where do you see this headed next? What’s the world going to be like in 2-to-3 years when we have all these devices communicating with each other? Paint a picture for us.

Benaroya: We’re seeing some interesting things coming out of very large companies like Nike. Many people probably use Nike Plus or Nike Fuel Band. What you may or may not know is that Nike is launching an accelerator program powered by TechStars to invite companies in to build applications based off of this data that comes off applications.

Bishop: TechStars, for those who don’t know, is a program that takes small companies and accelerates them into this world of startups and technology. This is something Nike is getting invovled in.

Benaroya: Big lifestyle companies are seeing a whole new way to build personalized relationships with customers and prospective customers. It’s really, really powerful. If I can meet you where you’re at in your life doing what you’re doing without you having told me what you do or what you’re interested in, I can really start to build a relationship with you and come to you with offers and consumer goods that totally aligns with what you’re interested in doing.

Cook: How do you address the issue of privacy since you’re dealing with someone’s health information?

Benaroya: Great question. We talked a little bit about the mobile carriers thinking about this space. The difference with EveryMove is that we are creating the consumer experience. We are putting the consumer squarely in the drviers seat of their data. We are not doing anything behind the scenes that’s capturing information without them expressly saying, ‘Yes I want this information, I control it and share it with who I want, when I want.’ That’s a really important distinction because if we’re going to build trust with the consumer, we have to put them in control of their information. I think there are a number of other comapnies out there that can acquire data from consumers but not necessarily do it with their consent and that value proposition may break down if the trust is broken.”

Cook: Do you sell the data of how people are exercising?

Benaroya: The answer is no. We don’t sell that data expressly. But what we may do is something like this: If a running shoe company came to us and said, ‘We’re really interested in reaching people that run at least three days a week, have at least four friends on EveryMove, two of whom are connected to RunKeeper and live in this region, we would love the opportunity to present them with a $25 gift card to our product. That may show up on EveryMove for them in their notifications, but the service is running through us. We’re unifying that consumer experience. We’re never going to just wholesale sell that data to somebody else.

Bishop: So the person making the offer doesn’t know the individual that’s receiving it by name.

Benaroya: Precisely. Never identified.

Bishop: Let’s talk about the rewards. One thing you mentioned was lower health premiums or gift cards. I want a trip. I want something big if I reach a big weight loss goal. What about that?

Benaroya: The whole arena of rewards is really interesting and exciting. Today we may have some smaller rewards that happen incrementally, but we also have a great opportunity to deliver unexpected, delightful, large opportunities that may not happen often but are these North Stars that are out in front of you that if that’s what motivates you, we want to provide that reward mechanic. That’s definitely on our road map of creativity.

Bishop: My feature request: A trip to Vegas.

Benaroya: Noted (laughs).

Cook: That could be completely counter productive, actually.

Bishop: Well I got the reward, I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore (laughs).

Cook: That’s a good business model. You regain all the weight and you’re in bad health and have to start all over (laughs).

Bishop: I don’t think that’s the idea. Russell is over there shaking his head. Speaking of milestones and challenges, you actually have a program you’re wokring on right now that’s called the 2013 resolution challenge related to EveryMove. Tell us about that.

Benaroya: This is a fun campaign we launched a couple days ago in advance of the new year. What we found is that about 50 percent of the population makes a New Years resolution and within about two months, 40 percent have broken that resolution. It’s usually because there’s no accountability and no incentive or feedback associated with it. And there’s no data so you don’t know if you’re tracking the way you should be tracking. We nail all of those elements. What we wanted to do with the resolution team was enable a user to sign up for EveryMove, build a team of up to 10 people that can help them earn toward one of these devices like a FitBit. The amount of the reward is a fucntion of how well your friends do on EveryMove. So you may earn enough points to unlock the reward, but the amount of it will depend on whether or not your friends are also active on EveryMove.”

Bishop: Choose your friends wisely.

Cook: You invited me this week and now I’m having second thoughts (laughs).

Benaroya: Now I’m wondering why you haven’t accepted yet, John (laughs).

John: You don’t want me in there. I’ll mess it up!

Bishop: Here’s the thing. Say you’re John’s friend on Facebook or EveryMove, but wanted to reward go up really high. Could you go to John’s soccer game and log the fact that he was playing soccer?

Cook: I thought you were going to say slip the FitBit into my pocket (laugh)

Benaroya: If I wanted to follow John around to make sure we’re capturing his activities, that might be considered to be an amazingly supportive friend that wants to encourage you to be healthy. It depends on how you look at it. That idea is let’s encourage each other and motivate each other and we are going to be more successful as individuals and a community if we can motivate at the peer level.”

Full show here:

Listen to the show above or via this MP3.

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