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chromaioEditor’s note: Nike Accelerator Spotlight takes a look at the ten startups participating in the Nike+ Accelerator, a three-month startup program based in Portland, Ore. and put on by Nike and TechStars. GeekWire is featuring each company leading up to the June 10 demo day. 

There are a lot of startups out there that reward exercise with gift cardscharitable donations and other similar goodies. But Chroma.io is doing something a little different.

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Marcus Estes (top) and Mike Merrill, founders of Chroma.io.

The indie game studio is making games that let you turn your physical activity into points to make in-game purchases. Starting with its first title, Jumpbots, users can record their hard work with trackers like NikeFuel and then exchange exercise points for fighting robots like those seen above.

Chroma.io was started by Marcus Estes and Mike Merrill, who recently made headlines thanks to selling himself and his future as a publicly-traded company at $1 per share. We caught up with Merrill to learn more about Chroma.io.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We’re making games that reward physical activity. Our first title is Jumpbots! and it allows a player to spend their physical activity on a customizable fighting robot. We are seeing more and more devices that can record our physical activity, and we want to reward players daily with a gameplay experience that encourages people to both track their activity and increase it over time.

Inspiration hit us when: As an early user of the Nike Fuelband I was explaining to Marcus how I earned NikeFuel and he asked, “So what do you spend it on?” There was a brief pause and we both exclaimed, “Giant fighting robots!” It seemed like the obvious next step.

Our “secret sauce” is: Games. Games are fun and compelling and fast. Physical fitness is hard, and it makes you sore, and it takes up a lot of time. We are using the fun parts of playing games to counter the hard parts of working out. With Jumpbots! and future titles you’ll be thinking about your game as you watch your NikeFuel increase.

nike_acceleratorHow do you plan on using the Nike+ platform and NikeFuel?: NikeFuel is integral to our game. Where most iOS games use micro-transactions to trick the player into spending more and more money on the same game, we are using physical activity. So you could say we’re tricking the players into spending more time being active.

Who will use your product?: Everyone who has an iPhone has some sort of game on it and the phone itself can track activity, so we’re looking to find everyone who plays games and wants to be in better shape!

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: We’re a very young company, so we haven’t made any BIG mistakes yet. I emphasize the word, yet… Being in the Nike+ Accelerator we have a very supportive environment that is guiding us along. Ask again in a few months and I’m sure I’ll be able to tell you a good dozen or so!

The smartest move we’ve made so far: I think I have to use the same excuse. We don’t yet know the repercussions of many of our decisions. Good or bad we’re not regretting anything yet. If we can keep that up I’ll be happy.

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Valve CEO Gabe Newell.

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner?: Can I pick Gabe Newell?

Would you rather have Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali or Tiger Woods in your corner: I can’t imagine there is a better choice than Muhammed Ali (but to be fair, I take boxing classes, so perhaps I’m biased).

Rivals should fear us because: We are small, fast, and creative. Like a swarm of super-intelligent hornets with a sophisticated design sensibility.

We are truly unique because: We made a death pact and signed our incorporation papers in our own blood. Just kidding. That’s not true.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: It’s* going to cost more than you thought. *It is whatever you are thinking about.

Inside the Nike+ Accelerator office in Portland.
Inside the Nike+ Accelerator office in Portland.

The greatest tech-related invention in sports is: Computers! Of course.

Our favorite sports-related app/platform right now is: Television. Seriously, think of how limiting sports would be without the power of television. Plus, as much as people imagine TV is “old-tech” we couldn’t be more excited about it.

Your first impressions of Portland are: As the Portland-based team my first impression of Portland is from 1998. Still, this place changes so fast it’s like a new city every three years. I truly believe there is no better place to call home. You get an incredibly high quality life for very cheap and are surrounded by people with strong ideals and amazing creativity. There are downsides to being in a smaller place, but they are easy to overcome with a few trips to Los Angeles or New York every year.

Previously on GeekWire: Portland just isn’t where young people go to retire: It’s where they get their VC money, too

Past Nike Accelerator Spotlights: GoRecess helps you find, book classes … FitCause lets you donate to charity by walking to work …Coachbase lets you draw up plays, strategies with an iPad … FitDeck turns exercise into a card game

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