Monday, February 16, 2015

My Fitness Pal

Investor John Doerr On What Makes MyFitnessPal Successful

Many mobile apps have failed to gain traction. Fitness Pal stands out as a successful mobile health app. 

Apple AAPL +0.52% and Google GOOGL +0.96% carry more than 100,000 health apps in their app stores. Most struggle to stand out, or sustain the interest of their user, let alone turn a profit. So, when sports apparel powerhouse Under Armour UA -0.26% shelled out $475 million for weight loss app MyFitnessPal, it signaled that pay-offs could be huge for apps that get it right—and their backers.


Mike Lee founded MyFitnessPal in 2005, when he and his fiancee wanted to lose a few pounds before their wedding. Lee, and later his brother Albert, bootstrapped their start-up, before raising $18 million in a series A round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 2013. KPCB partner John Doerr, who has long followed the health care industry, joined the board. MyFitnessPal was profitable when it raised money—a big plus for Doerr, and had 40 million downloads. (Although he quickly adds that MyFitnessPal fell in the red as it started hiring.) It now boasts more than 80 million registered users, who can track their calorie intake by clicking from a list of five million food items.
“You have to start with consumer love,” Doerr tells Forbes. One of Lee’s first moves was to form a “customer happiness team” to respond to user comments. Every month, MyFitnessPal invited customers to share their experience. One user, for example, liked it because it allowed him to track foods that caused his eczema to flare up. “Customers became walking billboards for us,” said Lee in a videotaped interview with Doerr. Doctors like it too. In a ranking of top 100 health apps by HealthTap, based on recommendations from 65,000 doctors in its network, MyFitnessPal came on top for iOS.
MyFitnessPal generated revenue from ads, but also became a marketing and sales channel for partners, such as Withings for its wireless scale, and fitness tracker Fitbit, turning into a lead generator for such devices. “It became valuable for devices,” says Doerr, who did not disclose MyFitnessPal’s revenues. The company was about to offer a premium weight loss product for paying customers when Under Armour came knocking. 
Still, Doerr admits keeping consumers engaged is a struggle. There may not be a winning formula for that yet, but MyFitnessPal shows that a deceptively simple approach can be effective. Proof? “We know that people have lost over 200 million pounds,” he says.
What defies conventional wisdom is that My Fitness Pal requires an active input from users. This is in contradistinction in the use of PHR (personal health records)  Consumers rebel against active entry of data, preferring their PHR to be populated by their physician.
My Fitness Pal reports on several metrics in additon to weight. They include
  • Progress  scroll down for complete list

  • Weight
  • Neck
  • Waist
  • Hips
  • Nutrition
  • Net Calories
  • Calories
  • Carbs
  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Saturated Fat
  • Polyunsaturated Fat
  • Monounsaturated Fat
  • Trans Fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Fiber
  • Sugar
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Fitness
  • Calories Burned
  • Exercise Minutes

Social Media

My fitness Pal also provides a community section on the web site as a 
semi-interactive group to provide emotional support to encourage compliance.

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