Tech start-up of the week: getHealth
Picture, from left: Michael Flanagan, CTO, and Liam Ryan and Chris Rooney, co-founders, getHealth
GetHealth is a new Irish start-up that is zoning in on the health and fitness arena to gamify it. The team have created a new type of gaming app so that users can track, monitor and reach their personal health goals.
With many people training hard at the minute for runs and marathons such as the Great Ireland 10K run next Sunday, and the Mini Marathon in June, Get Health appears to be tapping into a growing awareness around health, nutrition and fitness.
The venture was set up in June 2011 by Liam Ryan and Chris Rooney. The duo have already got experience of starting health ventures. While they were students, Ryan and Rooney set up another health-oriented online service called SafeText.com, a platform to remind women who use oral contraception about taking the pill at the correct time each day.
With Get Health, Ryan, who graduated from TCD in 2011 with an engineering degree, is now CEO and head of product. Chris Rooney, who is chief financial officer and head of business development, is also studying business and law for his penultimate year at University College Dublin.
Ryan and Rooney have also taken on Martin Reilly as lead designer at getHealth. Reilly is currently a final-year graphic design student at Waterford Institute of Technology. In addition, the team has also managed to glean Michael Flanagan, former chief technology officer (CTO) at Webtogether.ie, as their CTO.
GetHealth has also just emerged from the three-month Launchpad accelerator at the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC).
Looking back on our time on Launchpad, we really appreciate the input we had with their mentors and the lessons we learned,” says Ryan.
“The NDRC’s slogan is ‘ideas to income’. We went into the programme with an idea, but it took the support of NDRC to build out our business strategy.”
He says that the best thing about being on an accelerator programme like the NDRC one is that you are in an environment with like-minded individuals.
“I don’t think the lights went off in the office for the duration of the programme. There was always someone working,” says Ryan.
He describes getHealth as the Foursquare of health, but just how is the team aiming to gamify health?
“GetHealth is building out a platform that makes improving your health fun. We've made our application into a game that allows you to check-in to healthy tasks and earn points for them each day. We’ve made it social too, so that you can connect with friends, and help each other reach personal health goals. Every week, our users receive personal reports on how they did during the previous week aiming to help them understand how can improve their health and how they can earn some more of those valuable points,” he says.
Users and monitoring growth
So who is using the app right now?
“Our application is in closed beta right now. This means we are closely monitoring user growth and interactions on the platform,” explains Ryan.
He says that the app has been designed to be intuitively simple for users of all demographics.
“People of all ages struggle with their health and our application aims to help improve this."
Ryan says that the service is primarily targeting smartphone users as the application encourages real-time check-in to the healthy tasks people achieve each day. However, he says people can still use it in their desktop browser.
And one of the main focus points for getHealth right now is the corporate space. “We’re using online technology to help inject fun into corporate wellness programs. By offering an online and mobile solution, we are helping employees achieve their health goals through interaction and gameplay with their co-workers.
”We track all aspects of the employees’ health, and therefore we can then deliver anonymous data reports back to the employer. They can use this to measure and qualify the return on investment on the health programmes within their organisation,” explains Ryan. “This is exciting because, as far as we have seen, it has never been done before at this level in the corporate wellness space.”
So, are there any athletes using the app? Jade O'Connor from the Pure Magic & Cabrinha Kitesurfing Team, is using getHealth as part of her training programme in preparation for the 2012 European Tour, as well as the World Championships in Sardinia, according to Ryan. He says that the app is useful for every type of athlete who is preparing for competitions.
As part of their market research, Ryan says that the team carried out a 28-day trial recently.
“Earlier this year we opened a private version of our platform as a 28-day challenge. The focus was to help users start achieving healthy tasks every day, and to encourage their friends. We tested our features during the trial and that helped us discover how users were interacting with our application.”
He said that the trial was useful in terms of getting feedback on how people were using the app to lose weight, lower their chocolate snacking, increase their water intake levels and reduce stress.
So where has getHealth got its funding to date? “In September we received funding from NDRC when we took our place on their Launchpad programme. We have also received funding from Enterprise Ireland to help us develop our business strategy and build out our platform,” explains Ryan.
GetHealth is now fundraising for its first round, and is currently seeking a seed investment of €100,000.
“We are looking for a series of angel investors who see the potential of the platform we are developing, and also the team we’re building around it. The funding will give us a 12-month runway to which we’ve already set out the milestones we aim to achieve. The investment will be able to grow our team, speed up product development and increase our sales,” explains Ryan.
And, as for the coming year, he says that the next three months will be spent focusing on launching getHealth with a number of companies both in Ireland and in the US as part of their overall corporate wellness programme.
”From this we want to continue to refine our product offering and begin generating revenue. The achievement of these milestones we hope will help us in securing our seed round of investment.”
The team has also just revamped its website. “Over the last number of months, we’ve been busy working on our product and building out business strategies. Now we felt it was time to show everyone what we’ve been up to,” explains Ryan.
And what about the challenges to setting up? “There are always challenges to meet when being involved in a startup. The key is to surround yourself with your colleagues and mentors. These people will motivate you to overcome any obstacles in your way by helping you think about different solutions or help you brainstorm ideas,” says Ryan.
Ireland and start-ups
As for other self-starters, Ryan points to how now is a great time to be involved in a tech start-up in Ireland.
“Dublin has been growing out its tech community over the last two years, with the help of the Dublin Web Summit and successful tech founders. There is also a great opportunity for self-starters to gain a place on the likes of the Launchpad programme at NDRC, StartupBootcamp Dublin, Dogpatch Labs, iGap supported by Enterprise Ireland, Propeller based in the Ryan Academy or the other incubators and accelerators based all around Ireland. If you’re looking for support in your venture, Ireland is the place to be,” he says.
In terms of advice, Ryan recommends that every tech start-up talks to their potential customers early on.
“This will give not only you the opportunity to conduct your market research, but to also gain an insight as the problems your aiming to fix. Only then can you build a product that people will pay for,” he says.