The Friday Interview: Mike Halligan, Co-Founder & CEO BodyWise

Mike CEO BodyWise

Mike Halligan, CEO of BodyWise

We’ve been following the progress of an app launched just under a year ago, BodyWise, and having seen it transform over time, we thought it would be good to catch up with Co-Founder and CEO, Mike Halligan.

In this week’s Friday Interview, we discuss their growth as a startup, industry trends and where the future of digital health lies.

PH: BodyWise has been active for around a year now, what insights have you seen over that time?

MH: We’re a little over a month away from our first birthday. Even in that time, the market has changed so much. We were one of the original quantified self apps, opening up the ability to track more than just the basics. Since then we’ve been wearables go mainstream in a big way, a lot of competition joining us and what seems like 500 new wearables launched via crowd-funding.

We quickly worked out that for most of us, the novelty of tracking wears off if you have to do any work to track. The act of tracking is incredibly beneficial, but we don’t have the attention span to do things that take much effort so the experience of tracking is almost the most crucial thing to making an app like ours a habit and one that’s going to make you healthier or happier. The importance of user experience in health & fitness apps cannot be understated.

PH: Has the app been a success?

MH: We beat our expectations in version 1 and ended up with over 25,000 users in our first two months alone. We were featured in the US App Store and won Digital Trends app of the week along the way which was great validation of our idea.

We released the original BodyWise because we wanted to use it ourselves and also to see what people thought of the concept. Being a manual-entry health logging app that didn’t then integrate with Fitbits & Jawbone UP’s, long-term engagement was an area that needed a little work so we quickly got to work on the new BodyWise which was around 8 months in development.

PH: How have you developed as a startup in the digital health arena?

MH: We’ve learnt a hell of a lot. There’s just so much to learn when you try to start something that you want to change the lives of tens of millions of people with, not to mention in an industry moving as fast as digital health.

We’ve moved to bring on board a seriously talented developer, had to focus a lot more on scalable infrastructure around our app, put hundreds of hours into developing and refining product designs + algorithms, not to mention developing integrations with FitBits, Jawbone UP’s and any devices that Apple may or may not release in the future.

We’ve really graduated from a duo with a little app to a startup secretly trying to blow people away with the work we’ve got coming. It means many late nights, way too much coffee and sacrifices in all areas of life, but it’s meant that we feel that we’re on the cusp of releasing something pretty special. That’s a good feeling.

PH: What trends are you seeing in this space?

MH: The focus of the past 9 months across the industry has been taking the data we’re gathering and making sense of it for people. There’s been some good starts, but there’s still work to be done to really make a difference in someone seriously reducing obesity or waking up twice as energetic as usual. These real world benefits are still barely solved by technology. We’re assisting, but not really enabling in my view. Enabling someone to achieve a health & fitness goal that they wouldn’t have done otherwise is a huge task, but it’s possible. Someone will do it. I hope it’s us.

I also see a lot of attention being paid to the diet and food tracking side of things which I think is the hardest frontier for digital health start-ups, but I don’t see anyone nailing it yet. There’s nothing mind blowing yet across the whole industry that people look at and go ‘Wow! I need that. That’s seriously going to make the biggest difference to assisting me in achieving my goals’. There are things that are cool and are seen as worth trying, but nothing that has reached that next level.

PH: Where do you see as the future of digital health?

MH: It’s a software world. The focus has been on hardware in the past year or two and thats fair enough because they’ve enabled easy gathering of data. That will increase in the next twelve months as a range of mainstream sensor-laden wearables are released and each one of us is tracking way more about our health & wellness than we ever have before.

I personally think that watches are the form for it. They’ll be nowhere near as common as phones, at least not this decade in my opinion. Watches are just too personal. Phones are not. Still, we’ll see them on the arms of hundreds of millions of people when a few companies get it right.

Once the hardware is nailed, it’s all about what you do with it and how you interact with the software and how it integrates with other devices. We do an enormous amount of debating about the future of digital health in the office. I think we’ll eventually move to digital health being invisible. Rather than us going to our app and it demanding attention off us to be of any use, I think the digital health solutions of the future will track everything in the background and only step in when timely and relevant.

PH: What is your personal dream for the future of digital health?

MH: A future where my app realises I’m stressed, have worked overtime and need a healthy meal but my fridge sees I don’t have the ingredients for an easy healthy option and orders them for me so they’re waiting when I get home is a future I’d love to see.

PH: What is next for BodyWise?

MH: We released the new BodyWise just under a fortnight ago which has been a huge improvement on our original app. We’ve had a few hiccups with our new FitBit and UP by Jawbone integration, but with that ironed out we’re focusing on nailing the experience of using the app and logging your daily activity, mood, workouts, and all of the unique elements to your body & fitness that you can track, before we release BodyWise PT.

BodyWise PT is our monthly training program that analyzes your data through our training engine to give you unique and personalized training advice across the areas of nutrition, lifestyle and your actual performance. We want our BodyWise PT users to learn what they’d traditionally have to go to a nutritionist, personal trainer and lifestyle coach to find out, plus a big fitness focus on top of that. We’re just perfecting it at the moment and expect it to launch in the back half of August.

From there we’ve got a few things up our sleeves in how we deliver that dose of motivation and guidance exactly where and when you need it.

Check out BodyWise yourself, the free app is available from the App Store here.

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