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The Friday Interview: Suneel Gupta, Founder and CEO at Rise

This week’s Friday Interview is with the Founder and CEO of Rise, Suneel Gupta. The nutritional coaching service tries to offer a deeper understanding of what you eat and help its users to achieve their dietary goals (be that losing weight or simply eating better) and earlier this week announced a partnership with weight loss app Lose It! Here’s what Suneel had to say about his business, the quantified self and the future:

Suneel Gupta, Rise

Suneel Gupta, Founder and CEO at Rise

PH: HI SUNEEL, COULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN WHAT RISE IS?

SG: Rise helps you lose weight in a way that lasts a lifetime. Every day, you make 5-10 choices that affect your health. Our product exists to make it as easy as possible for you to make the healthy choice. We do this by matching you one-on-one with a top-notch private nutritionist, who coaches you daily through your choices, and motivates you to succeed.

A typical Rise member is someone who wants to lose weight, but is too busy to spend a ton of time focusing on it. Rise fits seamlessly into your schedule, because there are no appointments or time commitments, and its as simple to use as Instagram. You simply snap photos of your meals, and your coach returns with feedback, tips, and advice that will move you towards your healthiest weight. We’re also integrated with Apple Health and FitBit, so that you can share your activity directly with your coach and receive even more personalised guidance.

I’ve been thinking about this idea since I was a kid. When I was young, and overweight, a registered dietitian helped me and the rest of my family learn how and what to eat. It made a huge impact on my life and so my hope is that Rise will make that same kind of coaching accessible to anyone who could benefit from it.

PH: HOW DOES RISE MAKE MONEY?

SG: Rise is a membership service. Today we offer a weekly plan for $20, a monthly plan for $48, and a trimonthly plan $120. That said, we’re always testing new payment plans.

PH: WHAT’S COMING NEXT FROM RISE?

SG: We recently announced a partnership with Lose It!, a weight loss and fitness tracking app with more than 24 million users (they’re the second largest app to MyFitnessPal), giving users access to Rise. The partnership is important for us, but also is the start of a larger shift in the industry. Most health and fitness apps today are geared toward collecting and logging user data, and then displaying it to users with a simple layer of context or colour, like graphs, charts, etc. The next generation of health and fitness apps will add a layer of actionable intelligence and advice for users to help them reach their goals. So, instead of just logging calories and activity and tracking it, users will be able to filter that data through either machine or human (and in our case, professional) intelligence that helps them do things they couldn’t on their own.

The partnership between Rise and Lose It! creates the first of these next-generation, data-intensive coaching apps. Rise is looking forward to partnering with other companies like Lose It! because we believe that giving people personalised advice and feedback on specific food choices will allow them to build even more healthy, sustainable habits for life.

PH: WHAT DO YOU PERSONALLY TRACK ON A DAILY BASIS?

SG: I track it all. Food, sleep, exercise. My Rise coach rates each of my choices with a green (more of this), a yellow (in moderation), or a red (cheat meal). Last week, about 70% of my choices were green, and I’m hoping to bring that up to 80-90% over the next few weeks.

PH: LASTLY, WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE FUTURE OF SELF QUANTIFICATION?

SG: In the business world, everyone knows that Big Data is only as good as what you do with the information you collect. The same principle applies to the growing market for fitness apps and wearables. Today, most of the apps available do a fantastic job of tracking your activity, food intake, etc. but offer no context or further support to help a person meet their goals. The next generation of wellness apps will need three key elements: personalised insights, motivation and accountability. Together, these elements will do more than simply deliver information, they will provide personalised outcomes that lead to real behaviour change.

Personalised insights: Often times when I look at the number of steps I’ve taken in a day, or stare at a graph of calories I’ve consumed over a week, I feel like I’m looking at a picture with no caption. I can kind of tell what’s going on, but I need more information to anything useful with it. Data is only as good as the people interpreting it, and most health and fitness app users aren’t equipped to get the most out of the data they get. Apps need to provide this greater context for the data it collects, be it through partnerships with outside organisations or sources, or more intensive data collection.

Motivation: People need a reason to continue on their journey toward a goals, or goals. They need to know that they’re getting good advice, that there’s some sort of intelligence – whether it’s human (professional in Rise’s case) or machine – that can help them interpret the data about fitness, sleep or nutrition they’re collecting. This combination of quantification and expert advice gives people confidence that they’re not doing the wrong thing, or following a path toward a goal that’s not going to work, and keeps them going toward those goals.

Accountability: There numerous studies and reports that show the importance of accountability to helping a person reach their goals. It’s human nature, and the reason why having a running buddy helps so many people when their are training for a marathon.

New wearable technology, as well as solutions like Rise, will help connect people with partners, peers and experts to give them the accountability they need to stick with their goals during the hard moments and for the long term. For example, we constantly hear from our users that part of the reason they keep using Rise long after they have learned what works for them is that it keeps them motivated to make healthy choices every day. It’s harder to pick pizza over a salad when you know you need to log that meal and that a person will be looking at your choices at the end of the day.




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