The Nike+ Accelerator

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I’m a fan of incubators and accelerators, both those focused on health and the vertical agnostic. A lot of really cool startups and technology are getting funded. Interesting things are happening outside of health and will likely be at least tried in health at some point.

The health accelerators (Startup Health being lumped in) are chugging along. I’ve come around to the incubators over the last year, though I think some programs and locations are more valuable than others. Only time will tell whether  health incubators will succeed, but I do think they are incredibly valuable for many companies and increase their chance of success.

If you look at non-health accelerators, TechStars is successful, offering what seems to be a franchise model for others to start accelerators. According to TechStars, it’s a turnkey solution to get up and running with an accelerator program in no time at all. It seems like a perfect fit for a large organization looking for some creative solutions. In health, I could see this being payers (though BCBS already funds Healthbox), larger health systems (if they have extra resources), and pharma companies. TechStars recently powered the Microsoft Kinect Accelerator, which had some companies focused on health and wellness in the batch.

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This week, TechStars and Nike announced a new accelerator (Lt. Dan reported this yesterday). The new NIke+ Accelerator is intriguing to me as I’ve come to really like Nike technology – the Nike+ App and Fuelband. Nike technology is geared more towards the quantified self group right. Whether you believe this will bleed over to more mainstream heath and wellness and chronic disease or not, I think it’s a great area to watch.

I’ve been using and really like the Nike+ app for running. I’ve started using it on a treadmill recently and it still works well enough. I only sync runs to Path, but for that, Nike+ is great. I have several friends that use it in the same way, so it’s a good way to keep tabs on friends.

I’ve also reluctantly come to really enjoy my Fuelband. I was in Arizona a few weeks ago and somehow convinced three friends to buy Fuelbands at the Nike store. We now compete daily, which I have to admit motivates me to move around more. The Fuelband is far from perfect, just like all of the activity trackers. As an example, one of my friends with a Fuelband does Crossfit everyday and doesn’t get the Fuel that he probably has earned.

For me, I’ve taken to moving, pacing, or walking whenever I’m not typing or at dinner. Since I’m drinking my breakfast and lunch and spend time on the phone each day, this is a lot of movement and the Fuel adds up. I also do it when I’m talking to people at my office or in casual meetings. I’m sure this is incredibly annoying to people around me, but oh well, at least it’s for my health.

I’ve actually found that by doing these little things, I’ve increased my daily Fuel by about 1,500 each day, which is about 3,000 steps. That has to be a good thing, right? I also think that using something like the Fuelband (or the Up or Fitbit or Striive) in the workplace as part of wellness program for all employees would be really cool. Some companies have to be doing this – if you know of any, let me know.

Back to Nike and what it is offering and looking for with this accelerator. At a high level, they are looking for companies that want to build applications, tools, and services that utilize Nike+ data via its API to motivate people and presumably sell more Nike products by adding value for users.

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What would be really interesting to come out of the incubator:

  • An app that makes Fuel into a game and is geared towards kids (maybe aged 10-16). Targeting people like me is great, and that probably provides a faster path to revenue than targeting obese and inactive kids. But the social ROI with a successful peds game or activity engagement app is much, much bigger. Integrating it into schools health programs would make it even better.
  • A connector to integrate Nike+ data into a clinical record. This is a little harder than some other ideas, but it would be really interesting to see if a company could do more than just create an attachment for an EMR, which I admit would still be a good thing. I’m not sure exactly how to do this.
  • A group activity app that a health system, concierge group, or employer could offer. The main difference with this is I think a provider would be integrated into the app and group, providing feedback and coaching. Any member of the group, member, employee, patient, or provider should be tracking activity.
  • Add cheers for Fuelband. I wish it was easier to get nudges with the Fuelband like you can with the Nike+ running app.
  • Create a buyer program where you can trade Fuel for Nike products or donate to the Special Olympics. Donating Fuel could convert it to CarePoints or other rewards that boost you virtual rep.
  • Something that does a better job of unifying the Nike apps (running and Fuelband) but that’s sort of selfish.

Are you applying to the Nike+ Incubator? Why or why not?


Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

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