Startup plans to change fitness, lives through technology

Entrepreneur Nick Crocker believes that technology has the potential to change lives, so much so, that it's the focus of his million dollar startup.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor on

Many entrepreneurs will tell you that their startup has the potential to change lives, but for Nick Crocker, it is the entire point of his startup existing.

Crocker is behind yet another fitness-meets-technology startup, but it's not just another gadget or tracking tool to become more active. It's about using technology to change behaviour.

The mindset behind Crocker's idea — Sessions — is that people already know that they need to exercise and eat right, but they are unable to change their behaviour even if they want to. Crocker argues that the entire approach to fitness has been misguided and for the most part, only supports those who are already partly active.

"If you're active all the time, it's a wonderful world," Crocker says, listing the gyms, bikes, parks, and home equipment that support people who already have some sort of fitness plan together.

"But if you're inactive and you're trying to make the first step, we kind of just leave people to their own devices, and it's not working."

Case in point, Crocker points to the number of fitness novices that end up purchasing late-night infomercial home gym equipment, which later sits gathering dust.

"The reality is, if you're not exercising now and you haven't been exercising for the last three to five years, then the missing link is not that you needed a piece of gym equipment. If you really wanted to exercise, you could have just gone outside for a walk," Crocker said.

"The missing link is, 'Are you someone who feels they can be physically active? Are you someone who makes the time for it? Are you someone who plans to do it? Are you someone who does it socially with friends? Are you someone who enjoys it? It's these factors that are really the most important."

This is where Crocker's Sessions uses existing technology to prompt behavioural change.

"What technology allows is a really efficient and cost effective means of staying engaged with that person. Technology allow you to open up new ways of intervening.

"You might see your doctor once, and then not see them again for six months, and then they have no ability to really impact. Technology allows us to stay in people's lives, to stay connected with them, and to give them the tools to really manage their health in a better way."

This means keeping novices to fitness engaged via text messages, an online interface, over Skype, whatever it takes to keep them engaged, rather than force them to take time out and drive to a trainer, a doctor, or a gym — behaviours which Crocker believes are the hardest parts of staying fit.

Picture of Sessions running on an Apple iPad
Image: Sessions

Using technology, Sessions puts users in touch with health coaches at practically any time they need them, rather than when fitness novices manage to find the time and motivation to see one. It means that when people do run into setbacks or have a bad day, they don't join the masses of people who leave their gym memberships under-utilised or give up on their original goals, citing injury or lack of motivation.

"When it's raining outside, and the kids are home sick, and you're running late to work ... what's important on those days is making sure you are someone who has the behaviours in place to deal with that situation in a way that allows it not to break your health routine really severely."

"We want people to come into our program, and then graduate from it and never need us again. We want them to then go and manage their own lives, and ... leave with the skills to sustainably pursue this on their own."

Sessions has raised a little under a $1 million, and earlier this week launched in Australia. It has so far received funding from a group of angel investors, with Collaborative Fund, SV Angel, and Twilio Fund among some of those backing Crocker.

It plans to further build out its team of engineers and designers, and expand its health coach network, with an eventual expansion to the US. Although Sessions' private beta involved people from all over the world, Crocker plans to make Session's main investment in Australia first.

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