When Aza Raskin gave his first talk on user interfaces at the San Francisco Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction, he was 10 years old.
Since then, he’s founded several companies, including Songza, a music streaming company, and Bloxes, which makes building blocks out of cardboard. But he is perhaps best known in Silicon Valley as the former head of user experience at Mozilla Labs. In other words, he helped “shape and ship” Firefox to nearly half a billion people. So what does a guy like that do for an encore? Start another company, of course.
“I like making things that people love to use,” says Raskin. “It should be about experience, and delight, and joy, and it shouldn’t mean just pixels on your computer screen.” What his new company, Massive Health, puts on your screen--your mobile screen--may indeed elicit delight. Well, delight or horror.
The company’s first product is a free app called The Eatery, and allows users to snap pictures of their food, upload them, and let the community rate the meal on a sliding scale of eleven stars between “fat” and “fit.” Users, who can follow and invite their Facebook friends to participate, then get feedback from the crowd on how healthy their diet is. I might, for example, give the chicken teriyaki bento box eight stars and the chess pizza a mere three. Every rating of a user’s food choices then impacts his or her overall healthy eating score.
“The top five costs to the U.S. health care system are diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and obesity,” says Raskin. “And all these things can be impacted by behavior.”
Write down--or take a picture of--what you eat, and you’re on your way to a better diet, claims Raskin. He’s got the data to back that up. “We discovered that after using the app for 90 days, people are eating 11% better,” he says.
He’s also been able to use his crowdsourced data to predict the obesity levels in U.S. cities using the fit or fat scores coming out of the app. New York, by the way, is the healthiest city in the United States, according The Eatery’s data. Must be all that oatmeal we eat (twice as much as other cities).
“We’ve had over 8 million food ratings of half a million foods in our system since our launch,” says Raskin. “That’s larger than any study done on eating.”
Massive Health and its 12 employees are operating on the $2.25 million in seed funding that Raskin landed last spring from Felicis Ventures, Greylock, Andreessen Horowitz, Charles River Ventures, and Mohr Davidow Ventures. And while Raskin won’t talk about revenue, he does hint at the value of Massive Health’s data and its social platform to insurance companies and self-insured companies that want to encourage healthy behavior and, thus, lower health care costs. “We now have pilot programs with five companies,” he says.
The company is paid both on a per-user basis (for engagement and health outcomes) and for population-level analytics. Revenue will scale up, says Raskin, as the pilots prove successful at reducing the burden of disease within the target population, driving higher engagement, and lowering claims costs.
And The Eatery, a free app, is just the beginning. The company is now hard at work on its next set of products that, says Raskin, “will measure things about your physiology just by holding your iPhone.”
2011 Read about Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger of Instagram, Matt Mickiewicz of 99designs, and Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox. Plus the start-up stories of Quora, Onswipe, Dropbox, Foodspotting, and Gemvara.
2010 Meet Alexa von Tobel of Learnvest, Naveen Selvadurai of Foursquare, Jack Abraham of Mint.com, plus the founders of Rent the Runway, Airbnb, Crowdflower, Posterous, LivingSocial, and Urban Escapes (now part of Living Social).
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