Start-up: New Smart Pedometer Creates Walking Addiction

Redwood City-based Striiv is changes users’ perception of walking as an opportunity rather than a chore.

Today you walked the equivalent of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, burned a cupcake’s worth of calories, beat your friend’s daily average step count and donated 5 percent of a polio vaccine, according to your Striiv pedometer. Rather than simply tallying a step count, Redwood City-based Striiv is producing pedometers that provide fun, accurate context that motivates people to approach fitness differently.

Americans are bombarded with stories in the media about the apocalyptic obesity epidemic and the enormous health costs that result. But rather than using a doom and gloom approach to scare people into exercising, the employees at Striiv are presenting fitness as subtle behavioral changes that can truly make a big difference.

“People really become addicted to walking,” said Lexy Franklin, the Head of Design and Strategy. “It’s not about what you can’t eat or can’t do. It’s about celebrating what you are doing.”

The average Striiv user is a 47-year-old woman with a body mass index (BMI) of 29 to 30 percent, close to being obese. But once the pedometer is regularly used, Striiv users walk three miles a day and 12 flights of stairs, Franklin said.

Co-founders Mark Ross and David Wang transitioned from the iPhone game and hardware industry in 2010 to change people’s perceptions of fitness and health. Their knowledge of consumer electronics and gaming combined with the desire to fundamentally change people’s perceptions of fitness sparked their latest brainchild.

The company selected Redwood City for its central location in the Bay Area, but also because of the “downtown melting pot” that is very walking-friendly, said Franklin, a Redwood City resident. The diversity of restaurants and ability to be creative made Redwood City an ideal location, he added.  

Increasing Fitness One Step at a Time

Once people clip the $99 pedometer onto their clothing, Franklin said, people realize all the opportunities presented throughout the day that can increase their step count, such as taking the stairs or parking farther.

“This is fitness for the rest of us,” Franklin said of the company’s unofficial mantra. “It’s all still ‘real’ exercise without having to spend hours in the gym.”

Franklin was one of the “90 percent,” he says, who want to stay healthy, but couldn’t seem to squeeze in two hours at the gym every day to adhere to the traditional routine of fitness.

“I used to feel guilty about not going,” Franklin said. “But then the conversation in my brain changed when I could still feel a sense of accomplishment through walking.”

Motivation is built into the pedometer, which resembles a game consol much more than a traditional digital pedometer. Additionally, Striiv pedometers won’t let you cheat by simply shaking your pedometer or calculating steps with sensitive movement.

Its True Motion Technology can distinguish stair steps from walking steps to provide accurate exact measurements, then takes that data to encourage you to walk 100 more steps or six more blocks depending on your daily walk. Soon, you average is far higher than when you started, Franklin said.

Addicted to online games on Facebook like Farmville? The game’s goal is to grow your crops and animals using the virtual currency. But Striiv’s games require a certain number of steps to grow your livestock. Similarly, the social component of online games manifests itself through the pedometer, which can feature your friends’ and family members’ average daily steps. Users can choose to have a collaborative goal or find motivation through friendly challenges to see who can walk the most in a given time frame. 

For those who want to walk for themselves as well as social good, Striiv will provide clean water or a polio vaccine to children or save a portion of the rain forest once a certain number of steps are reached. They are also reaching out to corporate sponsors to similarly donate items to people in need.  

Striving Towards Ubiquity

For those worried that monitoring your Striiv could consume the same amount of time as spending an hour at the gym, Franklin said that average Striiv users check their pedometer 29 times a day, less than the 34 times a day that people check email.

The company is also constantly working to update their software, which doesn’t require buying a new device. Changes are all analytically driven based on reviewing the billions of steps Striiv users have already taken.

The pedometers are now sold at approximately 600 Best Buy locations around the country as well as Amazon.com. Though the company won’t comment on how many pedometers they’ve sold, they hope to sell the devices to as many people who wish to change their lifestyle into a healthier one.

“We want people to be the best versions of themselves they can be,” Franklin said.  

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