Vea Fitness founder Jonathan Maxim has worn many hats in the past, that of an app designer, growth hacker, digital marketer and more. Now he is summoning all that knowledge and skills to build his young startup.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, Maxim’s startup has built a powerful app that works on platforms such as Fitbit and Apple Watch, and is finding creative ways to inspire people to work out, among them financial rewards. Vea has partnered with the City of Philadelphia and Snap Kitchen, among others, to promote the concept, while tweaking its business model to create a winning model.
“The essence of Vea is helping people find their motivation to work out and then providing them different…incentives and motivators,” Maxim, who previously worked in a Fortune 50 firm, told Brian Neary in an interview.
“…down the road there is a very high likelihood that we could become acquired by one of those large brands, but for now we’re really focused on building up the consumer experience, making the app truly motivational and flying on the experience,” said Maxim, who studied graphic design and user interface, besides earning an MBA at San Diego State University.
BRIAN NEARY: Hi. I’m Brian Neary, commercial real estate broker with Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. With us today, we have Jonathan Maxim of Vea Fitness.
JONATHAN MAXIM: My name is Jonathan Maxim. I am the founder of Vea Fitness, the app that rewards you for working out. I am based here in Philadelphia. My team is mostly here in Philadelphia as well.
BRIAN NEARY: Can you tell us about the launch of Vea Fitness and your vision for the technology? At its core, what is Vea Fitness?
JONATHAN MAXIM: Vea Fitness is the only app that rewards you for working out, so you might run two miles to get 10 percent off on new running shoes or run three miles to get 15 percent off. So, it really provides, you know, tiered incentives or rewards and motivation to help people find their inspiration for working out. So, you know, you could earn 10 percent off your new running shoes from New Balance or you might earn, you know, half of your lunch from Snap Kitchen or just a free bottle of water from Core Hydration, one of our partners.
So, the essence of Vea is helping people find their motivation to work out and then providing them different, you know, incentives and motivators like, you know, seeing your friends working out, having them cheer you on or, you know, getting your reward for it. It is available on Android and iOS. It has been in market since April. We officially launched in September. So, now we are moving toward, you know, really creating a local presence, hosting different fitness events and encouraging people to come out and meet us and really feel the motivational experience of our brand beyond the app itself.
BRIAN NEARY: How are you and Vea contributing to Philadelphia’s future in the technology sector?
JONATHAN MAXIM: We launched in September 2016 with Vea Fitness where we had been in pilot for a few months and we actually had the opportunity to partner with the City of Philadelphia for it. So, the City of Philadelphia was running a citywide fitness event, and one of our contacts introduced us to them and they were looking to motivate people to get outside and run during this event. Essentially they are closing down 10 miles of city streets and so. It seemed like a good fit, you know. Vea Fitness could provide them with motivation workout through different rewards and incentives and programs, and so they actually rolled out Vea Fitness to anybody who came to the event. They had 15 local businesses offering rewards and it was just an overall great success. The city had over 40,000 people show up and we got a great number of those people to download the app and use it. Over 70 percent of people downloaded the app, actually used it at the event and completed the fitness challenge. So that was pretty awesome.
So we are partnered up with City of Philadelphia and Snap Kitchen, another local healthy eating restaurant around here. A lot of companies provide, say, cash incentives for working out, but there has been a lot of research so the cash incentives by themselves can actually harm motivation because they tend to make working out or the fun of working out feel more like work, right, so if you have to go for a 30-minute run after work or lose $5, then I can pay $5 for a nap.
BRIAN NEARY: So what’s the trick in keeping up motivations?
JONATHAN MAXIM: We really wanted to dig deeper on what the psychological experience of motivation is and so actually some research came out of Penn here that showed financial incentives can drive fitness, they can drive healthy habit building. It has to be designed in a kind of a gamified way. So you have to first enable the user to find their own motivation, which is, you know, their intrinsic motivators, personal goals, commitments that they make to themselves and having reminders to keep those commitments, so that is kind of layer one and then you layer on extrinsic factors like good weather, rewards, cash incentives and good environment like a nice gym to work out at.
We are great friends, you know, people who are encouraging you to work out. So, it really takes this kind of fusion of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to help people find their inspiration for working out and in the corporate wellness space, I think that is kind of missing right now. And so, we have explored the idea of going into the corporate wellness space and providing our platform which we designed with this methodology in mind and so we are testing out new functions like the ability to go to a gym and check in, you stay for 30 minutes, you are in a geofence and you earn a certain amount of reward miles for that or points.
We have also done integration with Fitbit, Apple Watch and series of other apps like Strava and Runkeeper. People want to keep their current platform and you can still bring those back into Vea and then there are rewards for them, and so, you know, we are really trying to not only open the experience to all different types of fitness activities but provide that multi-pronged motivational experience for people.
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