This post is part of our new Future of Health & Fitness series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Baris Ozaydinli, Founder and CEO of Fitwell.
1. What’s the history of FitWell? Where and how did you begin?
BO: I’ve always had a very busy and stressful career. I was constantly flying to different parts of the world, sleeping at hotels. I was having difficulty fitting exercise into my hectic schedule, eating crap food while working overnight at the office and sometimes forgetting to drink water for many hours. Life caught me off-guard when I became a father for the first time. Though my daughter brought so much joy to our family, I was totally un-fit for the new tasks of carrying baby carriages and playing on the floor. I experienced severe back spasms and a neck hernia. It was very painful. The doctor told me to strengthen my body and handed me a few pieces of paper with certain exercises to do. I lost the papers in a few days. I tried physiotherapy, gym, wearable devices, apps and even videos from YouTube that didn’t work. I started working with a personal trainer and a Pilates instructor that helped a lot but costs were piling up. I looked around, millions were going through similar problems and nothing seemed to help. Something needed to change, that was the point Fitwell was born.
We teamed up with best in class nutritionists, trainers and engineers to come up with the idea of creating a mobile coach that utilises AI, sports science and game mechanics to help time-starved urbanites be fitter and healthier. We wanted to offer people a powerful life companion that utilises tracker data, personalising the experience, constantly learning and optimising coaching guidance. Our mission was to empower people to take control of their health.
2. What specific problem does Fitwell solve? How do you solve it?
BO: Retention is the biggest problem in fitness. We all know that we need to be more active and eat sensibly. We get obsessed about a gym, diet, trainer, app or wearable device for a short while. However, it requires time and effort. So, usually life gets in the way and people quickly drop in a few weeks. Therefore, fitness becomes a temporary obsession for most people. Gyms even built their business model on people not showing up.
We recognise motivation is fragile and context is key, therefore we provide contextual coaching evaluating different types of physical activity, geolocation, calendar input, and weather information.
Rather than trying to make people fit into our plan, we try to fit into their daily routine and nudge them to make better choices each and every day. We utilise multiple surfaces such as mobile, chat and voice interfaces to be present wherever our users choose to be.
3. What’s the future of health & fitness?
Prediction #1: I expect a convergence between quantified self, AI and healthcare system worldwide. While all health-related vitals will be monitored real-time via either wearable, ingestible or embeddable implants, AI enabled cloud-based services will monitor and make predictions in real time.
Prediction #2: There will be a universal biometric health ID for everyone that feeds your MD, hospital and insurance provider. In such system, most conditions will be predicted and avoided if possible before it happened.
Prediction #3: The nanobots in our bloodstream will engage diseases or life-threatening conditions to prolong our lives for many additional decades.
4. What are the top 3 technology trends you’re seeing in health & fitness?
Trend #1: AI & Big Data. AI is one of the most important trends in healthcare. Since there is an abundance of data in most verticals of health, AI will play an important role in both coming up with more effective treatments but also helping the industry to predict and avoid many conditions from happening in the first place. In a short period, all healthcare technology will be powered by some sort of AI.
Trend #2: Mobile Apps & Consumer Facing Tech. Quality and accuracy of the mobile health and fitness apps have improved significantly in parallel with the staggering penetration of smartphones and abundance of sensors. Health & fitness app usage has grown a whopping 330% in the last 3 years according to the Flurry Analytics. Furthermore, availability of platforms such as HealthKit, ResearchKit and CareKit from Apple will make mobile apps continue to be an area of new innovation and become an indispensable part of both caregivers and users alike.
Trend #3: Telemedicine. For many patients access to high quality, healthcare has been very much tied to where they were born. With the emergence of telemedicine, the industry will be democratised further giving access to people who cannot travel to or afford high-quality healthcare. Furthermore, telemedicine and telepresence will make treatment of chronic conditions more hassle-free and manageable for all parties involved.
5. Why is the health & fitness industry ripe for disruption?
BO: Health & fitness industry has been traditionally risk-averse and conservative with good reason. While new treatments and remedies need to be rigorously tested to ensure they work or don’t cause more harm than good, there has been significant breakthroughs over the last decade. I believe with the recent leaps in CRISPR – genome editing, AI, cloud computing, big data, quantified self and many more, health & fitness will see significant disruption in diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. I predict human life will be significantly prolonged and many life-threatening conditions to be eliminated in the next 20 years. Furthermore, I also believe in the singularity vision in which humans will merge with AI becoming significantly more intelligent and potentially immortal.
About Baris Ozaydinli
Baris is a serial entrepreneur, a health-tech evangelist, and a globally awarded marketing expert with 18 years experience in start-ups and blue-chip companies. He is the founder of Fitwell, Pryd and Brand It. He is a Microsoft Accelerator & Founders Factory Alumni and named Lipton Mega Hero for his achievements by Unilever. He is a maker, dreamer and optimist! Father of 2, his passions include skiing, basketball, football, tennis, traveling, fine dining and wines.
Fitwell is a wellness AI start-up, utilising AI, sports science and game mechanics to offer contextual fitness coaching through its mobile app & bot for time starved urbanites. It was selected “Best of 2015 & Top Developer” by Google.