In 2012, Tulane University Master’s student Andrew Ryan had an idea that mixed his public health background with his love for entrepreneurship. The resulting concoction was a new health startup called BeneFit that began an initial launch the next year.
BeneFit is now an active exercise-centered social media movement that provides daily incentives to users both in New Orleans and around the United States who walk more than 10,000 steps in a day. Users who meet this requirement can submit their steps to BeneFit via their Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages and be entered into a daily lottery that gives away different health and wellness products.
Recently, BeneFit has begun introducing several big New Orleans-only awards in order to grow their local participant base, including Pelican’s game tickets, apparel from lululemon, outdoor gear from Massey’s Outfitters, and more.
Users are even rewarded for consistent healthy behavior, as BeneFit increases the odds of a user’s winning if they walk 10,000 steps multiple days in a row.
“We just want to make it easier for people to make good decisions for themselves and to be healthier,” said Ryan. “At the very least they’ll [our users] get a pat-on-the-back from us. We give everyone personalized feedback and coaching to let them know that they’re doing something really great.”
While BeneFit has attracted a sizable following on their social media pages, Ryan says that it took quite a lot of planning, failing, and then planning again to get his idea to where it is today.
“It’s [Benefit] changed drastically through the number of failures that it had. Our idea has grown a lot,” said Ryan. “It started out as an app that would allow you to raise money for charities and causes that you cared about, specifically nutritional issues, with your exercise. So if you exercised a certain amount, we would pledge a certain amount to feed people in need.”
Ryan and his team soon realized that another company was already offering a similar service. Undeterred by this initial failure, the BeneFit team regrouped. “We moved to the core behind the idea,” Ryan said. “What motivates people to do good things for themselves and for others?”
After countless meetings and brainstorming sessions, Ryan came up with another way to motivate BeneFit’s users. He decided that giving away health and wellness products still added value to his overall mission while providing a fun incentive to his users.
Although BeneFit took a lot of time to start up, Ryan believes that all the months his team spent working on BeneFit without funding were crucial to the development of the idea.
“The truth is, if we had been given money at that time we would have built the wrong product, we would have invested ourselves in the wrong ideas, and we would have failed to an extent that was irrecoverable at that point,” said Ryan. “So the fact that we did not have funding made us really work on our ideas; we were able to maneuver and not have the pressure of funding.”
Currently BeneFit is still looking for a few vital members to join their startup team. Ryan is looking for graphic designers and technologically-savvy individuals to help grow the current iteration of his product, and ultimately move BeneFit towards an independent technology solution.
This 2015 Silicon Bayou 100 is made possible by sponsors 365 Connect, a leading provider of award-winning marketing, leasing and resident technology platforms for the multifamily housing industry, andLookFar, a software development studio. Beer from our beverage sponsor, the startup breweryCajun Fire, will also be provided.