Startup turning your lifestyle data into actionable insights

- March 28, 2014 4 MIN READ

The wealth of consumer data now available has changed the way organisations interact with customers and prospects. From retailers to financial services providers, companies are using that data to assist with the everyday running of their business.

One aspect of consumer data is lifestyle-based analytics (LBA) – which offers enormous promise not only to medical practitioners and health insurers, but also to patients and everyday consumers. LBA is considered a predictive health model; experts take data that is already available at their fingertips and analyse it in ways that were previously impossible.

The ability to mine lifestyle-based data for specific variables that are indicative of a future health problem has allowed the healthcare industry to move from reactive mode to a proactive mode.

But what about consumers? If we could aggregate our own data, we would be able to make better lifestyle decisions without any third-party assistance. That was the motivation behind a new application called Exist.

Over the past few months, Melbourne-based entrepreneurs Belle Cooper and Josh Sharp have been building a personal analytics hub to help consumers track and understand their lives better.

The application takes data from fitness trackers, as well as other sources like social media, music and local weather, and turns them into insights about how the user’s habits are related. For instance, the application will be able to identify how those habits affect their mood and activity.


Exist dashboard

Cooper provides an example of one of the insights she’s received recently: “You are 23 percent more likely to walk more on days you’ve woken up later.”

“Our insights are really the core of our value proposition, so although we’re still in the early stages of developing these, we’re really excited about how they’re coming along […] we’re finding value ourselves in seeing basic insights about our activity across different services: what music we’ve been listening to, whether we’ve been sleeping more or less, how active we’ve been recently.”

“Our next step is to add more types of insights as well as start adding actionable suggestions to go with them. We want to offer suggestions like: we know your mood is usually above average after you’ve had more than seven hours sleep and you’ve getting up earlier this week, so why not try going to bed by 10pm to hit that seven-hour sleep goal?”

Cooper and Sharp have both been fascinated by the Quantified Self Movement – the trend towards using technology to acquire lifestyle-based data. Cooper says she’s tried using a fitness tracking app called Moves, but knowing the number of steps she walks per day didn’t really motivate her to be more active.

“We discovered that a lot of people have a similar issue with their fitness tracking devices or apps – the motivation of pure numbers or raw data wears off quickly and only a few of these services are making any effort to provide personalised recommendations to users,” says Cooper.

She believes there are two key things that make their offering unique. Firstly, Exist collates data which offers a much broader picture of the user’s life. Fitness trackers focus on the user’s daily physical activity and sleep patterns, but isn’t designed to understand how the user’s music habits, social media activity or the places they go affect their life.

Secondly, Exist makes self-tracking purposive by turning passive data into actionable insights for users.

“The end product should be something that takes very little time away from living your life, but provides simple ways to take action on improving your habits, based on your own data,” says Cooper.

Exist is still a work in progress, and the founders don’t have a set launch date. Cooper says the launch will depend on how they go with their backers campaign. Currently, they’re running a crowdfunding campaign on their own website, using a service called Stripe. There is only one payment option of AUD$60, and their goal is to reach 1,000 backers.

A total of $60,000 will allow the founders to leave their full-time jobs and focus on Exist for the next six months. 

The app will be based on a subscription model, priced at $6 per month. Those who back the campaign will receive a full year’s access to the app – a $12 discount.

“Since we’re a bootstrapped startup, we don’t have the resources to work on the product full-time at the moment, and we know there are lots of people waiting to use it,” says Cooper.

Our backers campaign is designed to serve both of these purposes: it provides us the funds to work on Exist and support our customers while we continue developing the private beta, and it keeps our customer count at 1,000 which is manageable for now.”

The biggest challenge for Cooper and Sharp has been obtaining feedback: “We knew it was important to get feedback on the product early, but we didn’t realise how hard we’d have to work at it.”

Cooper adds what she learned from this challenge: “Be careful about the people you choose to use your product early. Try to make sure they really have a need for it, rather than getting your friends or family to test it. If they’re not your target market, they won’t be much help.”

“And ask specific questions. Asking for feedback hasn’t worked very well for us, but when I ask our beta users about specific elements of the product I’m more likely to get a useful answer.”

After their backers campaign is finished, public release will be their next big challenge.

“As soon as Exist is out in the world, we plan to spend the rest of the year growing and improving the product, and focusing on proving the core value of it,” says Cooper.

You can take a tour of the site via exist.io.