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Chattanooga Startup: Nudge Gamifies Workplace & Daily Wellness INTERVIEW

While we were in Chattanooga covering their big GigTank Demo Day we ran into Mac Gambill the co-founder of Chattanooga startup Nudge.  We were fascinated by the idea of a workplace wellness app, essentially gamifying employee wellness.

Employee wellness can be costly for employers and employees. An unhealthy workforce can lead to employee absenteeism, low employee morale, a rise in health insurance premiums and more. Employee wellness affects the employees themselves, the employer and the other employees in any office. Spending 8-12 hours a day with sick people, down people or just people not well, isn’t any fun and pinches on the budget.

Employees with fulltime jobs that don’t work at a plush Silicon Valley or New York City office with iPad docks on exercise bikes, often times find themselves behind the desk for hours on end. Cutting back on coffee or deciding to forego that chocolate bar or lose that M&M jar on a desk, may help improve your wellness.

In fact Matt S. who participated in the nudge beta said he lost 13 lbs and was able to cut out caffeine (not just coffee) completely. Imagine how life would be if you could cut out caffeine completely.

But nudge isn’t about just workplace wellness, it’s your personal cheerleader throughout your day.  Nudge isn’t about changing your lifestyle a lot or a completely new exercise regimen it’s about highlighting the things you’re doing well, rewarding you for doing good things for your body and your wellness and sharing them with friends and co-workers.

We got a chance to follow-up with Gambill in the interview below.



What is Nudge?
Nudge is the workplace, wellness app!  It is a web-based application that promotes healthy living in companies through competition and video-game mechanics.  Nudge was created to allow companies to see a snap-shot of their company’s health by creating an environment of accountability through a simple, awareness platform.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
The founders are Phil Beene, Mac Gambill, and Chris Garson.  Phil and Mac played soccer together at Wofford College and had originally moved to Chattanooga to play on the local semi pro soccer team.  The idea was sparked while they were working at a health care service provider and a sports training facility, respectively.  Chris joined the team soon after it’s formation with a background in biomedical engineering and software development from Duke and UVA.
Where are you based?
Nudge was originally founded in Chattanooga, TN, but the team consists of people in Arlington, Va, Richmond, Va, and Nashville, Tn.  Working in remote locations has provided us with various benefits, from increasing our target market to getting the most out of the time with get with each other.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
It is a very exciting time to be in Chattanooga.  Resources are becoming more readily available to those wanting to pursue new ideas, and after this past week’s Gig Tank demo, I think the city is going to continue to attract more attention.  There are several local software companies making splashes in their industry, and I think it has been absolutely tremendous for the city, as well as others trying to follow their lead.
How did you come up with the idea for Nudge?
Phil Beene and Mac Gambill were able to see the issue of rising healthcare costs from two very different angles, as the two came from a healthcare service provider and a sports training facility.  After scanning the market, they were determined to create something that would push the traditional levels of engagement, and they decided that the key would be for Nudge to properly blend the concepts of competition, simplicity, and game-mechanics.
How did you come up with the name?
Finalizing the name of the system was one of the hardest things to accomplish, mostly because we all knew how important it would be to our concept.  The name, Nudge, was the result of an intense name-creation session in a Chattanooga coffee shop, with Phil, Mac, and one of the guys helping us with branding, Monty Wyne.  It didn’t take very long for everyone on the team to realize how well that name encompassed what Nudge was all about.  We have kept most of our focus on creating an incredibly simple program for employers and our users, and the thought of giving someone a slight “nudge” fits perfectly.  We aren’t trying to be some map-my-crazy-track-everything-lose-50lbs-app.
What problem does Nudge solve?
The obvious problem Nudge addresses is the rising healthcare costs for employers, due to their mostly sedentary employee-base.  Nudge comes in with the goal of just trying to bring simple awareness and accountability to a population with the goal of focusing on the concept of “Presenteeism”, which is the belief that a person’s attitude and environment can greatly affect their productivity.  It is unrealistic to expect a person to be at peak performance if they don’t feel 100 percent.  We think it’s incredibly beneficial to create this added commonality amongst employees, so they can connect with their colleagues on a whole new level.
What’s your secret sauce?
As surprising as it sounds, our “secret sauce” would have to be simplicity.  Whether it’s the act of implementation or the act of logging something on Nudge, we wanted interaction with the system to take seconds.  We might be one of the few companies that promotes minimizing the time spent on our system, but that’s what people want to hear when they start something new.  The trick was to build something that would appeal to the light users, while still providing the added complexity a heavy user would expect in a game-like system.
What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?
It’s hard to pinpoint one, because there are always things that we feel we could have done differently, and I think anyone who has worked on a startup would have a similar response.  One that always seems to come up in some of the feedback we receive is that people always think we should try all these other markets, and it can be incredibly distracting.  We are determined to be THE work-place wellness app, and that is where we are focused on going for the time being.  If Nudge starts catering to other markets down the road it means that we, as a team, thought that was the logical direction to go, but as a startup it’s important to maintain focus.  Distraction can be absolutely toxic to a new company.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
Starting out we were two guys running around Chattanooga looking for a technical co-founder, and we could tell that we had plenty of people doubting us.  This is where one would have to think the sports backgrounds might have saved Nudge in the early days.  Phil and Mac spent years going through grueling preseasons together, so the concepts of perseverance and team-work had been present since the beginning.
What’s the first thing you would do for Nudge with a one million dollar investment?
It is always important to take care of your team, and let them know how critical they are to the long-term vision.  So with that said, the first thing would be to make sure a couple of the guys were making the money reflective of their work load.  Aside from that, we have identified a couple hires we would like to make in the coming months, and the additional funds would certainly speed up the process.
What’s next for Nudge?
At the moment, we are in the process of revamping our user dashboard and scoring systems to create a better user experience for our customers.  We want to create something that a user would still want to enjoy, even if we took the competitive piece out of the system, and we think these new changes will do just that.  While we had some fantastic results from our pilot program, such as significant weight loss, we realize we still have plenty of work to do to make sure that Nudge continues to be something that anyone can have fun with.
Linkage:
Check out Nudge here at nudgeyourself.com 

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