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Interview With Chattanooga Feel Good Startup LifeKraze

While we were in Chattanooga Tennessee two weeks ago covering Gig Tank we got to meet some of the guys behind LifeKraze. LifeKraze is a social community built around encouraging other community members to reach their accomplishments. Whether you’re climbing mountains, preparing for a marathon, training for the Olympics or learning to eat right, with the support of the LifeKraze community you get the encouragement you need to do anything.

LifeKraz also has a rewards component where community members can encourage community members to reach their goals and accomplishments by giving them points for real world rewards for active lifestyle products or you can convert those points into charitable donations.

We got a chance to interview the LifeKraze team. Check out the interview below:




What is your startup, what does it do?

LifeKraze is a new social platform with a community that rewards individuals who want to lead active, healthy and fulfilling lives. Participants share accomplishments, large or small, through 160-character posts, to which they can attach photos and other links. Members award each others’ accomplishments with Points (ranging from 10 to 50), which can then be redeemed for discounts on active-lifestyle products or converted into charitable donations.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Ben:

Ben Wagner, co-founder and CEO of LifeKraze, is a starter in every sense of the word.  The son of an entrepreneur, Ben grew up in Northern Ohio, where he was launching his own ventures by the time he reached elementary school. However, it was his lifelong love for sports that led him to Lookout Mountain, Georgia for a four-year soccer career at Covenant College. After graduation, Ben decided to start LifeKraze in order to change the way people interact online, in order to change the way people live offline.

Ben oversees the vision and general operation of the company, particularly focusing on developing new brand partnerships and maintaining relationships with LifeKraze’s investors and Board of Directors. His energy and dedication to living like it counts form the core of the LifeKraze brand and its exuberant company culture.

With a passion for adventure, Ben leads his Chattanooga-based team by example:  Last year, Ben picked up SCUBA diving, semi-pro rugby, and CrossFit. This year, he has his eyes on an Iron Man race and global domination for LifeKraze.

Michael:

Michael Brooks Jr., co-founder and chief technology officer at LifeKraze, is responsible for the development, design, and user experience of the company’s products. Working for his family’s photography business growing up, Michael developed a keen eye for aesthetics and an obsession for detail. This led him to Clemson University, where he earned a degree in graphic communications.  As a member of Clemson’s soccer team, Michael also applied his drive for excellence to athletic accomplishment, while living and learning team leadership skills.

Michael’s love for design led him to work with top-tier national advertising agencies, first as a Production Artist at Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York, and then as an Art Director at Ogilvy Mather in San Francisco. In 2010, Michael was introduced to fellow soccer player Ben Wagner in Chattanooga and shortly thereafter began his journey with LifeKraze, dedicating his time and creativity to the goal of creating a fun social platform where people could motivate and compete with each other. In his role as CTO, Michael continues to work to ensure that the passionate community of active users is enjoying the best experience possible.  During his free time, Michael enjoys playing for Chattanooga FC, tending his garden, and experimenting with crafting the perfect cup of coffee.

Where are you based?

Wherever there are great people looking to live like it counts, LifeKraze is there. The company operates out of Chattanooga, where Tennessee meets Georgia, the mountains meet the rivers, gigabyte-per-second Internet meets world-class hiking trails, and the LifeKraze soccer team meets every Tuesday night to put on a goal-scoring clinic.

What is the startup culture like where you are based?

Chattanooga itself is like a startup. In 1969, Walter Cronkite announced on the CBS Evening News that Chattanooga was America’s dirtiest city. In 2012, the city placed #1 in Outdoor Magazine’s “Best Town Ever” list. This transition has been the result of a conscious effort by a number of individuals and organizations who had an entrepreneurial vision for what our city can be.

Beyond the ecological transformation, we’ve also had some major developments on the tech front – while the Google Fiber project is still being built, Chattanooga has jumped ahead through the deployment of a fiber optic network that offers Gigabyte Per Second access to anyone within the city limits. We currently have more bandwidth than any other city in the western hemisphere, and the Gig Tank competition has brought students and entrepreneurs from all over to help figure out how to take advantage of this.

As communications technologies continue to improve and remote collaboration possibilities continue to increase, startups can afford to choose locations based on things like low cost of living and easy access to outdoor activities.  $50k here is equivalent $102k in San Francisco, and we’re one of the top rock climbing, trail running, and kayaking destinations in the country.

Chattanooga’s startup scene is continuing to grow and develop, and we’re proud to be part of a movement.

What problem does your startup solve?

Our society is increasingly sedentary and there are numerous problems that arise from this, from obesity to diabetes to heart disease to depression. Turning back these symptoms, becoming active again and staying active, turning negative habits to positive habits: all these endeavors are far more likely to fail without a strong, positive community of support. That’s where LifeKraze fits in. We provide the accountability and communal encouragement that people need to create and maintain lasting change.

What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?

One big challenge for us was overcoming the general perception that successful tech startups can’t come from places like Chattanooga. That sense came from the outside (at conferences, we always get double-takes, and many members of the press didn’t take us seriously), but also from the inside: a lot of people in our area don’t have a clear understanding of how a web-based company operates. Finding funding and technical talent was particularly difficult, but now that we’ve built momentum, our unique origin has become an advantage and mark of distinction: people around here have a sense of loyalty and ownership, while the broader tech community can appreciate the fact that we’re making it on our own.

Who are your mentors and role models?

We particularly look up to entrepreneurs like Tony Hsieh and Blake Mycoskie, who have built excellent companies with great cultures that retain a dedication to making the world a better place. We’re also lucky to have Shama Kabani involved with our team and providing us with great mentorship. These Twelve Olympians have been inspirations for us as well.
As a team, we truly admire what Dave Morin and the Path team have been creating.

What’s one thing the world doesn’t know about you or your startup?

We do all our design and development in-house, right here in Chattanooga.

What’s next for your startup?

We envision LifeKraze becoming a community that is so vibrant and vital that it becomes part of the fabric of the culture itself, helping individuals, groups and teams to achieve amazing things.

Our vision of LifeKraze: when someone needs the motivation, encouragement or competition to live a happier, healthier life, LifeKraze is the platform that’s there to help make it a reality.

We also see LifeKraze as a platform where organizations and groups can take their mission for making the world a better place and turn it into action, accomplishment, and achievement. Another goal is to be able to say that we played a significant role in helping to solve the national epidemic of diabetes and obesity. Yes, we dream big… but almost anything is possible when you live every day like it counts.

Linkage

Check out LifeKraze here

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