Nike+ startups turn physical exercise into virtual currency

By July 03, 2013
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The startups emerging from the Nike+Accelerator presented their projects at the recent Demo Day in San Francisco. Many of the projects are designed to transform users’ physical activity into virtual money.



Early in 2013, Nike announced the launch of its own startup accelerator in partnership with TechStars. The stated aim was to encourage startup companies to develop products and services based on the Nike+ FuelBand, Nike’s smart bracelet which enables people to self-measure their everyday physical activity. The first group of startups have just been through the three-month accelerator program, during which they benefited from coaching from sector experts, worked closely with Nike in-house teams, enjoyed access to the Nike APIs and SDK, and received $20,000 in financing. The program, which kicked off on 18 March, closed in mid-June in great style with the a ‘Demo Day’, which took place in San Francisco in front of an audience of investors and Silicon Valley luminaries. The startups’ pitches were rather varied, but one overall trend stood out: converting the ‘Fuel’ produced by the bracelet into virtual money or even real cash.

Move more, earn more

The NikeFuel bracelet measures the energy expended by its wearer in terms of ‘Fuel’. Several of the accelerator startups came up with the concept of converting the Fuel generated by the user’s physical exercise into rewards or money. One example is GeoPalz, designed for kids. The more the kids let off steam the more points and rewards they gain in video games. Chroma, an active gaming studio, enables Nike FuelBand users to build personalizable robots in a video game as they amass Fuel. On a different tack, FitCause focuses on charitable causes. The platform provides a system for channeling financial contributions to charities, based on the Fuel accumulated by participants. Nike FuelBand users can choose one of the FitCause participating charities, and subsequently all their physical activity, measured in Fuel, is converted into sums of money for the benefit of the charity.

Opportunities for brands

Converting physical activity into money also provides sponsorship opportunities for businesses. FitCause has a business model which enables companies to sponsor charitable causes. If users collectively reach a certain goal, for example obtaining 50,000,000 Fuel points, the sponsoring firm will pay the dollar equivalent to that particular charity. Sprout, a service designed for companies, uses the Nike FuelBand, among other tools, to measure the physical exertions made by the firm’s employees and inspires them to get moving and keep in shape. Another startup, HighFive, enables companies to reward those undertaking physical activity at the precise moment when they have just met a challenge or accomplished a feat. Nike is however not the only company to provide access to its APIs in order to speed up the development of apps for its platform. Jawbone and FitBit have recently done the same thing. 

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