Change Collective - The Next Big Thing in Boston's Robust Health/Wellness Ecosystem

Wednesday Jan 22, 2014 by Dennis Keohane - Senior Writer, VentureFizz

This morning, Ben Rubin and Derek Haswell, announced the official launch of Change Collective, a life betterment site/mobile app with a mission to give people "the tools to succeed with change."

In addition to launching, Change Collective announced a $1.4M round of funding led by Lee Hower at NextView Ventures, Eric Paley and Founder Collective, and Eniac Ventures, the NY venture fund that focuses specifically on mobile technologies.

Additionally, the company revealed that they will be joining the newest class of Techstars Boston, which is a huge development and an unbelievable opportunity for Rubin, Haswell, and the Change Collective Team.

Rubin and Haswell connected while both working at local innovative startup Zeo. Zeo, a sleep tracking app, was one of the pioneers of the quantified self movement that has become big business with companies like RunKeeper, Nike+, MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, and Jawbone all racing to make the biggest splash at the crossroads of health, technology, and self-improvement.

The passion for self-improvement that led to Zeo's early success is part of the foundation for what Change Collective is trying to accomplish.

Rubin wrote a great post on Medium today explaining a lot of the thinking behind Change Collective:

"We all exhibit a deep desire to improve our lives. Perhaps this is what makes us uniquely human. Personal change enables us to lead happier and more fulfilled lives. It enriches the lives of those around us. It enables us to rise up and make a difference in this world."

Rubin went on to explain how Change Collective, known during the stealth/beta phase as Revv, grew out of the search for a way to make the biggest impact in the world of self-improvement:

"We spent the early part of 2013 interviewing hundreds of customers, prototyping ideas, and deepening our knowledge of how change works. The spark of inspiration that lead to Change Collective traces back to a line of thought that just kept repeating in our interviews."

That line of thinking led to the rallying cry for Rubin and Haswell's new project - "When change matters— identity must shift." As Rubin explained on Medium:

"We asked people what motivated them to attempt change, and what actually caused changes to stick. What emerged was clear. When change matters — identity must shift. People became Vegan or Paleo. They became Runners or Crossfitters. They became GTD’ers or Inbox Zero aficionados.

The Change Collective crew deduced that the answer, on how best to achieve the goal of achieving a successful change of habit, rests in role models, mentors, and teachers. So they launched a site to bring something different to the world of self-improvement and quantified self.

As Rubin explained on his blog post, Change Collective will offer courses that "tap into both the emotion behind change and provide the structure to be successful...with world-class experts to teach change in a new methods, content, and powerful stories are paired with mobile technology and behavioral science."

When I spoke with him this morning, Rubin explained, "When we started the company, we wanted to do something to help people's lives."

"We came up with this idea in early summer and when we rolled it out in the late fall, we decided that the Revv name that we came up with in February really didn't represent what we were doing," he said.

"So we spent the month of December thinking about how to rebrand the company," Rubin continued, "we tried to figure out what we stood for, and Change Collective ended up being a winner because it immediately gets across what we do, and it has some weight to it, its not a startup-y name."

The first courses to be offered on Change Collective are up on the site. Of particular note is the featured course, "Everyday Grateful," taught by Happier's Nataly Kogan.

I asked Rubin how he connected with and on-boarded some of the industry experts that are going to be offering courses on Change Collective. He explained that he had a lot of connections from his time at Zeo as well as an understanding of who was best in the industry through his own personal experience with Paleo diets, 'Inbox Zero', etc.

"Once we started talking to many of these experts," Rubin said, "we heard the same story again and again. They feel that they are being left out by technology."

He added, "Almost every expert asked, 'How do I build my app?' or 'How do I use quantified-self tools to help track change?' They feel like they are being left behind as part of that movement."

"So when we talked to experts," Rubin continued, "they expressed a deep desire to build on a mobile platform and have the sort of hooks in terms of tracking, reminders, and social that all the best fitness and weight loss apps have."

"It was a pretty easy pitch," he explained. "Instead of building something on their own that would be pretty costly and wouldn't represent their brand well, [Change Collective] had already built both the behavior change expertise and the technology to help them do that."

On being one of the first companies to announce its involvement in Techstars Boston's next class, Rubin said, "We are in the new space...the class started up yesterday, and at this point its been introductions and getting to know people."

"We are quite excited about it," he added. "Six months ago, if you asked me if we were going to do an accelerator, I'd probably have said 'No, I've started a company before'."

"But having met the folks at Techstars Boston," Rubin continued, "and really having dug into what we needed to do for the next three or four months-essentially launching the company-we think there is a ton of value getting their help, being with a cohort who are in similar situations, and just leveraging the whole thing."

Being in Boston is key for the company as well. As Rubin explained, "We have a great cluster of local companies that have this [quantified-self, betterment] approach and I've been in touch with them since the Zeo days."

He named RunKeeper and LoseIt among others in the space and added, "We have a  pretty robust digital health/life improvement ecosystem developing in Boston that we've been a part of at Zeo and hope to contribute to at Change Collective."

As a company looking to leverage the fast-growing interest in quantified-self and personal betterment to help others, Change Collective could be the next leader in the health/wellness industry to rise out of Boston.

Dennis Keohane is the Senior Writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.

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