Things have changed quite a bit at RunKeeper over the past year as the company has grown at an exceptional rate. More than doubling the number of employees since last spring, the iOS and Android fitness company currently has over 20 million users using the free health and workout tracking app.
Nowhere is this change more evident than in the company’s Canal Street office.
Stand up desks, once only used by a few members of the RunKeeper crew, are now the norm. There is a buzz of productivity that is palpable, but not in an overly-serious or strained manner. There is also a feeling of joy that is organically intertwined with a sense of purpose. A game of darts quickly materializes in the back of the office; CEO and co-founder Jason Jacobs bounces from his desk-indistinguishable from any other in the room-to a quick meeting in a conference room to a check-in with as many members of team RunKeeper as is humanly possible; VP of UX Tom Boates’s dog Meeka bebops around the place carefree, while somehow exuding the same purposefullness that seems to run through the room like a current.
RunKeeper is on a Mission
With the stated goal of being a “personal trainer in your pocket,” the company is integrating with new health-centered apps all the time as well as connecting to as many wellness tracking devices, such as the Pebble Watch and Jawbone’s UP, as possible.
In the past year, the UI/UX of the app has improved as well. Shifting to a cooler hue of blue and implementing a lighter “mood," the app seems a bit more appealing to all types of users than it did a year ago. Adding more progress tracking features, workout analysis breakdowns, and opening “Training Plans” to wider group of users (it had previously been available to Elite users only) have also been positive developments for RunKeeper.
Maybe the greatest improvement to RunKeeper has been its most recent feature addition; the latest version of the app has a social component to it that is unlike anything in the fitness/health app market today. Combining workout data, commentary, and pictures, the new social feed is just another way that RunKeeper has been able to intertwine the principle of peer-driven motivation into the app.
With all these developments, it is no wonder that RunKeeper has been hiring like crazy over the past year. While its main focus has been, and continues to be, adding engineers, the company filled some key strategic roles since the end of last summer. Heading into the early fall, RunKeeper brought in Benjamin Bates to be their first QA person, hired Doug Williams from Zipcar as the VP of Engineering, brought in Fareed Mosavat as Head of Product, and added Erin Glabets from Xconomy as Content Manager.
RunKeeper Lives its Mission
Some things at RunKeeper have not changed much, which may be the fitness app's greatest strength. The company’s position as a respected leader among the Boston mobile app community continues to be a reflection of Jacobs’s leadership and passion.
At last week's Xconomy XSITE event, Jacobs spoke on a panel with some fellow IT/Software founders. During the talk, Jacobs shared a small piece of advice that seems more like the mantra that drives everything that RunKeeper does.
"It's not about convincing the non-believers," Jacobs said, "its about finding the believers." This belief is ingrained in the company's hiring policies, partnership development, investor team, as well as its approach to user acquisition and engagement.
Additionally, its greater mission to helping people live healthier lifestyles is represented by the members of the RunKeeper team's aspirations to improve their health.
It is not as though everyone who works at RunKeeper is a fitness nut. Far from it. However, even the employees who may never run a 10K in their lives, still understand the company's mission. Working at RunKeeper may not make you run more, but it will make you more aware of living a healthier lifestyle and maybe try something out of you comfort zone once or twice.
Larry McSheffery, RunKeeper's Manager of Talent and Engagement (and someone whom I have known since middle school), told me he has found himself actively walking a lot more since he joined the company and has steadily lost weight.
McSheffery shared an entertaining anecdote about a discussion he had with Jacobs when first joining the RunKeeper. He asked the RunKeeper CEO if he was,"okay with having a cigar smoking, scotch drinking guy being your recruiter?" Jacobs told McSheffery that being a runner didn't matter at all. All Jacobs cared about was if the recruiter believed in RunKeeper's mission and could bring in others who did as well.
RunKeeper is a fitness company at heart, so naturally the company attracts the fitness-minded; there is large majority of the team made up of some pretty hardcore athletes.
Jacobs, a multisport athlete while growing up in Newton and attending Wesleyan, runs all the time. He once ran the Boston Marathon in RunKeeper's famous/infamous 'RunKeeper Man' costume, and he was approaching the finish line as the heartbreaking tragic events of this year's race unfolded. (Jacobs's emotional retelling of his personal experience on RunKeeper's blog is a must read.)
Jacobs leads RunKeeper by example is almost everything he does, and his commitment to health and fitness is no exception. The RunKeeper team is full of triathletes, bikers, runners, and almost every variety of athlete. Running down the Esplanade on any given morning you are likely to see someone running past you decked out in a RunKeeper shirt. A number of RunKeeper employees can also be found running the stairs at Harvard or bounding up the hills of Brookline with the hardcore November Project. And, most recently, Jake Cacciapaglia, the longtime RunKeeper employee and brand ambassador who runs the company's Platform Development team, competed in something borderline crazy called Epic Man.
McSheffery told me that, even with all the recent hires, RunKeeper is still looking for key people to fill some vital roles. The company has grown and is looking to get even bigger.
Cacciapaglia, who is on a mission to help Jacobs achieve his completed vision of the app being a "personal trainer in your pocket," is developing new partnerships with healthcare companies and other fitness apps almost daily. Recently, the company announced it is integrating with MyFitnessPal, a meal tracking app that helps RunKeeper come closer to achieving its ultimate vision for the app.
Down the road, don't be surprised to see RunKeeper leveraging the fact that they are not Nike, the brand behind one of the other options for fitness tracking apps on the market. Not having their own apparel line and being centered in Boston, the hub of the athletic sneaker world, it is natural fit for RunKeeper to join forces with a local company like New Balance, Saucony, or Reebok, or all of them for that matter.
Additionally, Cacciapaglia hinted that they are thinking about ways of connecting with more rewards based apps at some point to add another component of user motivation.
With so much success and all the positive developments over the past year, it should be amazing to see what RunKeeper pulls off in the next year.
Want to learn more about RunKeeper's openings, company culture, and product information? Check out their premium page on VentureFizz by clicking here.
Dennis Keohane is a staff writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.