The failure of some business plans are more productive than others.
If an online service that Web developer Randy Schmidt launched last week has enough success in helping people lose weight, Lose It or Lose It might be remembered as among the most productive failures to come out of the IndyHall co-working scene.
“It’s basically just a friend that keeps track of you and your weight loss for 10 weeks,” says Schmidt, of iSepta fame. “You sign up and put up dollars per pound and set a goal of pounds to lose per week. If you meet your goals, it costs you nothing.”
That’s the kind of pressure that Schmidt says he needs himself.
While studying at Drexel University, the founder of West Chester Web development company Forge38 gained 45 pounds, flirting with a scale that read nearly 300.
“I didn’t weigh myself for six years straight. I ate all this crap and wouldn’t exercise. Eventually I said, ‘Let’s stop this now,'” Schmidt, 28, who left a steady job for the freelance route in 2007, says. “Most people know how to lose weight. They just need the pressure. Losing some money might do just that.”
Users sign up, give an estimated start weight, a plan to lose one, two or three pounds (anymore could be “unhealthy,” Schmidt warns) and an amount to bet on each pound, from $5 to $100. For the next ten weeks, users weigh in by taking a photo of their feet standing on a digital scale with at least one decimal point and submit them to Schmidt.
In addition to the cash on the line, users are meant to be kept on track by daily SMS and e-mail reminders, a public profile, at least two “accountability” friends who track your progress and Twitter integration blasting out how you’re doing on your goals. Read more details here.
It’s an idea Schmidt, who also has a membership with Old City co-working haunt IndyHall, came up with just a couple months ago, on the hunt for a non-advertising-based business model, and began developing several weeks ago with the design help of Wildbit, another IndyHall resident company.
Just a week in, Schmidt has nine users — including himself and Comcast corporate blogger Scott McNulty — investing a total $3,200 among them, helped by one user betting $1,500 on losing 20 pounds.
“It’s mostly something I built for myself and now other people are finding value in it,” he says. “This is totally free if you meet all your goals, plus you might be 20 pounds lighter.”
Schmidt’s goals are a bit more bolder. Starting at 282.2 pounds, he has already lost 10 pounds and has an overall goal of shedding 70 more over the course of 40 weeks, by weigh of exercise and healthy eating.
“I’ll be content if all my friends and others who sign up are 100 percent successful in losing the weight they want to,” he says. But anyone who has been down the weight loss road knows even more important is being able to hold that new weight. That’s why Schmidt says he’s working on a partnering service for keeping it off.
“A lot of people start out dieting and exercising and they’re really fired up about it. Two or three weeks in, they start sliding on going to the gym or on that diet. Then it goes nowhere, and they just forget about it, which is shame,” says Schmidt, who sounds like he knows from experience. “Even if you struggle to lose the weight, you’re forced to weigh in 10 weeks in a row. At least you’re building a good habit.”
“So sign up for this plan when you’re excited and let the money keep you invested.”
On that business plan of his, the one that succeeds if users miss marks and loses out if users succeed, Schmidt says other paths remain and he’s not too worried yet anyway.
“Unfortunately people are probably going to fail. That’s natural, but even getting on the scale regularly is important,” Schmidt says. “We’re really trying to help them do the best they can with the knowledge that some people want to fail. People want to fail by not putting up enough money to care. If it actually hurts to lose the money you’re putting up, then they’ll be successful.”
“All that said, nobody’s failed yet, so this might be the worst business model ever.”
Every Monday, Technically Not Tech will feature people, projects, and businesses that are involved with Philly’s tech scene, but aren’t necessarily technology focused. See others here.