If you’re worried about blowing your diet over the holidays – or perhaps, thinking about making a New Year’s resolution to “eat healthy” (you know, again) – an app called Applause, now seed funded by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, may help. The startup aims to bring to market a more lightweight food and activity tracking service combined with virtual support groups that offer you feedback and encouragement from others like you.
The app itself is not exactly new, however. According to co-founder and CEO Durga Pandey, he worked on it over the course of a couple of years before leaving for Salesforce.com in early 2014 – which is how he ended up scoring the angel funding, as you may have guessed.
Initially, he was bootstrapping the app, then called FitFrnd. But the original concept was something that was more akin to a “Facebook for fitness,’ including a variety of social features including friending, a news feed, likes and comments, plus other social mechanisms designed to help it go viral.
What he found, however, is that people didn’t want to add their friends and family to witness their weight loss struggles – they wanted that to remain somewhat private.
Pandey actually gave up on the app for a while as he worked at Salesforce, until he came up with a new idea: he could take the idea of Weight Watchers and its support groups, and put that into an app format.
Instead of being identified with your name, users could enjoy semi-anonymous support and encouragement from others in their same boat. While some anonymous sharing apps like Secret and Whisper can lead to people saying nasty things or trolling, Pandey thinks anonymity makes sense for an app like his where users are sharing personal, emotional and potentially embarrassing things about themselves, their progress and their setbacks.
He’s now rebranded the app as Applause, raised seed funding, and is returning to actively work on it.
The new app is launching on January 1st, just in time for everyone’s resolutions. (The current version, however, is live in the App Store now).
In the updated release, Applause will feature a step counter, health quizzes, blog content, weigh-ins, and a simplified meal tracker where you only indicate if the meal was healthy (green), regular (yellow) or unhealthy (red). That same red/yellow/green system is often used in weight loss programs focused on fighting childhood obesity as well, as it’s simpler to use and still gives you a sense of how well you’re doing.
A forthcoming meal finder feature also leverages menu data from Locu to help you quickly track your favorite meals and their nutritional impact from local restaurants.
Needs Design Improvements
Conceptually, the idea of a simplified weight loss/dieting app combined with virtual support groups is a good one, but where Applause falls short is on its design. Its App Store screenshots don’t help new users get a good sense of how the app works and come across as juvenile. Meanwhile, the design of the app itself is pretty rough and uneven, and even dated-looking – a testament to the old code Applause re-used when it rebranded ahead of its relaunch.
Unfortunately for Applause, the market for health trackers/mobile coaches is ripe with competition, including big names from older companies like MyFitnessPal and Lose It, plus well-designed newcomers like Human, and simple logging tools and motivators like Noom Coach, Lift, or Lifesum, and just dozens of others.
Compared with the rest, Applause’s lacking design sticks out like a sore thumb. But with the additional funding, its possible that Applause can correct that. We’ll see…but it needs to act soon. These apps will be in high-demand in only a matter of weeks.
Applause has $765K in seed funding, led by Marc Benioff. To date, the app has seen 423,000 downloads on the App Store.