In Boston, a 40-person startup is wowing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and holding its own against Nike.
RunKeeper was founded in 2007 as a running app that uses a phone’s GPS to track a runner’s distance and length of workout. Jason Jacobs, RunKeeper’s CEO, had been using Nike+’s shoe pedometer but wanted another way to keep track of his training for a Chicago marathon. RunKeeper was one of the first apps in Apple’s App Store and it beat Nike there by two years.
Since then RunKeeper has grown to about 23 million Android and iPhone users. Word of mouth is the biggest driver of new users but social fitness is a big category as well. RunKeeper attracted the attention of Mark Zuckerberg last September when he announced that the app was “killing it” on Facebook’s platform.
RunKeeper has integrated its technology with 100 other devices such as wearable trackers Fitbit and Jawbone and smart scale Withings. Today it is announcing a partnership with MyFitnessPal to help its runners count calories in addition to miles run. It will also track a user’s weight across both apps and allot calories daily based on how much a user has exercised.
While RunKeeper works most seamlessly outdoors, Jacobs tells Business Insider his team will be focused on improving a runner’s indoor experience on the app during the third quarter. And while fitness hardware is on the rise with Nike’s Fuelband, Fitbit’s clips and wrist bands, and Jawbone Up, Jacob says he plans to keep RunKeeper hardware-free. Instead, he wants to build a fitness platform that improves as our phones learn more about us. Eventually, Jacobs wants it to display all your health and wellness information no matter which device or insurance company you use.
“A common misconception about us is we’ve spent the last five years building a run tracker,” Jacobs says. “We think more about the fact that your phone is getting to know more and more about you and everyone else. Eventually it can be better at being a coach in your pocket.”
Jacobs likens fitness hardware to the camera industry. While there will always be a need for professional cameras, as the iPhone’s camera technology continues to improve, there is less of a need for recreational photographers to buy a separate device.
“We don’t think the market for pedometers is going away,” says Jacobs. “But as the abilities of our phones improve, we think there are going to be great opportunities.”
But if you are interested in fitness hardware, check out: Fitbit versus Fuelband: Which Fitness Tracking Device Is Really Better >
Here’s what RunKeeper’s iPhone app looks like:
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