On May 25, 2012, we announced the two finalists of the 2012 Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge. Today, I am pleased to introduce EnduringFX, one of the teams competing to win this year’s Innovation Challenge.
EnduringFX has big ambitions to improve the health of millions of Americans by reinventing how we exercise. Led by high-tech entrepreneur, Jim Stritzinger, the team hopes to add a digital layer of engagement to parks and outdoor recreation spaces, making workouts fun and rewarding. Jim shares more about this ambition below.
At EnduringFX we’re embarking on a mission to completely reinvent the experience of community exercise. We think there’s no way to halt the ramp-up in diabetes without targeting obesity – a primary driver to the increase of type 2 diabetes. And by far, the coolest, most convenient, most under-utilized and least expensive place for a community to exercise is in an outdoor public park!
Wait until you visit one of our EnduringFX parks – you will be able to assess weather conditions, see if your friends are there and check in with your smart phone. As you push a stroller or walk past the mile markers, a digital sign will tell you how far you’ve gone and how fast you’re moving. When you set a new personal record, Microsoft Kinect for Windows® will take your picture at the finish line video wall, for display on a downtown digital billboard in your city (with your permission, of course).
If you can’t tell – we’re excited! We’re using every technology trick in our toolbox to get you outside and moving – with your friends and family in your own neighborhood. Here’s our story, together with some of our lessons learned. It’s equal parts inspiration and perspiration, sprinkled with a bit of serendipity and some Data Design Diabetes pixie dust.
Take Yourself on a Journey
In December 2008, at the ripe old age of 44, my career was in transition, my kids had moved off to college, and, quite simply, I was feeling fat and out of shape. I hit the weights hard, started eating better and using my newly purchased Nike+®, started running. I was inspired to give myself a very special 45th birthday present–great health!
At first my runs were pathetic. The magic for me was persistence and my iPod® with Nike+®. I found that I really enjoyed running to good music and the whole idea of running with a digital chip in my shoe appealed to my engineer persona. Best of all, by my 45th birthday, I was in great shape and had lost 30 pounds.
Use All of Your Senses
Sometimes inspiration pops up when you least expect it. As I began racking up miles, my runs became quests for data, and I wound up searching for the latest in software and fitness gadgets.
With my software developer’s hat on, I began reviewing fitness apps with a critical eye. I couldn’t find one product that had an exceptional user interface, performed well, offered strong social features and had a sophisticated data model. Thus, the idea for EnduringFX was born!
Be Prepared for the Fork in the Road
Far too many startups fail because their leadership – for fear of disappointing investors or board members – fails to make a necessary course correction to take advantage of an immediate opportunity. These startups do what I call a “Thelma and Louise” and race their companies right off a cliff.
Our opportunity for a course correction came on Monday, March 19th, when I got a call from Michael Frederick, a friend and 50-year T1 diabetic. He said, “Hey Jim, there’s this big innovation contest for diabetes called the 2012 Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge, and I’ve got an idea.” Laughingly, he noted that we only had four days to complete our application! Needless to say, we got it in with about 20 minutes to spare – a classic startup moment!
As it turned out, his idea to include heart rate data with continuous glucose monitoring data was a perfect complement to our existing design. Our world hasn’t been the same since!
You Can’t Do It All Yourself
Startups, by definition, never have enough resources in house. Our success to date is a testament to having a great team inside and outside the company. We’ve built a young team of solid, energized talent, and we have a committed strategic customer and amazing vendor partners.
The City of Columbia (SC) has agreed to provide us with access to two marquis public parks for our initial installations and Mayor Steve Benjamin and City Council have been huge advocates.
All three of South Carolina’s research universities – University of SC, Medical University of SC, and Clemson – have been working with us in different ways to provide diabetes expertise, public health expertise and human-centered computing. SC’s Governor’s School of Science and Math is even providing us with an intern for the summer!
Finally, local non-profits and economic development groups such as the ADA, JDRF, IT-oLogy, the Liberty Fellowship, InnoVenture, and EngenuitySC have been providing everything from office space to event support. We are truly in debt to many!
Get Your Story Straight
It’s mission critical to tell the right story. There’s no greater alignment tool than a high profile public performance. Wow – Demo Day on May 16th in NYC certainly served this purpose for us! We made multiple revisions to our presentation before we went on stage.
Sanofi US has given us the gift of a lifetime. While preparing for Demo Day, we’ve been able to utilize legendary mentors from around the country, and have received access to amazing software tools to give us expert market feedback.
Most importantly for me, my life and EnduringFX now have a higher purpose and mission. I’ll never forget my days at the Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge Boot Camp and particularly the stories from the patients who are living with diabetes.
About the Author
Jim Stritzinger is a high-tech entrepreneur with over 22 years of experience. At the age of 26, he formed ClearView Software (1990), which was acquired and ultimately became part of Microsoft Business Solutions in 2000. Since 2001, he’s started several software companies, formed SC Launch! – South Carolina’s vehicle for seed capital investments – and even supervised the construction of a data center.
Jim has designed, built and released multiple software systems. Microsoft is still actively selling some. He is an Electrical Engineer, avid runner and triathlete, has completed 4 marathons, multiple half marathons and two triathlons.
Michael Frederick is an experienced architect and athlete. He’s been a T1 diabetic for 50 years, he’s used an insulin pump for 15 years and he’s been using a continuous glucose monitor for over 3 years.
Disclosure: Microsoft Kinect for Windows® is a trademark of Microsoft, registered in the U.S. and other countries. Nike+® is a trademark of Nike, registered in the U.S. and other countries. iPod® is a trademark of Apple, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.