HealthRally Raises $400K From Esther Dyson & Angels To Help You Get In Shape (With Real Rewards)

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Busy schedules; mouths to feed; Angry Birds to play; another post by Rip Empson to read: There are thousands of distractions that get in the way of our regular exercise regimens, getting in shape, and improving our health. In fact, Americans spend over $50 billion each year on products and services designed to help lose weight, quit smoking, and to improve overall fitness.

From smart devices that track heart rates and sleep patterns to platforms that gameify your workout routines, entrepreneurs are looking for better and more effective ways to encourage people to get off the couch and take responsibility over their health.

HealthRally, a San Francisco-based social health startup in private beta, wants to help people reach their fitness goals by using one of the oldest tricks in the book: Financial incentives.

Yep, HealthRally is tying some basic behavioral economics, which show that financial incentives can triple one’s chance of reaching health goals, to a little bit of social networking in an attempt to create the ultimate way to stay healthy. To that end, the startup is taking a cue from Kickstarter and is building a crowdfunding platform through which users can share their health goals and have friends, family, and colleagues pitch in to create those real carrots-on-a-string that will keep them motivated. (Much like Fitango before it.)

HealthRally is betting that with friends and family contributing financially to one’s fitness goals, that peer support will drive success rates through the roof. That’s why the startup enables users to assemble their friends and broadcast formal wellness commitments to those they care about, with the ability to manage the process as they work through their checkpoints. And there’s no better way to motivate people than with cold hard cash, holiday gift items, and the prospect of scorn from spouses and friends if they don’t meet their goals.

In support of this social, crowdfunding approach, the startup is today announcing that it has raised over $400,000 in seed funding from prominent angel investors like Esther Dyson, Isy Goldwasser, Dick Sass, Ty Danco, and Jeff Thiel.

HealthRally has also assembled an advisory panel that includes researchers and entrepreneurs with significant experience in both behavioral economics and social networking, including Paul Zak, Director of The Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont University, Tom Valente of The Keck School of Medicine at USC, the former president of Healthiest You Denise Thomas, and SocialText Chairman and Co-founder, Ross Mayfield, among others.

“Games and badges are great, but most people would rather have an iPad, a vacation, or cool new pair of shoes”, says HealthRally Co-founder and CEO Zack Lynch. With HealthRally combining financial incentives with social support from friends and loved ones, it may be on its way to unlocking an effective means by which to both motivate people to take action and sustain a higher level of fitness once they do.

The startup isn’t saying much more on the specifics of its platform just yet, but it will be launching in public beta by the end of the year. So, more to come soon. To request an invitation, jog on over to their landing page.