What if there were an app that could make you healthier, smarter and happier? That could turn your dreams into reality by breaking them into manageable steps and reminding you to take them? Everest wants to be that app. Backed by visionary investor Peter Thiel, Everest helps you tackle goals by combining inspiration, organization and social support. Still a little shaky, it’s now emerging from stealth.
“My personal goal is to look like Daniel Craig in a bathing suit,” admits Everest’s 23-year-old co-founder and CEO Francis Pedraza.
But Everest spawned from more serious circumstances. Pedraza grew up in an immigrant household, his mom’s side of the family having come to the U.S. from Iran after the revolution. They started a small business and tried to live out the American dream.
Pedraza tells me “I always got the sense that this was the land of freedom and opportunity where you can do anything. You have such potential. The question is what you are going to do with your life, and that’s the same question in Everest. How are you going to get there?”
That quest for fulfillment is actually a relatively new one in our society, born out of the abundance that’s allowed the developed world to conquer more basic problems. Humans first must learn to survive and then to socialize. But with those accomplished, Pedraza sees a macro trend leading people to “spend more time focused on self-actualization, and Everest will be the platform.”
The startup believes “the biggest untapped resource in the world is human potential.” The startup’s hero is Leonardo da Vinci, who in a single lifetime drafted countless inventions, was a painter, cartographer, chef, and a consultant to kings. When developing Everest, Pedraza asks “How can we turn everyone into a da Vinci? The amount of value that would create is so immense.”
This App Needs A Sherpa
Everest is still rapidly evolving, and it certainly needs some user interface tweaks, but here’s how the iOS app that launched in December hopes to help you accomplish your goals. To ease you in, the on-boarding flow gives examples of dreams you might want to achieve, such as “Learn to cook 10 healthy meals,” “Run a half marathon” or “Be an amazing Dad.” A feed of public challenges that other users are tackling can provide more inspiration. You can adopt a dream from someone else to jumpstart your journey or compose one from scratch.
Next comes the toughest part of climbing Everest: You have to fill in the steps to your goal. This can be quite mentally taxing. You need to figure out the right path to success, determine how ambitious to make your steps (should I run 2 miles or 3.5 miles a day?), set a schedule and reminders, then manually tap-type them in. When you finish you’re left with a daunting list of tasks that can leave you exhausted before you even start completing them.
You’ll then receive push notifications to nudge you to complete your scheduled steps. When you open Everest you’ll see a list of your current dreams. Open one and you’ll see your progress, though your next steps are buried in a yellow lightning-bolt tab. Open that, and all the steps are folded up in their own calendar entries so you can’t see them, which is face-palm-worth bad design. Swipe right on a step to physically cross it off, and reveal a chance to share your efforts to Facebook or Twitter.
To distinguish itself from leaner task-management apps like Lift, Everest prods you to “capture moments” aka photos as you chase your dreams. You might shoot and share one of sunset on a run or playing catch with your kid to scrapbook your journey and inspire others to keep up with theirs.
The idea of accountability through social encouragement and companionship is central to Everest. If friends are watching, the startup believes you’re more likely to keep striving toward success. That’s why you can follow friends, comment on their activity and send them push-notification nudges to stay on track.
Overall, the app is pretty, in part thanks to the crack iOS developers, including some poached from Jawbone. But the usability could give you blisters like trekking up the real Everest. It’s beset by bugs that prevent dream cover images from saving and cause frequent crashes to name a few.
I showed several people the app and they all thought it should be much quicker and easier to see the goals you’ve set for today and say you’ve accomplished them. Setting up recurring tasks and alerts is confusing, and the homepage on each dream gives me almost no info about what I should be working on.
Until those things are fixed, Everest will have retention problems. At least Pedraza says the team is well aware of the problems and says patches and UI changes are on the way.
The Business Of The Dream Genome
Everest wants to help you, but it’s no charity. In November 2011, Pedraza and his small team had put together some mock-ups, but needed money to keep the project going. Luckily, a friend of Peter Thiel’s caught a glimpse of the app designs over Pedraza’s shoulder in an airport, and offered to get him a meeting with Peter Thiel.
Pedraza was able to sell Thiel on the idea that if Facebook defines you by who you know, Everest would define people by what they want to do. Thiel gave Everest $300,000 to chase that concept.
By Summer 2012, Everest had burned the angel round and needed a serious business plan to raise more. So it drew up a model where Everest would put brands in touch with people willing to spend money to achieve their dreams. If you say you’re going to visit three national parks, you probably need camping gear, and Nike or The North Face would probably love to be there. It’s not a traditional advertising play, it’s an ecommerce play.
Currently, Everest’s business model takes the form of branded challenges for 20 businesses. For example, Codecademy sponsors a challenge to “Build your first website.” Step one is “Go to codecamdemy.com.” Step 2 is to complete coding courses there, so you can see how they feed directly into a business. Some other examples include:
- Airbnb: Create a list of places you want to visit
- General Assembly: Start a business
- Quicksilver: Swim a mile without stopping
Over time it hopes to find more monetization streams by mapping the “dream genome” – determining which paths to a goal actually work. The business plan was enough to fill out a $1.2 million round with from Behance CEO Scott Belsky, IDEO director of technology Dave Blakely, Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, and hedge fund manager and sports team owner Jim Palotta. Additionally its advisors include X Prize and Singularity University founder Peter Diamandis, TED talk stars Simon Sinek and Jane McGonigal, Jawbone CCO Yves Behar, Stanford Technology Ventures Program executive director Tina Seelig.
After cleaning up its UI, Everest wants to figure out how to automatically suggest steps for common dreams which could smooth the on-boarding process and eventually build out an API so quantified self, learning and fitness apps can instantly feed in your activity.
I think Everest’s big challenge will be making the app seem more like a gratifying game than a chore. It will also have to marry its depth with simplicity, or it risks getting undercut by slimmer task-management apps.
Pedraza doesn’t see Google’s Schemer or Lift from the Twitter founders’ Obvious Corporation as too much of a threat, though. He boasts “Lift will help you floss, Everest will help you live your dreams. Everest can do everything Lift can do.” Instead, he believes “if Everest fails it will be my fault because I’m relatively inexperienced. I’m only 23.”
To succeed, Everest is relying on pure, maniacal ambition — the same that pushes climbers to ignore oxygen deprivation and hypothermia as they strive for the summit. Pedraza beams “A lot of entrepreneurs start a company because they have an idea. We started this company because we had a vision.” But making users see their own, and actually come back to take steps towards it each day, is going to take a lot of work.
Everest is available for iOS, so download it and see whether it helps you stick to your goals.