Weilos, a weight-loss centric fitness startup that launched out of Y Combinator’s Summer 2013 class last August, today launched a new version of its service. In its first incarnation, Weilos paired its users with amateur coaches who had previously achieved similar weight-loss goals. Now, the company is switching to a different model: it’s becoming a mobile social network for iOS that lets users take selfies to track progress.
The service was founded by Ray Wu, who received an MD from Cornell in 2012. The new version of Weilos, the company says, is the first app that focuses solely on creating and viewing progress photos and provides its users with a community to talk about their personal fitness goals and post updates of their progress.
“People think about fitness and weight loss all the time. It was very important for us to integrate our product into the day-to-day lives of users, and mobile is the best way to do so,” Wu told me earlier this week when I asked him about the motivation for the company’s pivot. “We also realized that people at all levels of progress can help motivate and inspire others.”
Wu argues that this is a very efficient way to motivate people who want to lose weight. “Having an environment of support from many like-minded peers is very effective, and it became clear that having an open community is the best way to achieve this dynamic,” he told me.
Users, it is worth noting, don’t have to make their images public. They can always keep them private and only share them when they are comfortable with doing so.
In his research, the average person who posted progress photos lost 1.2 lbs per week compared to 0.27 lbs for people who use Weight Watchers and 1.1 lbs for those who use the FDA-approved weight loss drug Belviq.
“When I studied medicine, it was clear that the patients who were most effective in combating obesity [...] also had the strongest social circles,” Wu says. “the problem is that most people don’t get enough from their personal network to reach their weight loss goals.”
The app itself is pretty straightforward and includes the usual social network tools. A camera overlay helps users ensure that they always have the same posture when they take their daily photos. The service will remind users to take photos at least once per week. Once posted, other uses can then like images and comment on them.