More Push Ups, Fewer Sick Days: HeiaHeia’s Social Exercise Platform Sees UK Launch

HeiaHeia is a startup that’s been flying somewhat under the radar outside its native Finland. But today that’s set to change as the social exercise platform sees its official UK launch.

Founded by Jussi Raisanen, who previously co-founded the mobile email startup Smartner (acquired by SEVEN Networks), ex-Nokian Olli Oksanen, and Ivan Kuznetsov, the site’s been making decent headway in its home country, claiming a take up that represents 5% of the population (approx 175,000 users). That’s perhaps testament to HeiaHeia’s consumer and B2B strategy — the latter ties into a trend where employers want to help their workers get fitter in a bid to reduce those costly sick days.

HeiaHeia’s platform is designed to help motivate users to exercise more by making it easy to track and share their participation in a range of different activities and sports. Users can select from 400 predefined activities — from football to ‘ultimate Frisbee’, to something as simple as walking the dog or going for a run — and create a personal training plan with predefined targets. The whole thing is quite data-driven, with that data and a user’s progress nicely visualised, including a ‘Timeline’ view, although I found the UI and on-boarding process slightly overwhelming.

However, it’s the social element that HeiaHeia thinks gives it the edge. Users can comment on each other’s training plans and activity logs, as well as create groups where they can compare plans and share workout tips. In addition and similar to Facebook’s ‘Like’ button, HeiaHeia has its own ‘Cheer’ feature to enable users to virtually reward and reinforce each other’s progress.

Overall, though not quite the same, HeiaHeia’s feature-set and proposition reminds me of the UK startup TribeSports, which provides a social platform to help people do more sport and other physical activity, and recently raised a $2.8m series A. (In comparison, HeiaHeia is bootstrapped and already claims to be profitable.)

Unlike TribeSports, however, HeiaHeia has a second string to its bow. Along with the consumer-facing site, it offers a version aimed at companies who want to help their workers become more physically active, and is already being used by customers ranging from SMEs to large multinationals. These include Teliasonera and GE healthcare Finland, while the Finnish retail chain, Tokmani, has also used HeiaHeia in their 140 stores, having each store compete against each other.

In fact, it’s the ability for companies to use the platform as a way to promote health with something that is practical, fun (dare I use the word gamification) and data-driven, that may be HeiaHeia’s biggest pull, resulting in its B2B strategy being the real money earner long term. And this is where the platform is particularly savvy: users can merge their personal and corporate accounts so that they get a single view of their HeiaHeia activity.

Another trick that HeiaHeia hasn’t missed is the availability of an API so that third-parties can build apps for the platform. Now, of course, everybody wants to be a platform these days — in the true sense of the word — but build it and they will come doesn’t always apply. In the case of HeiaHeia it does seem to be paying off, however. Thanks to that API, mobile apps already exist for iOS, Android, Symbian and Windows Phone.