Jim Miller tosses around terms like "behavioral economics" and "corporate wellness rewards program" when what he means is: Get off your butt, get out of your cubicle and exercise!
A successful entrepreneur, Miller recently relocated to Bend from Seattle—and brought with him his latest business, a surprisingly simple idea that is trying to nibble away at a massive problem.
KardioFit monitors—and subsequently rewards—efforts to become more fit. Those efforts essentially earn users lottery tickets to win cash prizes.
A serial entrepreneur, after his last business almost five years ago, Miller says he started thinking about how to drive consumer behavior, but to do so to modify lifestyles toward more healthy choices. In particular, he says, "we started to think about the health care crisis and obesity crisis."
At times, Miller talks like a crafty CEO, other times like a well-meaning coach.
"Encourage, recognize, reward," he ticks off, explaining the philosophy behind KardioFit, his latest endeavor.
"We want to reward efforts, not results," he adds, "and to level the playing field." Meaning that the program doesn't reward the most fit person, but the person who is investing the most effort.
Miller has enjoyed being at the cusp of early adopters, and in the past five years that has meant systems like KardioFit that engage users by offering incentives.
"Changing consumer behavior is one of the hardest things to do," he says. Programs like this recognize and reward members with benefits, like special deals or, in this case, cash prizes that are increasingly used by corporations to foster loyalty.
But in the case of KardioFit, it marries itself to another emerging trend. KardioFit, which grabbed a patent in 2009, is riding an emerging wave of health-conscious applications, like programs that track workout habits and individual health trends. Miller points out that some several hundred such programs have emerged over the past five years.
It is an idea that is simple in its intent, but sophisticated in its execution.
Miller grew up in Lake Oswego, and came with his family to Bend "to go skiing and ride bikes," he says. He attended Linfield College, and most recently has been living in Seattle, where he has successfully raised over $100 million in venture capital for startups. But, two years ago, he was back in Bend, at Broken Top for a family reunion. As he re-accounts the day, when he drove back over the mountain pass, he left the sunny high desert and descended into the gray rain.
"Technology being what it is today," he says, "we could actually live where we want to." He soon relocated with his wife and two young daughters—and has brought with him his business acumen. In addition to managing KardioFit and its five employees, he serves as a mentor at Founders' Pad, a local program that supports up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
Miller, who was on the phone from a trade show in Arizona, points out that there are five or six flights out of the Redmond Airport daily to major hubs.
"We also felt that the work force (in Bend) really supported what we advocate in living healthy lifestyles—being active and working hard. That environment is tied into what we are all about."