Link to podcast episode:  On a Mission to Move | with Blake Squires of Movable

Jesse Lahey: Welcome to the show, Game Changers.  This is the show for CEOs, HR executives and other business leaders to learn about internal gamification.  Over the course of this series you’ll hear examples and pitfalls, discover how to assess, when it’s an appropriate strategy and learn to evaluate gamification partners and game design ideas.

I am Jesse Lahey and my guest today is Blake Squires.  Blake is CEO of Movable, a company with a mission to improve health and human performance.  Movable has developed an activity awareness program with social and rewards components.  One of the things that caught our eye is the simplicity of Movable.  For example, it features a wristband that’s operated with just two buttons and sales for about one third the price of popular pedometers such as the Nike Plus sport band.

We’ll get into the specifics of that program but first let me welcome Blake Squires.  Blake, welcome to Game Changer.

Blake Squires: Hey Jesse, thanks for having me.

Jesse: Blake, help us get to know you a bit.  What’s your personal history and how your company came to be?

Blake: Yes, I’m a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur.  Had previous companies.  One was a software company that I sold in the early 2000.

Next company was a product company built a product called the Playaway which sells into schools and libraries and really when it’s in the process of selling that company in 2010, I looked at my wife — we have four kids, she’s an educator, she’s a robotics instructor — I looked at her and I said, “Honey, what do you want to do next?”  She immediately looked at me with glaring eyes and said, “Let’s do something that solves the obesity epidemic.”  I kind of laughed and said, “Sure honey, we’ll get right at that.”

Her demand kind of stuck in my head and I started noticing from a market, a consumer product standpoint these wrist-worn activity monitors.  The whole pedometer market was evolving from old technology to more processor-driven 3D accelerometers and now 9 and 16 D accelerometers but just this whole market of wearable sensors.

I noticed some trends that stuck out and those trends were that most of these devices are targeting what I call people who have already prescribed to activity.  Nike is going square on to athletes.  These devices are expensive.  They’re north of a $100, most at $150 range.

So we started saying to ourselves from a device standpoint and a data collection standpoint, we can build a device that’s simple and is affordable but really moreover as we built the device we focus on a program that we call a move challenge.  The other big trend where these are just devices servicing an individual of one, we really want to use the product and really data around the product to motivate behavior.

We go after groups, usually large groups, groups that gather inside of schools, groups that gather inside of corporate and we create, again, this program called the move challenge, which is a simple social fun and fulfilling program.

Jesse: That’s an interesting way of looking at it.  I was just sitting here as you’re describing where Nike Plus first got traction with more of the hardcore jock types.  I’m sitting here with a family of four like you.  Our kids are a little bit older than yours but they’re all still at home.  I would say our family, we are athletic, we have a lot of activity things going on.  We like to ski and we like participate in occasional 5Ks or triathlons.

But I wouldn’t say we’re hardcore competitive athletes and so the sort of lower key approach that you’re taking that keeps the emphasis on fun, would probably be effective for sort of ordinary Joes like us.

Blake: Yes, and what you just described, your family could improve their health and performance through increased activity but it sounds like you’re already in a good spot.  But again, clearly, our product with the program, the whole online system you could go in, you can create a family group, you can start to create challenges and give out rewards for kids that are meeting a certain threshold by day.

Our system would work great for your family but the biggest use is the group, the folks who I say have not prescribed to do activity.  We’re talking about 68% of America, that’s overweight or obese.  One in three kids are obese.  Two thirds have weight issues and that’s the population that our whole program, with the product that’s meant to simply getting them to move a little more.

In a corporate setting about $150 billion is spent annually of obesity-related medical cost.  Clearly are healthcare is going through a transition and the cost are climbing and we will look at it and say, all we want to do inside of that setting is get somebody to take that extra walk at the lunch hour.  So, that’s what our whole program with the product really does.

Jesse: Can you describe your product a little bit?  Let’s say an employer implements it, what does it feel like for the employee as their participating and the product and interactions they can have.

Blake: So, one of the keys is participation levels of programs.  Companies offers wellness, about $5.5 billion spent annually on wellness programs by companies.  Average employer is spending over $600 per employee.  So, one of the keys first is you got the gain participation in these programs.  Most of these programs are opt in, some have an employee co-pay.

So, what we do is go now into the company, our program cost $35 per employee.  It includes the product that we call the Move band.  A Move band, it’s a 3D accelerometer product, it tells the time because it’s on your wrist, tracks all movement and has three modes.  The second mode, we track all movement and at midnight, that movement meter resets to zero.  So, everyday you have a nice reminder on your wrist of how your activity is for that day and as you wear it for a week, you see your trending.

Then, we convert movement and we actually use algorithms inside the device, which we can determine if you’re running, walking or just standing flailing your arms like I am right now as I’m talking, you would call it the intensity layer.  So, between moves and intensity, we also — when you register the device online, we’re updating your profile on the device, basically, getting to your stride length.

So, the third mode, we take all of that data, the moves, your intensity level, and your profile and we calculate miles.  So, the three modes, tells the time default, second mode tracks all movement, resets to zero, and then the third mode is it converts it to miles.

Now, that data sets around the device, the device carries 40 days worth of data, so I can just do my thing and not worry about plugging my device in to upload my data for 40 days.  It runs on rechargeable battery that can last you more than that 40 days as well.  When plug it in, you’re also recharging the battery.

So, what happen is you plug the device in and all of your data goes into a dashboard that you as the user can see, you can slice and dice your activity data, you can see moves miles.  We also add steps inside the system but what the real power of our system is we have a whole group administrator module.

So, an HR direct – a wellness coordinator, somebody that’s the champion can create groups, can manage groups and can most importantly get the data and pull reports on people’s activity and inactivity.  Then, there’s the self-reported health log and we tie in the screening and we can add biometric data if an employer really wants to get to outcome.

So, you asked about the user experience, so typically a company brings this whole program in.  It’s the device the Move Band, plus the program called the Move Challenge.  A Move Challenge is simply reach a goal over a period time and then be rewarded.  Our program managers work with the HR directors to determine what kind of outcomes do you want to drive, what are your goals.  You want to just do a fun cultural engagement program? Do you want to drive to some outcome?  So we meet with the HR director.

A typical move challenge, the first set of a goal might be reach 100 miles in three weeks, that’s kind of the first step.  That’s starting to get somebody into a 10,000 step a day program, where you can measure ROI.

So, for the employee they get one of these Move Bands.  Some may have a $10 co-pay.  It depends on budget.  They register this device.  They can buy different colored bands.  We have 26 different colors.  So, part of the whole social aspect is that the device becomes highly visible inside the group.  People use it, they track their daily activity, then they connected online, where there’s different groups set up.

So, an HR director you can have a primary company group.  We’ve got sales teams going after marketing team.  So, I compete as an individual in my Move Challenge but then I’m also competing inside of groups, inside of the company.

Jesse: That’s interesting.  Now, if you’re competing with groups inside the company, can the administrator set those up to be any configuration?  Let’s say I have a couple of groups at headquarters.  Then we’re going to have a totally separate set of groups out in this manufacturing facility.  Let’s say those manufacturing employees don’t really get excited about competing against the corporate employee so let them compete among themselves.  Is that a possibility?

Blake: The groups are all configurable.  You can have master groups and sub groups inside of that group.  So, what you just describe is actually a pretty typical deployment.

You may have a corporate headquarter.  We have companies that have branches in the UK and Brazil and so they’ll have subgroups just for those offices but then they create intra offices.  Northwestern Mutual is a client so they do different offices teamed together.  Then, inside of each office, you can have different sub-teams.  Some could be plant workers and side of the manufacturing against the data-entry folks.

The key to it is, everybody is on a level playing field.  The devices track that data and track the movement and activity all in a similar fashion.  So, then it’s just a matter within the system, how are you going to organize and aggregate and create groups.

We usually say, start with a big group, get everybody onboard, do the first 100-mile challenge in three weeks so people can get used to how the product is working and how the system works online.  They you can start the segment.  Once you have an understanding of your populations activity or inactivity, you can even start creating groups around, how people are either moving or not.  Just have your day walkers versus, if you have your athletic team.  So, that first challenge kind of set that groundwork and that baseline.

Jesse: So, you could have a group that is just the walking type and a totally separate group that is more the athletic type that would be up for a tougher challenge.

Blake: That’s right and then the HR administrator can decide, what are the sets of rewards and what are the different goals and thresholds.  So, we may have an overall company challenge, we’ll use Northwestern Mutual.  Northwestern Mutual top challenge, top 10 that hit certain moves and or miles over a certain period of time will receive — we tap into a whole rewards platform so we have different reward packs.

So, you could use water bottles, exercise balls as incentives, some companies use days off work.  We’re starting to get into with healthcare reform and the variable pricing or healthcare now down to the employee level.

Some employers will say, “If you don’t participate, you’re going to pay $20 more a month for your healthcare but then you could create that in Northwestern Mutual, arching challenge.  Then, you could say this group over here we’re going to create another set of incentives and rewards based on your thresholds because your achievements may be different than subgroup number five over here, which are the tri-athletes.  They tend to aggregate in the inside company walls.

So, very flexible in how the move challenges constructed, how the goals and then the rewards are developed and designed.  At the end of the day, the data becomes a piece of accountability that triggers these rewards and allows people to check their progress against their goals.

Jesse: When an employee is looking at that dashboard, what types of social elements are there?  Are they able to support each other through the actual technology?

Blake: The system has – its first view is a dashboard view.  My dashboard view, I see my past seven days, which I can look at my moves, my steps and my miles.  I then also have a little box that shows the groups and or subgroups that I’m a part of.  There is a communication center that’s built-in.  The communication center today is managed by that administrator.  She can send messages direct to certain groups or subgroups.

So, if there’s a price waiting, there may be a reminder to make sure your data is synched and accurate and is in the system.  It might be, “Hey, we’re going to go do a walking party over here but basically it’s a push communication right now.”

Most people are offline, giving each other the little pokes and ultimately there will be inter-communications and even ties the social media out of the system.  You can go even deeper into your activity, where you can take a snapshot, you can look at today, yesterday, last week.  We show hour-by-hour data so you can see your trending throughout the day.  You can take an entire year snapshot.  As a user, you can also set your goals.  So, you’ll get feedback against your progress to those goals, then really the powerful piece of the system is what’s called my groups.

So, I just described the dashboard view and then my activity module.  In the my-groups module, will show you the group activity, the miles the moves, the steps.  You can look at that view in any timeframe so I can look at yesterday over the last week.  I can see again how my goal is and how I’m trending against the group in a percentage basis.

Then, we have, what’s called a leader board, where I can see my exact position inside that group based on the timeframe that I’m selecting.  So, if I want to look at last week, and see if I’m in a group of 500 people, how am I doing against either my moves, my steps or my miles?

Then there’s also a subgroup ranking board so it’s kind of like a league in a team.  From part of a subgroup, I can see how my subgroup is doing against other subgroups and then again drill into my exact status in the leader board inside of that subgroup.

So, there’s a lot of ways that a user can look at the data at any point to determine their progress and their position.  People are walking around the offices, “Hey, I’m number five.  Where are you?”  Creates this whole friendly grouping competition, which is part of the whole motivation here.

Jesse: Just a quick pause in this interview with Blake Squires to tell listeners about a game we’re playing to have some fun throughout this series.  First, everyone can win 10% off your entire order from Movable if you use the promo code that you will find in our show notes for this episode.  Second, you’ll have a chance to win one of four Move bands, if you leave a comment on the show notes sharing which TV show you think had the best theme song of all time.

In my opinion, you just can’t beat the Greatest American Hero theme song in the early ’80s but I want to hear your favorite as well.  We’ll pick four winners at random from the first 50 comments we receive.  So, for the promo code and to leave a comment, go to the show notes at

Third, our clue for the Game Changer series prize is the letter O as in Onion.  There will be other tasks and clues in each of the first fourteen episodes in the Game Changer series as well as in Engaging Leader podcast Episode 38 featuring Kevin Werbach.

From those 15 clues, if you can be the first person to guess that secret phrase, you’ll win a $100 gift card from Amazon.  Everyone who guesses it correctly will be honored on our Game Changer genius board.  As soon you think you know the secret phrase, e-mail it to me.

Now, I know this is an immerging field but are you far enough along where you have any data that you can show where you made a meaningful difference with that particular organization.

Blake: Well, we have certainly individuals who have reported significant weight loss by our program.  One of the big dynamics is obviously this group dynamic that happens.  Most of that group dynamic is attributed to the different color bands.  It’s again, how do you get people to participate and then how do you keep engagement over time.

So, when people are engaged in a mood challenge that runs three to four months long, as long as they’re moving towards what most of the data shows is a 10,000 step a day program, which we tie our challenges to and the ROI is proven.  People are going to reduce stress, they’re going to sleep better, waistlines go down.  Depending on the starting BMI and their weight, they’re going to lose weight.

So, we have, we get the evidence from an individual standpoint as far as we have a lot of data, I mean millions and millions of data instances currently.  We launched this corporate program at the end of last year.  So, we’re careful to not yet really tout any of the insights and analytics around the current data in the system but we can share some of that individual and anecdotal data.

We’ve just announced a partnership with a screening company that has 17,000 screening location throughout the US.  So, an employer can buy into a pre-health assessment, a pre-screen focused on weight, glucose, BMI, blood pressure, then we can run our Move challenge for four to six months.

Then we do a post-screen and we’re waiting on the data on that post-screen on a few programs to really be able to say, “Here’s how we drove outcomes.  Here’s your population at initial health assessment screen and then here is the whole program, keeping the engagement rates high and here’s the outcome.”

One of the big questions is, what’s that data, what’s the use of that data.  For us, we think it becomes a very powerful tool for that company as they’re in the conversation with their healthcare carrier and every year its added cost to the healthcare plan.  Well, we believe that this data now can be an important report that can be used to negotiate, renegotiate that next year’s healthcare cost.

Jesse: I’d be interested even as anecdotally so we can get an idea of what percentage of employees are likely to participate in this type of activity.

Blake: A good example a company called Hyland Software.  Hyland Software has 1,200 employees.  We met with the HR director.  She immediately fell in love with the program.  She expected to get 200 of the 1,200 employees engaged.  For her that would be a successful program.

I mean typical wellness programs, at a high-end you’re seeing 39% participation rates.  Many participation rate, they’re in a single digit.  So, for her if I got 200 of my workforce to get into this program, that’s a home run.  They actually did a $15 employee co-pay as well.  There’s the employee had to put some money down and part of the special sauce that we’ve created, we give that HR director all the tools she needs.  So, the e-mail templates to announce the program, the posters that go up on the walls, the intranet, the branded materials that she can talk about a move challenge and set the move challenge.

So, within a week of announcing the move challenge, again, she thought she’d have 200 people, over 350 people signed up.  She was like, “Wow, that’s great.”  Just out of the gate, paying $15, that’s amazing but what happens is within a week of, people then receiving their Move bands, putting the product on their wrist and it’s 26 different colors, that engagement, the participation rate went from 350 to over 900 employees.

They’ve been active in the Move Challenge now since January so participation rates, off the chart and engagement rates, they’re still beating their expectations again.  They were expecting about 30% to 40% engagement rate over time, we’re tapping over 70% right now.  So, people are staying engaged, they’re wearing the device, they’re continuing to stay inside the program.

Jesse: Well, that’s a great example.  Now, that is a software company so it’s pretty much all knowledge workers.  What have you seen at companies that are, let’s say more of a blue-collar workforce?

Blake: We’re in a pilot right now with Parker Hannifin.  We’re deploying at two different plants throughout the US.  Each of those plants is about 120 workers and so that’s rolling out now.  Right now, one of the plants actually last week got their bands and their ordered one for one and they’re telling us right now — the program hasn’t kicked off but they’re telling us they’re at about 98% participation rate.

Those are factory workers that aren’t sitting in the office and we’re designing a Move Challenge that’s specific for them.  They’re actually moving a little bit more than a lot of the sedentary office workers so their goals and their timeframes will just be a little different to help them.

Again, it’s about increasing, it’s understanding the baseline.  We’re going to set the first challenge.  We’re going to understand the data and the baseline of where is that population.  If we have some big different trenders as far as athletes and underperformers, we’ll put them  into certain groups and then develop the challenges, which is all about taking that baseline and showing an improvement within their activity.

Jesse: So, in that case just to make sure I heard you right, at their plants they have, let’s say 120 employees.  They went ahead and bought a 120 bands for that particular plant and they actually had 98% of those employees use it.

Blake: Yes, so far now and they’re just using it in the baseline form right now.  We have not rolled out or kicked off the challenge just yet.  Another example Northwestern Mutual, they, too, bought 100% for four different offices throughout Ohio — about 400 employees.

They had their first challenge, some goals inside of it, which ran through February and March.  They’re now adding a fund raising component to a new challenge, where every year Northwestern Mutual nationally has a big fundraiser.  These teams of folks had – we have a module that you can add that basically you can get sponsored for your activity.  So, kind of like a virtual walkathon.  So, they’re adding that component.

So, while they’re getting healthy, while they’re improving their activity, they’re also raising money for different charities, which is kind of fun.  They’re participation out of the gate was in a high 80% of that 100% population bought for.  Now, their engagement rates, they’re also running in the high 70%, almost hitting 80%, as far as people who are now taking part, several months later, in this next challenge to meet goals and add fundraising.

Jesse: Now, one of the things you hear a lot is that there many employers where the majority — let’s say at least 50% or more of the healthcare cost is actually from the spouses.

Blake: Yes.

Jesse: I wonder if you’re hearing of employers that are thinking about implementing this and making it available to family members.

Blake: That is actually a big initiative and it’s a big point for companies to utilize our program to begin with.  We do offer company sometimes extended discount to family members.  We have had companies that have bought, if that family member is on the insurance policy.

When a challenge kicks off, however the economics fall out, we certainly encourage from Movable, family members getting involved and actually allowing somebody inside of a corporate group to create a family group to pull that family in.  Clearly from a healthcare cost standpoint, it isn’t, like you had mentioned, it’s not just about that employee but it’s also those family members in.

Again, the whole group dynamic is for families dining out at McDonald’s, the group dynamic really says a lot out of that employees health and performance.  So, that added capability — again, our groups can be distributed, our groups can be different departments inside, can be different locations and can be family members who can team up around their own challenges, alongside their company programs.

Jesse: You mentioned the cost is $35 per device and many companies pass part of that cost along to employees through a co-pay, which basically gets the employee to have some skin in the game, is that just a one time cost?  Are there any other cost that a company should be aware of?

Blake: The product, the Move Band is $29.99.  That gets the user access to their own activity data, the whole online system, the grouping administrative module capability is an extra $4.99 per device per year.  So, if you’re just a consumer, you want to go buy the product, you can buy it.  You can also buy the online grouping for $4.99 extra per device.

So, if you want to create a family challenge, buy this for your family, you can go ahead and add that capability.  So, the way we price it to companies, it’s $34.99.  Includes the whole grouping in the online, includes for that HR director access to our online resource center where they can pull down the template e-mails or they can pull down and print posters and et cetera.  Also, it’s that recurring $4.99 per year per connected device to maintain that grouping and the access to the data in the system.

Jesse: That definitely seems like an entry level where a lot of employers are going to be interested in this, where they’ve looked at other programs that have a pretty steep price tag.

Blake: Yes, again from a device standpoint, you can still buy the inexpensive pedometers but the pedometers that connect online are typically the $40 price range and those are the hip-worn, the measurement isn’t that great.  So, we’re well below those and we compare ourselves to the wrist-worn activity monitors.  Fitbit has one coming out called the Flex, Nike has the Fuel Band, Jawbone has the Up.

Flex is $99, Jawbone and Nike are $140,  $150 so we’ve really bundled everything with the data attributes in a way that it’s all about affordability.  It’s all about getting in to these companies and starting to build that culture and starting to aggregate that data and seeing where populations are in active and where you can have an impact.  So, affordability is key for any size employer.

Jesse: How long does a typical implementation take?  Let’s say an employer is listening to this, what would be the soonest they could feasibly have this in place?

Blake: We can overnight our whole package and box.  What happens is the product will ship-in in bulk.  We also can direct fulfill to employees, to their homes, so however they want the product distributed.  The employees actually self-register their devices.  A group is created and a group code is issued.  If an employer wants to go ahead and pre-setup subgroups and map all of that out, that can be done in advance.

So, when an employee logs in, they input their code, their devices are already connected into the system, we suggest that you give employees about a week just to get used to the device and the system and that gives enough time for that employer to send out communication to really launch their first challenge.

So, the whole thing can be up and running within a week, a week and a half and the challenge kicked off and going.  So, pretty quick, it’s been designed again, simplicity isn’t just an operation and how I’m looking at my data and how I’m participating in a program, it’s also how you’re setting these things up.

We have full technical support setup inside some company environments.  Obviously, there’s firewall and we have to do some internal placing of our software but we get those bugs worked out in advance, our team works through that.  Every account is assigned a program manager, that HR director or wellness coordinator has a reference to talk to, to talk about designing the challenge if they have any questions.  Then we also have customer support for the end users just reaching out, even if it’s just a question or around use that may not be technical.

Jesse: Talk to me about the security of that data and the privacy of that data, how does that work?

Blake: That’s all secured to the individual.  The employer can see trending data but we’re HIPAA compliant.  We’re compliant on every respect from a data security standpoint.

Jesse: How can someone find out more or take the next step with Movable?

Blake: Again, you can head to our website, which is  There’s no E in it.  There’s a quick contact form that they could either send a note in and one of our folks will reach back out promptly.  They can give us a call at 440-7461234.

Again, the whole key to this is simplicity.  So, we make it easy to contact us.  Just head over the website, click the contact-us button and somebody will get right back with you.

Jesse: Blake Squires is CEO of Movable.  Blake, thanks for joining us on Game Changer.

Blake: Hey Jesse, appreciate it.  Thank you.

Jesse: We’ll put the link and the phone number in our show notes, which Blake mentioned.  You can find those show notes at as in Episode Seven.

That wraps up today’s show, game changers.  Don’t miss our next episode when we’ll feature the platform gamification provider, Bunchball.

If you enjoy this series, be sure to check out the weekly leadership podcast Engaging Leader, where my guest and I share more ways to communicate, engage and lead with greater impact.  Until next time, remember, life is short so keep it fun.

Link to podcast episode:  On a Mission to Move | with Blake Squires of Movable