Ahson Pai is the founder of BodyFrontier.com, a company that offers a variety of wearable health and technology products centered around fitness, wellness, weight loss, and baby care. Today we are interviewing Mr. Pai to learn more about how these products are impacting the healthcare industry, as well as what has been a driving force in the creation and success of the company.
It is good to talk with you again, Mr. Pai. On the surface we know that BodyFrontier.com offers wearable health technology, but what is the big picture? What is the purpose behind what your company does?
We wanted to focus on something that we felt was helpful to the broader population, something that would act as a change agent to improve people’s lives.
After a lot of careful analysis, and consideration among the founding partners, what we found was at the intersection of what’s going on with the cost of healthcare and the lowered cost of technology. More specifically, the very low cost of data storage, the lower cost of biometric sensors, and the fact that Internet connectivity is becoming increasingly ubiquitous and inexpensive. This pointed us to focus on the mobile connected device health and fitness space.
So these observations have influenced where you decided to make your niche in the world of health and technology. Are there any personal experiences that have helped lead you to this path?
My personal background is biomedical engineering; and incidentally I’ve been a cyclist and runner for a number of years. I have also used various connected technology medical devices myself, and have seen the incredible value these relatively low cost devices offer. So I’ve seen what these things can do personally from both the fitness and medical perspective. In addition to the fitness connected devices we carry, if a physician has access to a patient’s daily weight, blood pressure or EKG data, think about what that does to treatment plan reactivity and longer-term efficacy. The impact is nothing short of a transformation, and it is a classic example of a disruptive technology; offering more end-user value at lowered price points.
Most people wouldn’t think about the value of these products to institutions! Can you speak to the interaction between patient, technology, and physicians a little bit more?
The interesting part about this is that it will be consumer led as opposed to institutionally led. Patients/consumers and even physicians have more to gain in the immediate near term, and tangible, real value, in terms of better quality of care at lowered costs; adoption at the broader institutional levels will be much more gradual. In other words, we may go through generations of connected health and fitness devices before they are standardized equipment in clinical settings. However, we are seeing early use of certain consumer activity. For example, fitness monitors which are being used in cardiac telemetry wards to track post-operative activity as a predictor of longer term outcomes, and to manage early post-operative day-to-day care.
Essentially what we’re looking at is accelerating the in-sourcing of healthcare to a “self-serve” model, which will have the net effect of dropping the cost of healthcare. We felt that what our business does could help accelerate that trend by providing end-users and patients with these revolutionary technologies. This is also why we continue to invest in content development on our blog at blog.bodyfrontier.com, to arm individuals with access to information at no cost, where users can sign up for emails notifications to get updates when we publish new content for them.
Obviously you have put a great deal of thought not just into what BodyFrontier.com is offering. Do you have any insight to offer other newly started businesses?
Yes, absolutely. I’m sure you’ve heard entrepreneurs say, “do something you are passionate about and you will be successful.” That can certainly happen but my personal belief is that although the passion is important, focusing on an area that accelerates change while maintaining business viability is equally important if you are looking to get into a game-changing business. The change-agent aspect is important as it may give you access to opportunities, but this also raises the risk profile simply due to greater unknowns, but there are ways around that which we’ll talk about next. The intersection of passion, business viability and an industry or area undergoing change is a great place to start a business, as long as you have your business and risk mitigation plan in place.
Second thought is around leaving what is comfortable to you in the context of pursuing your entrepreneurial endeavor. I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with letting go of a comfortable lifestyle or otherwise experiencing paralyzing trepidation on getting outside their comfort zones, which kind of puts them in this entrepreneur to would-be-entrepreneur conundrum. I think a good number of these concerns are not ill-founded ,because there are a lot of unknowns going-in, but largely they also tend to be over magnified by repetitive re-evaluation.
How would you recommend that a start up business gets out of this conundrum you are describing?
An approach that works is to give yourself enough space and time; plan out milestones before you set sail, whether that’s six months, 12 or 18 months, or all three. Assess your progress and correct what you need to along the way, it will keep you much more focused and will give you clarity of thought around what’s really important. Most noticeably, it helps you work through and understand that your progress by definition will be incremental, and it alleviates the energy sapping all or nothing thinking.
Lastly, have a sense of flexibility. Realize that plan and milestones are important, but so is flexibility. Maintaining a degree of pliability in your execution approach will not only improve yield on your efforts, but will very likely also open up opportunities that otherwise may not have been visible, or otherwise overlooked. I guess what I’m saying is keep your eye on the ball, and that it’s okay to go for that base hit every now and then to win the game, rather than always trying to swing for the fences.
That sounds like solid advice to me. Could you let us in on how technology plays a role both in your product offerings, and in how your own business operates?
Technology is a core part of our business strategy since we are delivering health and fitness technology mainly focused in the e-commerce space. Understanding how to spend on technology, prioritizing technology and the related management effort are critical. We’ve basically taken a top down approach, starting with our customers in mind, and we base almost every decision around how it adds value to our end-user customers. If it doesn’t, we drop it and move on. If it does, we try to look for ways to ensure the gains are not incremental, but rather force-multipliers in the context of customer experience within our existing infrastructure.
From spending on our easy checkout process, to instant delivery of coupons and special offers, to analyzing and looking for what our customers are looking for, these are very much key ingredients. In short, technology is a great accelerator and has enabled us to do in a few short months what may have taken more than two years. However, realistically understanding the value that technology is expected to deliver, and managing the spending tightly against that has been a key success factor; and is especially important for smaller growing companies.
BodyFrontier.com is headquartered in New York City, NY. You can learn more about their products by visiting BodyFrontier.com. You may contact them at PO Box 145, New York, NY 10017, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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