Seattle startup Supporti helps people achieve goals, leveraging insights from public health research

Supporti co-founder and CEO Brigitte Granger. (Supporti Photo)

Many people ring in the new year with ambitious resolutions, perhaps striving to lose weight, get more exercise, look for a new job, curb their use of digital devices or read more. And while they start with the best of intentions, many people also fail to follow through on those goals, losing interest and making excuses for veering off course.

Just in time for resolution keeping, a startup called Supporti has released an app to help people realize their ambitions.

Co-founder and CEO Brigitte Granger decided to create Supporti after struggling to motivate herself to continue a morning workout routine after moving away from her running buddy. She tapped her background in public health, including a master’s degree in the field from Harvard University, to shape the company’s strategy for tackling the challenge.

Granger knew from public health research that relationships matter when it comes to supporting positive habits.

An example of a Supporti buddy profile, which shows a buddy’s average rating, interests, goals and “badges” awarded by other users for good support. (Supporti Image)

“One of the biggest predictors of whether people are going to be healthy…. is if they have a strong social community, strong social support,” she said. In the health sphere, for example, it’s not enough to tell people what the right foods are to eat and that they need to exercise. They need feedback and role models.

Granger wanted to apply that logic to creating and sustaining other good habits, and 2017 she began working on her Seattle-based startup. After months of testing with family, friends and willing volunteers, Granger this month officially launched the Supporti app.

Users create a short profile and set daily and longer-term goals. Then people are matched based on shared interests, though not necessarily similar goals. Over the course of a week, the buddies do quick, daily check-ins to share whether they’re meeting goals and to offer words of encouragement. At the end of the seven-day “sprint” — to borrow tech jargon — they can launch another goal with a new partner or stick with their buddy. Partners rate each other and can award badges for buddies who excel in areas including tough love, positive encouragement or acting as a good role model.

A real-life partner “is a powerful motivator because you know that there’s someone who will notice if you’re skimping on your commitments,” Granger said. “Supporti’s ideal for people who find that they can easily rise to the occasion for others, but struggle to do so for their own ambitions.”

Granger’s co-founder is her husband and Supporti chief technologist, Andrew Molchan.

Users can try the app for free for one seven-day session. From there, Supporti is available through a $15.99 monthly subscription, or an annual subscription of $129.99.

There are lots of goal-setting apps available. Some have specific focuses including weight loss and staying focused on tasks (MyFitnessPal and Forest, among them) and others spanning multiple types of goals (Streaks, Productive, Trello, Strides, Way of Life, etc.). And there’s the option of hiring a coach to keep you on track.

Granger said Supporti is a great alternative to these because it includes positive peer pressure from a real person, but doesn’t charge the high prices of a coach, while also giving more frequent check-ins.

“Giving support is often as rewarding and inspiring as receiving it,” she said. “If you’re invested in your buddy’s success, their wins are your wins.”

We caught up with Granger for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.

What does your company do? Supporti is a mobile app that pairs people up one-on-one as accountability partners to mutually support each other in pursuit of their goals. Supporti focuses on building small, consistent habits and having someone hold you accountable to sticking with them. To ensure that partnerships are mutually beneficial, buddies rate each other on supportiveness and can opt for a new buddy after the end of each week-long session.

Granger, right, with her former running buddy, Georgia Wright-Simmons. After Granger moved cities, she lost the motivation for morning runs. (Photo courtesy of Granger)

Inspiration hit us when: I always had a morning running buddy until a few years ago when I relocated to a new city. Without someone to motivate me to wake up and go running, I completely got out of the habit and lost the drive to get up early. I tried tracking apps, running groups and even considered hiring a personal coach to get back in the running habit. Everything I tried was either overly complicated or made it too easy to cheat. All I wanted was a simple way to connect with someone who would notice and care if I skipped my run. I wondered, “What if I could recreate the positive effects of an ‘accountabilibuddy’ virtually?” With that, Supporti was born.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrapped. We’re committed to our vision of creating a mobile platform where people can find accountability and support to achieve their goals. Bootstrapping allows us to prioritize our customers and focus on solving their problems, above all else.

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: We realized that while a lot of people are interested in having accountability partners for personal goals, it’s hard to find the right person. And, even if you can find someone who is willing to be your accountabilibuddy, getting on the same page about how exactly you’ll work with each other can be a real sticking point.

Supporti solves these problems in two ways. First, our data on partner matching and user behavior give us key insights into what makes the most successful matches. Second, our app gives buddies the framework and platform for working together. Every day, we’re learning more about what factors make for a successful partnership. Our app’s launch is just the beginning.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: We’ve benefited tremendously from speaking with prospective customers, many of whom we found via our pilot application on our website.

From them we learned incredibly helpful information, such as how they’ve tried to stay motivated in the past, and why those methods failed. Their feedback affects everything we do, from determining which features to build, to how we word our email communications. The fact that people would willingly give us (complete strangers, mind you!) their free time to complete a survey and then get on a 30- or sometimes 60-minute phone call, told us that there’s a real need here. That’s what drives us every single day.

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Oof. Managing expectations is always a challenge. We’re continually trying to be better at communicating, whether we’re explaining features to customers or conveying product requirements to software engineers. Everyone comes to the table with their own experiences and understandings of the world. A lot of the time, it’s only after the fact that it becomes clear that there was a miscommunication in the beginning.

A phrase we like to use is, “No one has ever said, ‘That’s too clear. Can you make it a little more vague, please?’” It’s a helpful reminder that you can never be too clear! Getting on the same page is absolutely essential.

Which leading entrepreneur or executive would you most want working in your corner? Gosh, if we could have anyone, it would have to be real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran. Having started her real estate company with just a $1,000 loan, she eventually sold it for $66 million and turned it into a $5 billion business. But it’s not just her business savvy that would be valuable to us. Barbara understands grit, resilience and what drives people, all of which are key for entrepreneurship and behavior change. Barbara has a perfect combination of toughness and fairness, and we think she’d give us the tough love and confidence we need in a business accountability partner!

A sample chat between Supporti buddies. (Supporti Image)

Our favorite team-building activity is: We go to a lot of Seattle-area networking events to meet other entrepreneurs and people in the tech scene. Some of our favorite meetups include the F Bomb Breakfast Club, 1 Million Cups Seattle, #Girlboss Seattle, Founders Live, Seattle Startup Open Coffee, ProductTank and many others. Meeting local entrepreneurs and techies makes us feel connected, supported and inspired. What can we say? We’re suckers for a good community.

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: One of our driving principles is that what you do is much more important than what you say you’ll do. When we’re hiring or partnering with someone, we pay close attention to their actions and whether those actions align with our values. One of those is accountability. If someone commits to following up, we expect them to do so when they said they would. Another of our values is mutual moral support. We appreciate someone who has thought about how working together would be mutually beneficial, for instance.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Focus, focus, focus! Fight the temptation to be everything to everyone. Instead, be super clear on the problem you set out to solve, for whom and make sure it’s a problem that resonates with your prospective customers. It’s so tempting to start solving a multitude of problems for various audiences.

With entrepreneurship there is an unlimited supply of distractions: feature ideas, marketing opportunities, competitors, oh my! It’s easy to confuse being busy with being productive. But by focusing and prioritizing, you can make a significant impact on a few things that matter versus having no effect on a bunch of things. Saying “no” to possibilities is so hard, but so necessary.

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