Sweatcoin, an app that rewards users with products and services if physical activity goals are met, are the focus of our latest profile on this year’s Rewired Pitchfest finalists. Here, Sara Balafrej, whose work within the company is on partnerships, answers some burning questions on Sweatcoin’s journey so far and a future filled with optimism and promise.

What does Sweatcoin do?

Our product is an app on a smartphone that incentivises physical activity through rewarding users with products and services for achieving agreed targets. It’s like a supermarket loyalty card meets a step count. You get points, essentially prizes, for achieving physical activity targets that are monitored via your phone. Our objective is simple; to influence behaviour change in an engaging way.

What gave you the idea for Sweatcoin?

Our founders were always passionate about health and fitness, but it was personal experiences that drove them to create Sweatcoin. Whilst they never found it difficult going to the gym and working out, eventually, they found that they were losing their true motivations.

It got them thinking, what motivates us to stay fit? What drives us to exercise? Imagine if each person had a generator attached to them, showing them the value of their movement and their energy output. We obviously know that physical movement has value, but what exactly is it and how much is it?

For our founders, it was the mix of the two — lacking their own motivation and observing individuals around them that led to the idea of Sweatcoin. As an app, Sweatcoin tackles both issues — it motivates you to move more, while also incentivising you by placing value on movement.

How will Sweatcoin change the way the NHS works?

There are currently five million people in England at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable through lifestyle changes. About 10% of the entire NHS budget is spent treating complications from diabetes, or £10billion a year.

The current National Diabetes Prevention Programme achieves only a 20% completion rate, and so an engaging alternative is much needed. Sweatcoin directly addresses this issue, creating an accessible, gamified experience and having a significant impact on people’s well-being and on resources.

Although our programmes are not only limited to pre-diabetic patients, we could certainly create programmes to help individuals who are suffering from a range of diseases, whether that’s mental health or obesity. Our objective is to help millions of people across the NHS.

What gap in the market does Sweatcoin address?

The UK is currently in a physical activity epidemic and one of the most common causes of a number of long-term ailments (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity) is the lack of physical activity. Whilst there are many programmes that do work, they suffer from low completion and engagement rates.

For instance, the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, whilst it works well for those who complete the programme, unfortunately only 25% of those who start manage to finish. Our product delivers sustained behaviour changes, but more importantly it has market leading completion rates, with an average of 96% of users completing our programme.

How have you got to where you are now?

We have delivered an engaging product experience – evidenced by our high app store rankings (being the number one app overall in over 30 countries) and further reinforced through the high completion rates of our healthy incentive programme (an average of 96% completion).

Why did you decide to enter the health tech start-up space?

Part of our long-term vision is to reduce the inequalities in healthcare. Our app has already proved that individuals who regularly use Sweatcoin are 20% more active but we understood that this could be a significant product for healthcare providers.

With over 60 million users, our consumer facing app has shown that we have created a successful product. We knew that this could be easily scalable and accessible for healthcare providers, and that we could help millions of people improve their health across the UK.

Have you faced many barriers in getting Sweatcoin off the ground?

Fortunately, we have been able to be part of many helpful accelerator programmes. We were chosen to be part of the prestigious DigitalHealth.London accelerator programme, which gives us the opportunity to develop our product with the help of public health experts.

The main difficulty has been ensuring we focus on narrow problems, given that our product has so many widespread applications.

Why did you decide to enter Pitchfest?

Having previously been involved in the NHS accelerator programme, we understood the importance of networking and getting guidance from key industry professionals, their support has been instrumental in our growth within the industry.

We saw the opportunities that many of the finalists from the previous year were able to attain through being involved with Pitchfest. We also knew it would be a fantastic moment for us to highlight some of the incredible work we’ve completed with the NHS in front of a digital health audience.

How did you find the experience?

It was fantastic! From the initial entry submission through to the live finals, the process was extremely well structured and professional. Pitching in front of the specialist judges and a digital health audience created a competitive environment and only having three minutes to sell our pitch was difficult but equally very enjoyable.

The whole experience was incredibly rewarding and has given us the right platform to bring awareness to our projects.

Looking to the future, what do you hope Sweatcoin will achieve and what’s the next step in achieving that goal?

We want to be committed to working with national and local governments in helping them achieve their goals of making their citizens/residents more physically active. It could become a universal movement, backed by governments across the world to encourage entire populations to move more and become healthier.

Our big picture use case for Sweatcoin is paying at least some part of your personal tax with Sweatcoins!

What advice do you have for others looking to enter the health tech start-up scene?

Perseverance is the key. It is important to keep going, despite any hardships.