Text your way to a healthy body
Vince Han takes time to talk to us about Coach Alba, a weight loss text-messaging system that helps people stay on track and overcome their "crucial moments". Vince is the Founder and CEO of Coach Alba. What's next for them and how he came up with the idea, find out from our interview below.
Can you explain in a few words the idea behind this personalized weight loss/health text messagingplatform and how it all started?
We are passionate about behavior change and we understand that people cannot get a different outcome in their lives (e.g. I want to finally be healthy) without changing their behavior. Personally, I have lost over 60lbs myself and know how hard it is to change one’s habits. We know that for many people who struggle with weight, the journey to weight loss can be filled with disappointment, failures, false starts, and shame.
We wanted to build a product that could meaningfully engage someone to be mindful of the day-to-day decisions that contribute to either good health or bad health. We wanted to find a way to do this knowing that we were competing against email, games like Candy Crush, Facebook, and every other possible distraction that people have at their fingertips.
Coach Alba has been able to really help people because it is so personable, easy to use, and the texts that we send people help them in the very moment that receive them. It has been very rewarding to help so many make the changes they need.
Has Coach Alba got the feedback and growth you expected since its launch in 2010?
It certainly has been a journey so far and it took us a couple of years of experimentation and research to crack the code. We are focused primarily on helping those that have struggled with unhealthy habits for many years and changing deeply engrained habits is not easy!
After a couple of years of work, we invented Coach Alba in late 2012. Almost immediately from our alpha testing, we were astounded at the levels of user engagement we saw with the product concept. From there, it has really taken off as we have quickly built out and improved the product to make it much more robust. So I’d say it took us longer than anticipated to find a solution that really worked but since we got there, it has been moving fast ever since.
How is this service different from other similar weight loss/health programs on the market today?
The bulk of other weight loss apps and programs tend to focus on helping a user build an overall weight loss plan and then helps them track their progress by measuring what they eat, how much they exercise, etc. This process can be aided along with social media features to get motivation from friends online.
Coach Alba focuses fairly singularly on helping a user master their common crucial moments of temptation. A crucial moment is a time during the day when a temptation overwhelms our willpower, like a late afternoon snack attack or when someone offers you an unhealthy snack (and its hard to say no!). Coach Alba works regardless of whether someone is trying to lose 5 lbs or 75 lbs; if you are trying to lose weight by sticking to a plan, you’ll be tempted to cheat!
Coach Alba uses text messages to help people overcome these crucial moments. This is highly effective because the text messages are:
Personalized for the user’s specific crucial moment and circumstances
Private – crucial moments or moments of weakness can be embarrassing especially for those that have struggled with weight for many years
Easy to use – we find that many times opening an app or going to a website is just too much work to ask of a user. But, reading a text message and engaging with it can be the level of ease that a user needs to face up to the reality that they need help in the moment!
We see much higher and longer engagement rates from our users than most common apps in the marketplace today.
What strategies do you use to market your platform, improve users' experience and encourage participation?
We are intensely focused on users’ satisfaction and we measure everything they do and feel both quantitatively and qualitatively. The good news for us is that our product is a personality that communicates with our users and so it is easy for us to talk with them and ask them about their experiences. We conduct regular product quality meetings where we pour over every tidbit of user feedback and usage data. We have built in A/B testing into our product to test what works best. Ultimately, with extremely happy users, the marketing piece takes care of itself.
Do you have any expansion plans for Coach Alba?
Doesn’t every entrepreneur have expansion plans? Currently, we are very focused on what we are doing well and want to keep doing that better. We do hear from clients that they’d like us to support more behavioral themes other than personal wellness, plus we receive requests to support other languages too. We’ll evaluate request ands opportunities as they come and make sure we grow in way that we can manage.
Every founder makes mistakes. Can you share a few of yours and, if you were to start again, what might you do differently?
I have a tendency to be overly self-deprecating of the work we are doing. That could sound like, “We have made some nice progress but we really have a long way to go.” While that may be true, by not being more aggressive with promoting real progress, people may undervalue the great value in the work that you are trying to do. I know I would be served better by more proactively acknowledging the great progress my team has accomplished. So in other words, balance better acknowledging our successes with the reality of the hard work needed ahead.
What is your advice for other entrepreneurs?
Work really hard to balance the optimism you have with your dream and vision with the reality of how hard it is going to be to achieve it. Many people will call an entrepreneur’s vision delusional, instead, I like to call it “informed hope”. Remember that you have thought about the problem you are trying to solve longer and harder than most anyone else and so you ought to trust in the lessons you have learned and stick with it. There will undeniably be times of great struggle but trust in yourself and you can make it happen.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Boy, I get excited each day as we continue to get more and more feedback from our users on how they are able to overcome the tough crucial moments in their lives with our help. That is just so rewarding. So many products and initiatives try to overreach when it comes to influencing behavior and that is a big reason they will fail or struggle. It is really exciting to me when people see the power that comes from focusing on helping people overcome a tough moment, that power includes giving people tremendous hope and momentum that fuels them along the path of sustainable, lifestyle change.
About Vince Han
CEO and Founder