Portland Seed Fund Demo Day
Four score and seventeen days ago, we announced our acceptance into the Portland Seed Fund. Today we are proud to announce that we have graduated. To mark the occasion, here for posterity is our demo pitch, verbatim!
Jim Huston and Angela Jackson were phenomenal in putting together an amazing demo day, with a packed auditorium, not to mention their tireless work throughout the last 90+ days. We would also like to thank Jenn Lynch for giving us a beautiful introduction at demo day, and Darick Dang, also of Upstart Labs, for all his help on the Beeminder art lately, including the slides. We can’t say enough good things about Upstart Labs. (To clarify, our relationship with Upstart has been separate from the Portland Seed Fund. We are eager to continue working with them and of course will keep our office at Upstart Labs.)
Without further ado, here is our demo day presentation…
Howdy, I’m Bethany Soule, CTO of Beeminder. We help bring your actions in line with your intentions: You pledge to stay on track towards your goals, and if you go off track — bam! — we take your money.
People go to great lengths to manufacture willpower. For example, they buy gym memberships hoping that they’ll feel guilty enough to go. Or they buy a single pack of cigarettes or a single candy bar, even though buying in bulk would be cheaper. They pay a premium to throttle their future consumption. These are fairly toothless ways to lock yourself in to your chosen course of action, like smoking less or losing weight.
This problem of procrastination and acting against your own better judgment boils down to this: You understand your own best interests when you consider them dispassionately (“I’m too fat”) but in the moment your decision-making is distorted by delicious, delicious pie.
The problem of self-control may be a ridiculous first world problem but it’s the granddaddy of first world problems and we aim to solve it. Beeminder combines self-tracking and financial incentives to change the way people act.
We help you stick to your goals by charging you a fee if you go off track.
When you create a goal with Beeminder, you create a contract as well. If you make consistent progress toward your goal, the service remains free. But if you go off track, we charge you $5 and correct your course. If you go off track a second time, we charge you again. As long as you put off your good behavior, you continue to get charged. Surprisingly our users love us for this. If you want to make screwing up even harder — and they do — you can increase the amount you have at risk.
We call this the Yellow Brick Road. It shows you where you should be, your data shows where you’re actually headed, and we tell you how many days you have until you fall behind. You can see this person is doing really well. They’ve lost a bunch of weight and they are actually out-performing their yellow brick road. We keep you on track by sending you reminders to track your progress, and tips on fitness or productivity. The graph is based on your actual performance and we give you the flexibility to change your goals if you need to or even quit. The catch is that we enforce a one-week delay. This means that you never fall victim to your distorted in-the-moment decision making. You’re always bound by last week’s good intentions.
People are using Beeminder right now for all sorts of goal setting and tracking — for example, to lose weight, wean from caffeine, eat more vegetables, train for a marathon, or finish their thesis. We use it to ensure we make inexorable forward progress on Beeminder itself.
Let’s talk about the market for self-tracking. There has been a minor explosion of startups offering commitment devices in the last couple years. It’s a small part of a broader movement called Quantified Self which is rapidly going mainstream — press about self-tracking is showing up everywhere from Wired to NPR to the Delta in-flight magazine.
There are now dozens of physical devices that people are using to track their fitness, sleep, and weight — including products like the Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand, Fitbit, and the Withings internet-connected scale, to name a few. There are 65 official and dozens of unofficial Quantified Self groups worldwide, with attendance numbers in the tens of thousands and RunKeeper alone has more than 10 million users.
Beeminder is the only one of these tools that combines Quantified Self with financial incentives. We take the data you are already collecting about yourself and give you the insight to make concrete changes in your life.
Let’s talk about taking over the world, namely, how we’re going after this market.
We’re integrating our platform with the most popular self-tracking devices so users’ data is automatically posted to Beeminder from their scale or their smartphone. We’re currently integrated with Withings, Gmail, and GreenGoose sensors, and we’re working on RunKeeper, Fitbit and several others.
And we also are thought leaders in the field of behavior change — our blogs refer thousands of unique visitors to Beeminder every month, and we’ve presented at Quantified Self meetups in Portland and New York City.
We’re constantly increasing the value of Beeminder for our customers and hence the average revenue per customer. This cohort analysis is pretty insane — that’s the value per customer each month with attrition factored in. A customer now is provably worth $12 just in the short term and it looks like it’ll be an order of magnitude higher for lifetime value. We’re literally changing lives with this and our users are saying so loud and clear. 
Since starting Portland Seed Fund, we’ve doubled our revenue and doubled our users to more than 4000. 11% and climbing convert to paying customers, and 70% continue to Beemind after their first mis-step.
Beeminder was born out of a mixture of behavioral economics research and self-experimentation. We’re a couple of over-educated, lifehacking data nerds. I’ve got a Masters degree in computer science from Columbia University, and Dr Daniel Reeves’s PhD is in algorithmic game theory, and he was previously a research scientist at Yahoo Research in New York. We have domain expertise in incentive systems and experience building big systems.
Right now we’re ramen profitable and our revenue is growing steadily. In other words, we’re not rushing to raise funding but we might next year, after we hit some key milestones. Most importantly, we intend to first become a true platform for data-oriented commitment contracts. That means completing those integrations with all the popular fitness devices as well as promoting our own API.
In the meantime, if you’re excited about crushing procrastination and ending irrational behavior — you can sign up for Beeminder! If there’s anything you want to do, you know you can do, but historically you never get around to — you should Beemind it. If you can’t think of anything that passes that litmus test, then you should check out our newly minted Gmail Zero project, and Beemind your inbox down to size.
I’m Bethany; that’s my co-founder Danny. Thanks for listening!
 In case that seems paradoxical, given our crazy business model, check out [UPDATE: this post; originally our FAQ] about why we don’t think it’s actually paradoxical at all. In short, despite the bizarre way we collect it, people are ultimately paying us for the service we’re providing.