Vea Fitness co–founders Jonathan Maxim and Dhakshina Kasthuri came up with a novel idea for an app that rewards users for working out. Essentially, the more you exercise the more discounts you earn on athletic gear and other healthy products.
In growing their company, they find the more they utilize the Microsoft Reactor at the Science Center, the more connections they make.
"Getting to meet in a formal, professional space is a big benefit," Kasthuri says. "The biggest advantage is meeting the people at Microsoft and making contacts we can leverage, specifically investors and founders who introduce us to their networks."
A partnership between Microsoft, the Science Center, SeventySix Capital and Wexford Science & Technology, the Microsoft Reactor formally launched in November 2016 as a community hub, program space and access point for tech tools. The Vea partners appreciate the culture of community.
"Sometimes startups have a tendency to be reclusive and just hunker down," Maxim says. "We undervalue the social aspect of our jobs. Microsoft enables us to be out there and make connections that ultimately save us time and work."
Working with Microsoft's tech evangelists, Vea Fitness progressed their artificial–intelligence initiative to better understand users' fitness habits. They also made important connections, including potential investors. The company is growing, with four full–time employees and eight contractors.
The app offers challenges, starting with a modest half mile of biking, running and hiking. Still haven't worked up a sweat? Pick a 5-mile challenge. The app also serves as a fitness tracker, and after you've completed your workout, you can claim a discount on gear at participating retailers.
In September 2016, Vea partnered with Snap Kitchen and the City of Philadelphia to produce Philly Free Streets, an event in which the city closed more than 10 miles of streets to vehicles so that people could walk, run, bike and skate to their destinations. Vea Fitness offered rewards from more than 15 local healthy businesses, and over 40,000 attendees came out — tracking their walks, runs and bike rides with the Vea Fitness app.
"Based on that success, we're planning similar events" Maxim says. "We're building on the connections we are making through Microsoft and the Reactor."