Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo announced on Twitter yesterday -- by posting screen shots from his Apple Notes app -- that he is planning to launch a digital health company focused on fitness. He also announced he would be working as a venture partner at Index Ventures.
In the note, Costolo said he is working with Bryan Oki, currently the cofounder and CEO of Fitify, a health consulting firm that designs fitness programs for companies, to develop a software platform that helps users reach their fitness goals. Oki also has a background in health coaching. Before founding Fitify, Oki was the director of a Crossfit location as well as the head strength and conditioning coach for a high school wresting team.
“This platform will go beyond measurement to motivate and drive improvement and make the road to personal transformation fun and social,” Costolo said. “For wellness professionals, from fitness coaches to physical therapists and nutritionists and more, our platform will be the easiest and most flexible way to extend expertise and guidance by orders of magnitude.”
He added that the platform will incorporate connected devices and tracking tools.
Although Costolo’s description of the new offering is vague, it sounds similar to a number of digital health companies developing wellness coaching programs that incorporate peer to peer coaching.
One such offering, called Goqii, helps users track their meals, water intake, steps, and sleep, and matches them with a health coach who helps users set goals, stay motivated, and form new habits. Another, called Vida, not only connects users to nutritionists and physical therapists but also to nurses and diabetes educators. Two other startups that offer connected health tracking and health coaching services include Lift and Rise, which is focused specifically on diet.
In an email to CNBC, Costolo said he first realized he had an interest in fitness while running Twitter and taking the company through its IPO.
In the past few years, Twitter, itself, has become a promising tool for various health initiatives.
In 2013, a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that Twitter can help people capture dietary intake and behavior. The data from the study was integrated into Eat It Tweet It, an app in the Apple App store created to integrate with Twitter and offer users a portal to tweet exclusively about their diet.
The following year, Twitter selected six proposals out of the 1,300 entries to access its vast archives for big data insights. And three teams, HealthMaps, University of Twente, and UCSD, had health-related projects. That same month, a team of researchers found that, for 23 commonly used drugs, well over three times as many adverse drug reactions were reported on Twitter in a given time period than were reported to the FDA.
And in October 2015, Greg Powell, director of pharmacovigilance at GlaxoSmithKline, talked about how the pharma company collected data about public postings on Twitter as well as Facebook that mentioned any of a list of 1,000 of the companies drugs. Altogether, they found more than 6 million hits on Twitter and more than 15 million hits on Facebook.
The full announcement from Costolo is below: