By Claudia Capos, Guest Editor
Two years ago, Michael Antaran revamped Marvel Apps, his mobile gaming company ─ after his wife complained it was contributing to an unhealthy behavior in society ─ and launched CARROT, a mobile health and wellness program that rewards participants for living more active lifestyles.
“I retooled all our online games and went from a pay-to-play model to a walk-to-play model,” says Antaran, a former powertrain manager at Chrysler and General Motors. “That concept resonated with Henry Ford Health System, which asked to use our app as a health-and-wellness tool for its 25,000 employees.”
Since 2016, CARROT has inked multiyear contracts with 24 companies covering a combined total of 60,000 employees. Last year, the startup generated more than $200,000 in revenue, up from $105,000 in 2016, and anticipates it will become profitable by mid-2018.
Antaran concedes CARROT has put down roots in a field that is overgrown with well-heeled, long-established competitors. However, he is confident his “gamified” approach to health and wellness, coupled with a laser focus on personalized goals and instant gratification, can achieve better outcomes than simply using wearable trackers such as Fitbit.
Employees in participating companies download the free “CARROT Wellness” mobile app, which generates a personalized daily walking goal. When they meet their goals, participants earn “virtual currencies” ─ Goal Coins and Reward Points ─ which can be used to play online games, compete in survivor challenges and team walking contests or purchase digital gift cards available on the app. Companies, which set aside funds to cover the cost of the prizes and gift cards, consider the money well spent when they end up with healthier, more energetic employees.
On average, Antaran reports, nearly 85 percent of CARROT program participants engage with the app daily, increasing their daily steps by 22.8 percent in the first two months.
After receiving coaching from the New Enterprise Forum, Antaran pitched to investors at the 2017 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, where he gained experience, visibility and network contacts ─ but no immediate offers from angel or venture capital investors.
Since then, Antaran has approached Netcapital, a private securities platform that connects small, private investors to entrepreneurs, in an effort to raise $700,000 for a 12½ percent equity stake in CARROT. The financing will be used to build out the company’s sales and marketing staff.
At home, Antaran uses the CARROT app every day to increase his walking, and over time, he has noticed improvements in his stamina and energy level. “As the father of three kids, I’ve got to keep up,” he says. “Some days I don’t make my goal, but CARROT is there to remind me what I need to do.”