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Randy Schmidt

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Lose It or Lose It - Why, How, and How Much!

December 20, 2009

9/9/2010 Update! The site has been live for about 10 months and people seem to be doing great! I’ve personally lost ~70 lb. Check out my profile or see how other people are doing.

Lose It or Lose It Logo

On November 16th I launched a website called Lose It or Lose It. The basic premise is you lose the weight or you lose your money. You choose dollars per lb and lb per week and you must weigh in every week for 10 weeks at or below your weekly goal. Hopefully by the end you will be 10-30 lb lighter and get all your money back! We make our money when people don’t make their goals, an optional tip at the end if they appreciate our service, and the held money in an interest bearing account.

I have had some interest about how Lose It or Lose It was built. I want to start with why, then go into how, then on to how much.


Me on the Scale at 282.2 lb! Over the summer I took the time to close the door on past projects and archive them. While I was going through them, I realized how much time, effort, and money I had spent building junk that never made any money. I decided the next project I worked on would have a way to make money from the start and would not be based on advertising. I hate advertising.

Around the same time, my wife Rebecca and I spent ten days traveling through Arizona and California. We had a blast and I wanted to be able to do more of it. I realized there is only one way to be able to do that, I need to get serious about building some of my own products.

A few months later, around September, I was thinking about how I am always trying to lose weight but never make any progress. I realized I needed an outside motivator where I would be punished if I didn’t stick to my goals, and it needed to be public. I was thinking other people probably needed the same thing and so I put two and two together and realized I came up with a project that fit all of my criteria! I decided to go all-in and build this for real.


Wireframes Spread Out on the Table I ran the idea past a few trusted people (you know who you are, thank you!) and they thought it was worthwhile so I started. I kicked it off by getting my thoughts onto something concrete as quickly as possible in the form of wireframes hand-drawn on paper. I like doing this for every project because they are easy to throw away if needed and force you to think of the website from the outside-in, the way your customers will see it. Many developers start with what makes them comfortable, the back-end, but your customers don’t care about that… so cut it out!

I sent the wireframes over to Chris Nagele at Wildbit to review and estimate. They thought it would take three weeks to design the entire site so I gave them the money and they started. They did a fantastic job and delivered all the HTML, CSS, Javascript, and images required to make the site work. They even stubbed out the AJAX responses! This was a great way to do it because I knew how the site would work before I did any significant development. I had started some of the message passing work but I didn’t develop the part of the site that powered the front-end until they were completely done the design!

During design I went back to doing client work to try to free up some extended free time to develop the site once the design was done. I also went in search of a good lawyer to review the site and prepare the necessary documents to ensure our safety and that we would keep the money we actually make. I ended up choosing Andrew Baer of Baer Business Law. It was my first experience involving a lawyer in one of my own projects and a little nerve racking to spend that much money, but it was valuable. I have a kick-ass Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and How It Works documents and he helped me think through how the business was going to work. I ended up simplifying some of it because of his advice.

Around the middle of October I started development. The first step took about three weeks and up to today I have probably spent close to four solid weeks of development. I am not sure if that seems like a long or short time, but I feel like that is pretty quick. I also started using Cucumber for the first time. It slowed down the development process but I now have a rock solid set of integration tests I can use to make sure I haven’t screwed up anything in a major way. Starting design-first was also nice because I was easily able to write Cucumber tests and make them pass to make the site work. I used Rspec for the gritty details and all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes to make the site work.

I launched with eight AWEsome beta users. My goal was 15 users by the holidays and I have reached that goal, I now have 16 users! I have found it is a little difficult to convert visitors into users. This could be for a number of reasons including

  1. They are waiting until after the holidays to sign up
  2. They may not be sure if it works
  3. They may not have the money to invest
  4. It isn’t clear to them how it works

I think all of these can be overcome but it is going to take experimentation and patience.

How much?

People said they were interested in numbers, so I’m going to put them out there.

  1. Design by Wildbit: $14,000 – it was less than that due to a friend discount, but this is the full retail price. Finding a great designer (you rock Gilbert!) is key because they are responsible for the public facing side of your product. This purchased the design, HTML, CSS, images, and Javascript required to make the entire site work.
  2. Legal by Baer Business Law: $4,725 – this paid for the incorporation, privacy policy, terms of use, how it works document, and 2 hours of “discussion” about using the word “penalty”.
  3. Promotions: $3,210 – I’ve promoted the site through a Barcamp Philly sponsorship (yay cupcakes!), Refresh Philly sponsorship, Reddit self-serve advertising, and on January 4th, a Daring Fireball feed sponsorship. Word of mouth has worked the best but that has only gone so far. I’m trying to see if getting the site in people’s minds will lead to a signup sometime in the future.
  4. Development by Forge38 (me): I have no idea because I did it myself, but many many hours! I didn’t keep track of hours because I do that every day with my client work and don’t like it.
  5. Misc: $500 – This includes having a friend do some market research and hosting costs.

I probably could have done this cheaper, but part of spending the money was making sure I stuck to the idea until the end; that I don’t build it then move on to the next thing. I currently have $450 on the line to lose 20 lb which I will get either way, but really, this $16k website is what is on the line. If I don’t lose weight, then others won’t want to sign up!

So far I have 16 users with a combined investment of $5,500. They have lost $115 (yay revenue!) and 141.6lb!


Lose It or Lose It iPhone Application So, what’s next? I’m looking for an angel investor or similar to help me grow the business. I believe I have proven the concept to be valid in that it helps people lose weight and can actually make money. I would like to build “Keep It Off or Lose It” to help those people trying not to gain weight as well as pay Will Ronco Awesome Software to finish the AWEsome iPhone app he prototyped for me. The app would make the weekly weigh-ins even easier!

That is pretty much it, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I would be interested in presenting this material to user groups if they would find value in it. You can also follow Lose It or Lose It’s progress via the blog or twitter!


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