The Story Behind Spren

Vivek Menon
February 23, 2022

How Spren was born from Elite HRV, the top ranked HRV app, and its heart rate variability insights

From a Desire to Help

Spren was born from Elite HRV, the top-ranked heart rate variability (HRV) tracking app based in Asheville, North Carolina.

When we started Elite HRV, we were passionate to help people look, feel, and perform better. We saw that the right biomarkers, starting with HRV, packaged into meaningful insights, could unlock amazing results by guiding and empowering users on their wellness and fitness journeys.

It wasn't long into Elite HRV's journey that we started to hear from thousands of users who relied on HRV insights. We saw how important it was to capture accurate biomarker data, and translate them in a compelling morning ritual. We were surprised that so many users would go months and even years without missing a daily HRV check-in.

Other data points supported what we were hearing. Forty percent of our users checked-in every day. Sixty percent of active users were still regularly using the app 180 days after starting out - 8 to 10 times the benchmark for retention.

It was clear we were helping.. and that we had created an engaging, habit-forming experience that helped users on their fitness and wellness journeys.

Taking HRV mainstream

We focused on making the benefits of biomarker-tracking accessible to as many as possible. We opened up the Elite HRV app to any accurate sensor, while allowing users to download and port their raw biomarker data to their coaches, docs, therapists, and even other analysis tools. We developed and launched our own proprietary HRV sensor to give users more options. And we received great feedback on our algorithms through all these efforts.

But the biggest limitation to adoption was convincing users to find, buy and learn to use dedicated sensor hardware. Wearables were a growing trend, but even today, less than 3% of the population has a wearable capable of measuring meaningful biomarkers.

"The change from atoms to bits is irrevocable and unstoppable." Nicholas Negroponte

So we switched our attention from the the atoms in our sensors to the bits in our database - over 4 billion cardiac cycles - and realized that existing device cameras would suffice as biomarker sensors. This led to the genesis of Spren Vision, our deep learning machine vision algorithms that detect HRV and other biomarkers. Spren Vision is delivered via a simple SDK, enabling any app to transform camera video feeds into raw biomarker data.

Now there were six billion users who already had the requisite sensors (smartphones!). There was one step left.

Serving Users Where They Already Are

It's estimated that consumers will spend an additional $3 trillion (yes, with a "T") dollars over the next decade, to look, feel and perform better in life, business, and sport.  The recent pandemic only accelerated the trend.

Wellbeing is not a one-size-fits-all simple concept. It encompasses fitness, mental health, recovery, nutrition, sleep and more; all pursued over a weeks-to-months-long journey.

Improvement does not happen overnight
Improvement does not happen overnight.

Wellbeing seekers are accustomed to visiting trusted, successful brands that provide digital fitness, wellness, productivity, mindfulness and social experiences. These brands strive to maintain user commitment with fantastic content, slick hardware, and vibrant social communities.

These same brands came to us to access our biomarker insights. There was a mutual realization that our tech-stack could power up an engine of behavior change through deep personalization and meaningful user guidance. We could help these brands turbocharge their user engagement, retention and conversion.

This led us to open up access to our biomarkers and insights via a simple API. Your product or app sends in the raw data (including via smartphone cameras), and chooses to receive the insights and biomarkers that most benefit their UX. All the while, you keep full control over your brand and design.

We look forward to helping your products and apps create sticky, meaningful, personalized experiences that guide your users thru their unique wellbeing journeys.

If you're looking to power up your digital experience, contact us here.

Sources: Atomic Habits, James Clear; The State of Wellness Report, McKinsey Consulting; 2021 The Future of Healthcare Report, Deloitte and Touche;  2021 Apptopia; 2021 Wellness Apps Data Report; AppTentive 2021 Engagement Benchmarks

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Vivek Menon

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