A Valuable Exercise: Q&A with Kelley Halpin (A&S ’11, M.S. in Commerce ’12), Founder and CEO of Karrot Fit

July 3, 2019

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Kelley Halpin

M.S. in Commerce alumnus Kelley Halpin has worked as a Marketing and Strategy Consultant for IBM and as an Operations Manager for Uber, but he says he’s always been passionate about health and fitness.

Halpin founded his now two-year-old startup Karrot Fit to combat what he calls “a massive, complex problem that needs to be solved,” namely, poor health. As such, his company is geared toward working with organizations to financially incentivize employees for active lifestyles through the creation and completion of monthly exercise and fitness goals. Using the added assistance of Karrot Fit’s mobile app and the user’s own connected wearable tech, Halpin believes his foray into the space is a fitting combination of his past work at tech startup Uber and his interest in health.

We spoke with Halpin about his startup experience and what he continues to rely on from his time in the Commerce School.

Do you consider yourself an “exercise junkie” or “gym rat”? Or does the fitness aspect of the company tend to be only a small part of your own life?
I’m a former (very) fat little kid, so it’s certainly a big part of my life. Fitness is just the first aspect of human health that we are tackling. Eventually, we can expand into things like diet, sleep, smoking, and more. All of these things impact your health, and as the quantification of those behaviors gets better, we can help people change those behaviors.

Quite a few other wellness companies offer services to companies. What sets yours apart?
Corporate wellness is a big and growing $48 billion market, but no one else is approaching it in a fully quantified way. For employers and insurers, we are the only wellness company in the world that is 100% performance based. This means if someone doesn’t use it, it doesn’t cost anything. You pay for this only when you get results. For employees, it’s the simplicity. It’s wearable first, so the data is collected passively, and you don’t have to deal with constantly updating anything. Uber was great because you pushed a button, and a car showed up. This is even better: You exercise, and money shows up! This fades into the background of your routine. Good technology gets out of the way, not in the way.

What do you find most challenging about your work, and what about this venture brings you the most satisfaction?
The most challenging thing is the impact on your life outside of work. There is no time off or weekends. I’ve missed birthdays, weddings, etc. That is the tradeoff you sign up for going in, but it’s still hard. The thing I love most is the direct impact on people’s lives. It’s pretty cool to see how what you built helped someone live a healthier life.

What from your time at McIntire stays with you? What experiences or lessons learned are you able to draw on in your efforts to further advance Karrot Fit?
A lot of the lessons from Professor Tom Bateman’s “Organizational Behavior” class have stuck with me. Especially as you get higher up in company, you do less and less of the actual work. You spend most of your time managing people, either internally or externally. The people skills are most important, and the hardest to learn.

What are your long-term goals with the company? What are you hoping to achieve?
A healthier life for everyone, everywhere. I realize that is an absurdly ambitious mission statement, but you don’t get points for being subtle.

What advice can you offer current McIntire students interested in entrepreneurship?
Do it. Find a problem you care deeply about and that the world needs to be solved. It doesn’t matter if you work at an existing startup or create your own. The world doesn’t need any more apps to take pictures of your brunch.