Startup Q&A is an interview series showcasing health, fitness, and wellness companies.
In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Omar Jalalzada, founder & CEO of Kin, a social wellness app designed to help users build healthy habits. Omar discusses the science of accountability and how daily coaching can improve outcomes in physical fitness, nutrition, and mental health.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at Kin?
Omar Jalalzada: Kin exists to help you build the best version of yourself. We do this through a social wellness app that helps you develop healthy habits based on your goals and provides a support system to hold you accountable.
Our smart habit planner adjusts the frequency and intensity of your daily habits based on your performance, visualizes your progress to provide insights, and automatically shares updates with your support network or coach to hold you accountable.
Unlike other wellness apps, our primary focus is to keep you motivated and consistent in order to show up daily. We celebrate your small wins and help you build momentum toward your goals.
Consistency comes hand-in-hand with accountability, so you can invite friends and family as your accountability buddies or find others around the world working on similar habits. You can also hire a dedicated coach to check in with and support you on a daily basis.
How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?
OJ: I was going through a strange period of life with mental health struggles when I stumbled upon Atomic Habits by James Clear.
I’m a designer by trade and fascinated by behavioral psychology, so this book became a gateway to going very deep into the science of habit formation. I uncovered a lot of amazing frameworks locked away in all the research papers and books on how to use the power of habits to build a healthy mind, body, and stronger relationships.
As I tested these frameworks in my own life, I learned about the importance of creating an accountability system to keep you motivated and consistent on a daily basis. Cultivating small healthy habits along with accountability from friends led to profoundly improving my well-being and also my approach to life in general.
During this time, my friend Justin Kan reached out, and he was also very interested in the science of habits — it helped him navigate very complex challenges in his own life. We decided to start Kin to focus on motivation and accountability, joined by our friends Amitt Mahajan and Damien Kan.
How did you turn your idea into a company?
OJ: We started Kin as a side project with a narrow focus on peer-to-peer accountability. We quickly launched an app and started inviting our friends. The response from everyone was very positive, and we had great traction through organic growth — so, after a few months, I decided to quit my job and work on Kin full-time.
Since then, we have evolved our thinking to provide a social support network to create a powerful motivation system for people who join Kin. Our updated program also includes wellness coaches and experts to provide 1:1 support for any individual needing to structure their days in accordance with their goals and overcome any mental obstacles to achieve them.
I’m grateful for the support of our early adopters and pre-seed investors (Balaji Srinivasan, Shrug Capital, Magic Fund, etc.) to help us continuously offer more ways to help anyone become their best selves through habit psychology and accountability.
How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?
OJ: There are more than two billion adults suffering from preventable health-related issues. The pandemic and the rise of remote work have blurred the lines between life and work, causing us to deprioritize our health and spend more time on work. There are 1.5B adults with mental health challenges, and 1.9B are overweight or obese. And those are just a few categories.
There is a massive opportunity for us to play a role in helping people structure their days and become more proactive in improving their mental health and physical well-being while reaching their full potential… despite all our modern challenges.
Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?
OJ: Kin is for people with self-improvement goals who find it difficult to stick with a routine. Our popular categories are people with mindfulness, fitness, and healthy eating goals. But we’ve also seen gaining popularity across productivity, stress management, and building healthier relationships.
We’re growing organically at a steady pace due to our viral network effects and social features. And we’ve been patient about our paid acquisition efforts. Currently, we’re primarily focused on the product and building partnerships.
We’re also piloting a partnership with Johns Hopkin University to help its students overcome their challenges. The first batch of students are on the platform, and we’re actively iterating to provide the best support for them.
Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?
OJ: We’re still in the early stages and recently grew our team by two software engineers, a product manager, and a health & wellness advisor from Johns Hopkins. We’re looking to raise our seed round next month to fuel our product growth into the next phase of our journey.
Looking ahead, we see many more partnership opportunities with universities and organizations to become a provider for a more fun and effective way to improve overall well-being.
In the next few months, after we raise our seed round, we’re also planning to ramp up our paid acquisition channels to go after specific segments of our existing popular categories.
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