P | P | P feat. StepStack

We had the opportunity to chat with David Moran, co-founder of StepStack, an app that rewards you for being active.

The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best start-ups with grand potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Tareek @ ADLIB: Can you please introduce yourself, what your business does, what stage you are at currently and what makes your business and offering unique?

David: Hi, my name is David Moran and together with my 16 year old son, we are the co-founders of StepStack.  I have spent the last 30 years in education and technology as: a teacher; a technology product owner; a President of a US subsidiary; & a Chief executive of a large multi academy trust. 

StepStack is a mobile app which motivates and incentivises teens to get more active and make a contribution to the world around them.   We published StepStack on the App Store and Google Play Store at the end of August 2022. 

StepStack is by teens for teens.  All of our work is underpinned by an active teen user group which Eddie leads and an advisory board of academics and leaders from the commercial and charity sectors.

Tareek @ ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of your business and Service / Product?

David: Like nearly all great products, StepStack was born from a genuine need. In 2020, at the beginning of the first lockdown, young student Eddie (he was 13 at the time) found himself walking his dog Barney more than ever.

The silver lining for Eddie (Barney already loved walks) was realising that a more active lifestyle came with a wide array of benefits; from better sleep, to feeling healthier and staying in a great headspace too. All these and more were something Eddie wanted other teens to experience too.

Some teens already love exercise, and that’s great – now they can enjoy it even more…but what about the many teens who think it’s SO boring or “hate it”.

We are here to disrupt that perception, by showing teens fitness CAN be fun. Since everyone benefits from being more active; why not be rewarded for it too?

The facts don’t lie:

  • 1 in 5 young people have a mental health issue (this stat has been rising in teens since 2017)
  • Obesity rates are accelerating; 25% of 11-year-olds aren’t just overweight, they are classified as clinically obese. After all, 7-16 year-olds spend 50-75% of their time sitting down, and of that is with a device (TV, computer, phone)
  • Many young people have problems sleeping; restless sleep is bad for the brain and the body

These three key issues of: Lack of sleep; Compromised mental health; & Unhealthy weight all link back to a higher chance of depression, being bullied, developing serious health risks and conditions like heart problems and diabetes.

That’s where STEPSTACK comes in!  We know that by helping our young audience create positive habits and change early in life, they are more likely to stick to them, and experience great health and wellness in the years to come.

To use StepStack, you simply set a target and start walking. Every step you take is converted into coins that can be used to redeem discounts and special offers from our commercial partners in the StepStack marketplace which include: Selfridges, Bose, The Body Shop and many other commercial companies.

You can also use your coins to bid on physical products in our auction room, or donate them to one of our three charity partners: Just One Tree, Teenage Cancer Trust, and The Trussell Trust. In addition to tracking your progress, you can also participate in challenges, earn rewards, and share your achievements with family and friends.

Tareek @ ADLIB: Speaking of People, can you share some challenges you have faced, are facing or are anticipating around scaling and growing your team? Do you have any top tips you could share with those businesses faced with the same issues?

David: We went through a procurement exercise to find our development partner which we conducted on Upwork – an online freelancing platform.  19 freelancers and small agencies from around the world applied and after interviewing our top 6 we appointed DB2, a fantastic team based in Kyiv, Ukraine.

The team have been amazing but the Russian invasion inevitably caused, and continues to cause, huge disruption to their lives.  Despite this, the team regrouped and have continued to work tirelessly to create an award winning app. 

We bootstrapped StepStack to create our minimum viable product but now we plan to scale and grow StepStack – we’re aiming for 10,000 user this year and therefore our development resource will also need to grow. 

Great product ownership and smart project management is essential to onboarding new members of the team ensuring efficient upskilling and effective deployment, but adds further cost.  Add a significant advertising budget and the total cost of scaling becomes very BIG. 

Wherein lies the biggest challenge – raising the investment.

Top Tip –  There’s no silver bullets, just keep on trying everything.  I have a rule of 1% – setting my expectations appropriately for the journey ahead of me.  The right investor is out there, you just need to get out there and find them.

Tareek @ ADLIB: Moving to Product, what has been your approach to understanding and implementing product market fit?

David: StepStack is ‘By Teens For Teens’.  Eddie runs our teen user group which have been involved with StepStack from the initial idea to publication.  They are core to the governance of StepStack.  We are working with UK Edge Innovate on a design centred review process to better understand future developments of StepStack.

Tareek @ ADLIB: And then Potential, can you share some challenges or barriers you had to overcome to create a Product / Service offering with potential?

David: I completely underestimated the significance of marketing and the associated very significant costs.  Getting up to speed on all of the social channels as well as getting under the bonnet of Apple Search Ads and Google Search Ads has been has been challenging but is essential for the future of StepStack.

Tareek @ ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around best approach?

David: Get involved with local, regional and national networks – there are pitch competitions, incubators, accelerators and catalysts out there and they are all worth getting involved with.  Be prepared to help other founders and make connections.

And be patient and keep trying. 

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Start-up / Scale-up / Developers & Technology

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Tareek Lamhaouli