Blog Post

With HealthYear, Startup Health-backed Greatist takes a page from Codecademy

One year ago, New York-based Codeacademy sparked a learn-to-code craze with its CodeYear initiative that attracted hundreds of thousands of wannabe programmers (including Mayor Michael Bloomberg). This year, health and fitness site Greatist is hoping it can similarly light a fire under aspiring health enthusiasts with its own New Year’s effort called HealthYear.

Soon after seeing the success of CodeYear, Derek Flanzraich, founder and CEO of the New York-based health startup, said he started buying up domains for HealthYear.

“I was really stuck by the power of New Year’s resolutions and the power of people publicly committing to them,” he said. “[CodeYear] really hit the trend that people are increasingly interested in learning to code… I remember thinking there’s this exponentially growing trend of people committing to their health and building it into their lives more and perhaps we could try for something for health and wellness.”

The program — like CodeYear — is pretty simple: people sign up for one of six different tracks related to eating better, sleeping more, stressing less, running a 5k, boozing less or getting stronger. Each day, they receive a newsletter with general health tips and, each week, they get a message with advice and tips for sticking to their specific resolution.

This time of year, news sites, fitness magazines and morning shows are all chock full of advice for sticking to health-related New Year’s resolutions. But Flanzraich said Greatist’s tips and HealthYear reflect the startup’s overall identity and mission to be a trusted, authoritative site about health and fitness for a new generation of “young, savvy and social” consumers.

Greatist attempts to blend the social media know-how of Buzzfeed with the fun, approachable tone of fitnesss magazines with the scientific integrity of higher-brow health journals. Its in-house editorial team makes sure that all content — even articles about “60 healthier drinks for boozing” or the best foods for curing a hangover — is backed by studies from PubMed as well as vetted by Greatist’s own network of health and fitness experts.

So far, its approach seems to be working. In the last year, the site, which launched in 2011, has grown its traffic from under one million unique visitors to just under two million visitors. It also closed a seed round of funding (it declined to share details on the amount or the names of investors) and was accepted to the New York-based Startup Health Academy. Flanzraich also said the team has grown from five people to 14.

When Codecademy launched CodeYear, learning to code was just a nascent trend, while aspiring to improve one’s health — especially at the start of the year — is so common it can hardly be called a trend. And, so far, HealthYear’s registrants number in the hundreds, while CodeYear’s attracted hundreds of thousands in its first week. But Flanzraich is right that there is groundswell of new interest in health and fitness — at least in using new online resources, apps and digital devices that give people the ability to be more proactive about their health on a day-to-day basis. HealthYear may not help kick off a new movement in the way that CodeYear did, but it could tap into a growing surge of interest in digital health tools — from those that track and monitor fitness to those that keep people informed.

It’s also worth noting that while Codecademy attracted considerable attention at its launch, the company never disclosed how many people stuck with the program. Flanzraich said that even if HealthYear participants don’t follow every piece of advice or lose momentum after resolution season passes, he hopes it can continue to bring more awareness about the healthy steps they can take.

“We’re trying to give people nudges to stick to their resolutions,” he said. “It helps remind you that you’re in charge and that you can choose [to do] one healthier thing at a time.”