Health startup Greatist buys Sportaneous to stretch from content to tech

Since launching two years ago, health startup Greatist has been all about content and its brand — every month, about 3 million unique visitors check out the site for a dose of content that’s part socially-savvy Buzzfeed, part fun fitness magazine and part highbrow science journal. But with the acquisition of startup Sportaneous, announced Tuesday, Greatist is expanding its identity from a company focused on content to one that builds technology.

“We have not been technologists and now we can be,” said founder and CEO Derek Flanzraich. “Now we can figure out how to get people from not just reading and talking about our content to actually doing something about it — which is ultimately our whole purpose.”

First launched a couple of years ago, Sportaneous is a small four-person startup that offers an app for finding fitness classes nearby. But like other recently acquired health startups MassiveHealth (sold to Jawbone) and 100Plus (sold to Practice Fusion), Flanzraich said Sportaneous was strong in design and technology, but was having trouble building traction.

“It’s hard to get noticed in the App Store. It’s hard to get that attention unless you’ve got some other way to drive people to that product,” Flanzraich said. “We solved that problem [by going] the other way around and building the brand first.”

With the Sportaneous team’s tech chops, Flanzraich said he plans to build a new product that puts a social layer around people’s fitness tracking activities. Now, Nike Fuelband (s NKE) users can socialize with other Fuelband users and Fitbit (see disclosure) users can communicate with other Fitbit users. But Flanzraich wants Greatist to provide a social hub that pulls in data from a range of tracking services so that people can motivate and encourage (and maybe trash talk…) friends using all kinds of devices.

Another health app, Fitocracy, enables health enthusiasts to interact with others trying to achieve similar goals (for example, people trying to keep a paleo diet or run a marathon can encourage and get motivation from others in the same camp) and it integrates with running app Runkeeper. But Greatist, which has raised a little more than $1.1 million, wants to reach a broader audience of people and integrate with a wider range of tracking services.

As part of the acqui-hire, Flanzraich said Sportaneous co-founder Omar Haroun will become Greatist’s chief product officer and co-founder Reuben Doetsch will be the chief technology officer. The other members of the team will join as developers.