Meet our Data Nerds: MyFitnessPal CEO Mike Lee

It’s true: A healthier lifestyle is just an app download away! According to this week’s featured data nerd Mike Lee, CEO and founder of MyFitnessPal, 88 percent of people who actively use MyFitnessPal for at least seven days lose weight.

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MyFitnessPal is a free, comprehensive health and fitness system that makes it easy for you to attain your health goals and live a healthier life. By making invisible data not just visible but also sharable, people are more likely to make healthier choices. With that mindset, MyFitnessPal has been the #1 health and fitness app in the US Apple iTunes and Google Play stores for the last three years, and is a top 10 health and fitness app in 65 countries.

This week, we sat down with Mike to hear more about how he leverages data to drive MyFitnessPal’s business and better serve its 65 million users. See what he says in the Q&A below.

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Q: Your data nerd line is, “Data helps our users live healthier lives.” Can you elaborate on that?’

Many people have no idea what is in the foods they eat. A big part of what we do is help our users see that information so they can use it to make different decisions and, ultimately, form healthier habits. It’s not until you realize what is in the foods you’re eating and how active you are on a given day that you realize what leads to those decisions and outcomes. Only when you get that data can you change them.

So it’s really all about using data to make the invisible visible, and help people lose weight as a result.

Q: How does your company tackle data organizationally?

We actually have several data teams at MyFitnessPal. One is focused on infrastructure, one is focused on analytics, and another one focuses on data engineering—they are tasked with building product features based on data. But really we consider the whole company a data company. We live and breathe data. It’s such a core part of what we do that everybody needs to be thinking about data on an everyday basis.

Q: What kind of “aha” moments have you had analyzing your data?

One was how high our users’ success rate actually was. We had heard anecdotal evidence about people using our app to lose 20 pounds, 50 pounds, 100 pounds for years. But when we started actually combing through the data, we realized it was not just anecdotal–it was the most effective weight loss tool out there.

We were also amazed at the power of social behavior to drive even more user success. Our 65 million user community is actually the largest longitudinal study of health behavior in human history. We took a look at our data and realized that our users who engaged in social behavior on our app were twice as likely to reach their health goal as people who went at it alone. That has powerful takeaways for us and our users, but also for anyone who wants to change their habits or otherwise reach a health goal.

Q: How have you used those discoveries to improve your business?

We’ve used these discoveries to prioritize our roadmap, to inspire new product features, and we use them to help determine strategy. Most importantly, we’re constantly using our data discoveries to help our users succeed at their personal health goals.

Q: Looking ahead, how do you see data changing the world?

Data is the future of health. We live in an incredibly exciting time in which there’s an explosion of devices and apps that will help us better understand our personal health through data. And that will lead to longer, healthier lives. I can’t overstate the possibilities.

For example, I once met an avid runner who was suffering from a heart condition. His doctor decided that when his running times started to slow, they would use that as a signal to intervene more aggressively. When you have a rich and robust set of health data all in one place, this is the kind of insight you will be able to gain, and the type of experience app developers will be able to create. Lives can and will be saved based on easier collection and access to health data.

What makes you a data nerd? Tell us—just tweet using the #datanerd hashtag. After all, we are all data nerds.

Morgan Flatley is on the customer marketing team at New Relic. Before making the New Relic marketing team her home, she dabbled in PR for startup tech companies. View posts by .

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