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Thanks to modern technology, there are many running apps that allow people who enjoy running to compare their progress and motivate them to exercise more. If you are a runner with a strong competitive spirit, then perhaps it is time for you to change the ball game and up the ante with Turfly, a new exercise app.

Vulcan Post spoke to Tyler Martin, founder of Actigram Labs, which aims to build therapeutic products for behaviour and lifestyle change for CVD (Cardiovascular Disease), and is also the parent company of Turfly.

Foursquare + Nike+ = ?

Turfly is a fitness app that turns walking and running into a competitive game. The idea is to get people to exercise and stay active by fostering friendly competition through capturing your running territory in order to competing with fellow local runners for points.

Image Credit: medtechboston
Image Credit: medtechboston

Unlike other running apps, Turfly is created as a game of turf wars which can be used anywhere in the world. The app divides your environment into a grid of “turfs”. Each time you walk or explore a turf, you accumulate a point. The more you walk, the more turf you can claim. The main purpose is to paint your neighborhood blue to capture real-life territory, by walking or running through it.

To me, Turfly is a combination of Nike+ and Foursquare. To Tyler, it is a game. “We are focused on keeping it fun, ensuring it’s giving people a clear sense of progress, challenge and reward for whatever play style they pursue.” The more turf you own, the higher your level and the most achievements you’ll collect. That being said, the app encourages users to move around their city by foot.

It would be all too easy if you were to conquer turfs by driving around in the car and would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?

Image Credit: exist.io
Image Credit: exist.io

The Brains behind Turfly

It all started with two friends – Tyler and Nicolas who first met when Tyler first shifted to San Francisco. “Nicolas became a mentor and a close friend over the years, to the point we’d discussed doing a start-up together on multiple occasions,” said Tyler. In fact their first mobile app was going to be a steak timer. He described the product was not super innovative but it did made some fun for BBQ experiences.

Tyler (left), and Nicolas. Image Credit: Turfly
Tyler (left), and Nicolas. Image Credit: Turfly

When Tyler left his previous startup, he knew that he wanted to stay in the digital health and mobile space. His penchant for moving by foot came from when he was living in Barcelona in his mid-20s. “I was blown away by how few people drove cars or hit the gyms to get exercise. Instead their citizens get a ton of physical activity just by getting themselves around on two feet,” Tyler described.

He continued, “I haven’t owned a car in 15 years having been so inspired and satisfied by that experience! I also choose to live in fairly walk-able cities like San Francisco and Boston.” Tyler, who grew up in Canada, a country where most cities are deeply car-centred said that the culture was so different from his experiences in Barcelona and other in cities such as Tokyo and Bangkok.

The Driving Force

The team experienced a few hitches while building the app; for example, Apple rejected them when trying to launch Turfly as an invite-only game. Nevertheless, they pushed through to launch the app in its current form last September, and since then the team has iterated through four publics builds.

Image Credit: angel.co/turfly

To stay motivated, Tyler said getting comments and feedback are the thing that motivates them the most. “We hear from players who get obsessed with the app and tell us about how it’s helped them.” He elaborated on this point with a quote from friend Nathan Beckord of FounderSuite, a well-known name in the startup industry:

The reason early evangelists are really worth 3x their weight in gold is the little notes of positive encouragement they send.

Gamers to Game Creators

As a big fan of walking and running apps such as Breeze, Runkeeper and MayMy Run, Tyler described that Turfly is a combination of two concepts together that consists of GPS tracking and giving stats about your physical activity. Besides those fitness apps, they’ve also cited inspiration from traditional games such as Risk, Settlers of Catan, or major video games’ turf war modes like Tony Hawk Pro Skater’s graffiti mode (where player can skate around a city and do tricks to tag the whole map in colour), as well as Grand Theft Auto’s turf war subgame.

Image Credit: angel.co/turfly
Image Credit: angel.co/turfly

“We had always been focused on building apps intended to increase the probability of successful behaviour and lifestyle change in people with cardiovascular and other chronic diseases,” Tyler told Vulcan Post.

Eventually these interests led the team to take part in MassHack Hackathon 2014 in June, an inaugural event that gave every team 48 hours to create an application in the areas of HealthTech, EdTech or Internet based services. “It took us the entire three days of the MassHack Hackathon to design, build a prototype, market it to a few alpha testers and get it ready to present at the end of the weekend, “ said Tyler.

On Future Plans and Expectations

With Turfly, the team hopes that fellow runners would be able to explore their city in new ways. Tyler further mentioned that with Turfly, he hopes to encourage the walking culture as part of an urban evolutionary feedback loop, and of course, connect with other runner through friendly turf war competition.

Image Credit: angel.co/turfly
Image Credit: angel.co/turfly

“We’d love for all these people to get even more active and start strategizing ways to capture more turf from each other. We’d love everyone to invite their family to get off the couch, and co-workers to join the game and form teams to cheer each other on while opening up even more turfs on the map.”

Turfly is available for download in iTunes. To know more about the app, do visit here.

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