Chris Freise, who earned his ESTEEM degree in 2012 and spent over two years with the Epic healthcare software company in Madison, has formed a startup with three partners to develop a novel application to promote wellness by tracking activities, making recommendations, and rewarding good behavior. The company, UpDown Technologies Inc., incorporated in January, plans beta testing and case studies this summer, and expects to enter the market by early 2016.
Freise, who majored in physics and pre-medicine as an undergraduate at Notre Dame, once planned to follow in his father’s footsteps as a physician but found his passion in ESTEEM after deciding to delay medical school for a year.
“Here was a way I could combine my technical knowledge and love for science with starting a business and making an impact on the world,” he says. “It wasn’t long after I started ESTEEM that I realized this was what I wanted to do. I’m happy where I ended up.”
Although his ESTEEM capstone thesis was more medically related – involving a drug for resistant diseases – the skills apply directly to the new venture.
“Commercializing a technology like that is not easy,” Freise says. “You learn a lot about how fundraising works, what kinds of partnerships you need to make that happen. Those skills translate to any business you’re going to start. One thing I really learned from ESTEEM is in order to be successful you have to be solving a problem. You find a problem and you find a solution for it.”
UpDown, which targets both individuals and business owners who could provide the app for their employees, has sought input from potential customers to hone the design. “It’s a very customer-driven standpoint, using your customer to validate that your solution is one that meets their needs,” Freise says. “We make it engaging by making it social, making it fun to use, making it easy to use.”
The free app comes with standard activity and social functionalities. The premium subscription, which adds a point reward system for merchandise, is $5 a month, with a discount for employers, who pay nothing for workers who do not use the technology.
“It’s kind of a corporate wellness program,” Freise says. “We’re selling it as an employee benefit. So far we’ve had a lot of success. Everyone we’ve talked to has been on board to do a pilot. It’s all moved very quickly, but we really think we have something that will find a spot in the marketplace. We’re excited.”