Roman Taranov, the founder of Ruby Labs, is excited about the potential of Able, a weight management app his company launched earlier this year. In a highly competitive industry, Able may be a new name, but it has attracted 500,000 users in just a few months. And this market is huge—in the United States alone, as many as 45 million Americans go on a diet every year, and the country spends $33 billion on weight loss products each year.
"This is the biggest epidemic among them," Taranov said of the obesity crisis facing the United States and many other developed countries. Today, more than one-third of the adult population in the United States is classified as obese, and nearly three-quarters are overweight. Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that 1.9 billion adults are overweight, including 650 million who are obese.
When Taranov and his colleagues started paying attention to the digital health market, they were surprised to find that there were very few players targeting the weight-loss segment. The market is dominated by WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers), which was founded around 60 years ago, and Noom, a digital platform launched in 2008.
Taramov believes that Able's success reflects the fact that it provides more than existing players. "People gain weight because they don't know much about what is good for them and how to stay healthy. We can close this gap by educating them and helping them track food intake and exercise," he said. "But in addition, we also provide one-to-one tutoring-a holistic service with personalized advice."
Taranov believes that it is the second element of the product that has won customers. With a monthly subscription of $40, they can access Able's coaches and they will provide detailed advice based on the various lifestyle factors they charge. "We must provide comprehensive services," Taranov said. "If you only sleep four hours a night, or drink less than one liter of water a day, there is no point in paying attention to your calorie intake."
Roman Taranov, founder of Ruby Labs
So far, the United States has a large number of markets and chronic obesity problems, which is naturally the priority market for Ruby Labs. But since the platform is digital, it is open to users everywhere. The company plans to launch a foreign language version of Able in early 2022, which will further expand its appeal.
Taranov also saw the potential to build a user base by adding new membership options. If customers don’t want guidance, they may soon get a reduced price subscription—and a "freemium" version is also being considered. "I think we can reach 30-40 million users in a few years."
This is not bad for companies that start from scratch and compete with some well-known brands. Ruby Labs is keen to expand its product portfolio in the health and welfare market. It is currently developing a new product that will focus on the user's mental health-Taranov believes this is another area of the global pandemic.
These are ambitious projects of London-based Ruby Labs, which only launched in 2018. Taranov used the funds raised from previous business investments in the payments sector to raise his own funds, although he is currently discussing fund-raising issues with potential investors, which will make the company more capable of building its brand value.
At the same time, Taranov has proven that the Ruby Labs team-now with more than 100 employees-has the capabilities needed to build mass market products. Their first product, Hint, focused on the astrology market; Taranov found that although this is a global $10 billion market, only 5% of its revenue is digital. Since launching personalized constellations and similar services, Hint has successfully attracted 50 million users.
This is a good example of Taranoff's method. He acknowledged that commercial operators generally recognize the increasing attention to health and well-being, but also believe that consumers are not getting what they want in the digital field. "Very few companies can provide what people really need," he said.
The test for Able will be whether it can retain customers and recruit new customers-it will depend on whether users get the results they want. Given that Able has just entered the market, it is still too early, Taranov admitted, but the feedback so far has been good, and many users have achieved their own goals. "Most people seem to report very good results after using Able for 30 to 45 days," he reflects.