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Featured on Apr 25, 2012

Jared Cocken

"There are few things in life as rewarding as a really fresh packet of Twizzlers."


Jared is an English designer living in New York. He's a self-confessed design and technology geek and has been creating things with computers since that fateful day in a sunny beer garden when his dad swapped a black and white portable television for a Sinclair ZX81* . He was recently appointed as Chief Product Officer at Fitocracy. He's very excited about it. Really. In fact, unless you enjoy three-hour long conversations about fitness, psychology and the importance of the quantified self for the betterment of a nation, you'd probably best avoid talking to him.

In former lives, Jared has been the Creative Director at top New York agency, The Wonderfactory (Time, National Geographic, Condé Nast, Google) and, back in the 90s, Co-Founder of London design shop WDM (MTV, Alexander McQueen, BBC, British Airways). WDM sold in 2001 with offices in London, Dublin, Portugal and Sydney. Some other career highlights include his job washing lorries (trucks) when he was 11 and a sandwich selling business he started with his neighbour when he was 15 so they could afford to buy tickets for Redding Festival to watch Public Enemy.

When Jared isn't wearing his tie, he dabbles in photography, film-making and is a keen collector of contemporary art and peanut butter.

He also has super hearing.

*Footnote: Your iPhone has 1 million times the RAM of a ZX81

What’s your favorite part about Fitocracy?  

That we're trying to do something meaningful. The debate around Healthcare Reform continues, but very little emphasis is placed on fitness as preventative medicine, especially in the US.  

As Chief Product Officer, where do you envision the product going over the next year?

To be successful at Fitness it takes knowledge, consistency, tracking and motivation. We're going to be addressing all four.

Knowledge: There's a paucity of effective fitness education and we'll be addressing that over the coming months. If you're a 40 year old mother looking to regain her pre-pregnancy shape, you're looking for different nutrition and exercise information to the skinny college kid who's trying to put on some muscle. The information needs to be contextual to your current fitness level and goals.

Consistency: The new app allows us to issue reminders to a user. If they missed a workout, Fred, our friendly robot, sends them increasingly sad messages to entice them to stay on track. We're also working with leading industry experts on building out routines that are easy to follow. If you remove the work of working out an effective routine, there's one less excuse.

Tracking: If you don't track, you don't improve. Tracking provides objective information about your progress. It will also allow us to match you with the right suggested friends, groups and routines.

Motivation: That happens two ways; the game mechanic, and the other players. First, on the game mechanic side, your effort is rewarded by a single attribute; points. Those points allow you to level up. For version 2.0, we'll enrich the experience by adding other (secret) attributes. Of course none of this works without other players. There's a reason that people work out with trainers, or partners. It's not just to show them how to perform a specific exercise, it's for the additional motivation, to be accountable to someone. We're introducing some fun new elements like 'Duels' that are going to help keep folks competitive and engaged.

Our success so far in the consumer market has garnered the attention of large corporations and the government. We want to work with them to bring Fitocracy to a wider audience. We want a fitter nation, and we're not going to stop until it happens.

What are three places that you’d like to go on vacation?

1. Big Sur - I just spent a few days in Monterey for Mike Hawley's amazing E.G. Conference. We took an afternoon hike down the coast, and I'm hooked.
2. Jake's in Jamaica - Simple, relaxed, unpretentious, friendly. I'd go back in a heartbeat.
3. Anywhere quiet. Suggestions welcome.

You recently joined the Fitocracy team as Chief Product Officer.  How has the transition from working at an agency to a startup like Fitocracy?  What have been the biggest adjustments you’ve had to make?

When you're working with an agency there are two points of contact for a team; the client and the users. Your time is split between working with the client and testing products with users. When you're working product-side, you take over the client's role. What are the business goals? Who are your target users? How will the product make money? What is your timeline? Your budget? The strategy? Of course, when you've answered those questions, you can get to the business of making the product more quickly. Need to make changes? Easy, your team is right there.

The only way you can effectively test a product is to ship it. You can user-test all you like with a small group, but nothing will let you know whether something is working effectively more than live data from your entire user base. Need to change something? You can. There are very few clients that would be willing, or able, to take that risk.

Another benefit of a startup is a flat organization structure. Everyone has their say, and information travels more quickly. Again, you can spend more time getting features out the door.

What is the hardest thing you ever had to do?

Move 3500 miles away from friends and family.

Web Designer, User Experience Designer, Product