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Featured on Feb 23, 2011

Richard Talens

"[Insert lengthy, potentially fake sounding story here]. True story."


When I was a kid, I used to be the spitting image of the chubby Asian kid from Up, except a lot rounder. One day I decided to trade in my video game time for gym time and became a bodybuilder. I went to Penn, where I majored in business but spent much of my time in school obsessing over the fitness domain (my inner closet geek still thought of the gym as time I spent "leveling up" my character). After I graduated, I went to work for comScore as a product manager for a year, but the startup world soon came calling and I co-founded Fitocracy with Brian. Oh I also founded and owned a cupcake bakery at some point in Philadelphia. Really random, but true story.

  • Title: Fitocracy Co-Founder/CTO/Chief Muscle
  • Age: 24
  • Location: Brooklyn, Clinton Hill
  • Contact: @RichardTalens

Your app Fitocracy just launched its private beta recently, what are some things you've learned from your users that you could never have predicted? Have you determined when you're going to launch the public version of your site?

Coming into Fitocracy, we knew the marriage between fitness and gaming was a good one, but until listening to our users we didn't realize that they were a match made in heaven. We knew that users would definitely be motivated to log their activity in order to compete with their friends. But we found out that our users literally changed their day-to-day habits, just so that they could earn points and level up. We recently had a user request that we let people earn points for taking the stairs, so that he could do that instead of taking the elevator. Quoting a Fitocracy user's comment on Reddit, "Btw, everyone, I have managed to lose 5 lbs since I started at Fitocracy. I make it to the gym every day because I feel the need to start leveling." Right now, Fitocracy is a moving target. We're changing many of the game mechanics behind Fitocracy based on user feedback so the game is constantly evolving. Once we feel that everything is just right, we're going to release publicly and start to scale.

You went from working with C#, .Net, and the Microsoft stack at your full-time job to building Fitocracy on Python and Django, how was that transition for you? Do you have any advice for those wishing to do something similar?

Moving from C#/.NET to python/django is like spending time in a luxurious New York hotel (open bar), only to be thrown into an island with hungry... well... pythons chasing you around. I'm mostly kidding, but that's similar to how I felt switching IDEs. Going from C# to python wasn't that bad -- I actually think I prefer python, but losing all of the tools that Visual Studio provided makes me feel very cold and want to check into rehab. The great thing about django/python is that it has an amazing community. People switching just need to get accustomed to an inferior IDE, but once they do that, there are a lot of perks to working in django/python.

What are some of the pros and cons of living with your co-founder, Brian? Many successful businesses have been built on an existing trusted friendship, but would you recommend being roommates as well?

I think living with a business partner could either go really good or really bad. On the plus side, you can work way more hours together than co-founders who don't live together. However, being business partners is enough strain on a relationship, so being roommates may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Brian and I have a unique relationship in that we've worked together in a high-stress situation before. While at Penn, we did a bodybuilding contest together and spent 24/7 with each other's company. To those who don't know what that entails, it's a lot of dieting, starving, stress, and being annoyed with everyone all the time. At the start, we fought a lot, but we were forced to either learn how to communicate and work together, or cease being friends. Because we learned to work well together and not push each other's buttons, we can literally spend all of our time together working on Fitocracy. Even when we're grabbing lunch or working out, we're always war planning, and that gives us many more hours in a day than our competitors. It does get a bit weird though when I hear Brian talking in his room... I'm pretty sure he's not on the phone.

What do you think the market size is for people who are serious about role-playing games and fitness? How much does someone who thinks "this smith machine gives me +3 STR" spends on video games and fitness-related items per year?

Looking at just the market size of our target customer alone -- it's huge. We're talking about all 18-35 year old males who play video games and want a better physique to impress the ladies. In other words, all 18-35 year old males. Looking at someone who is already a "+3 str smith machine" geek (like myself), they already spend $600/year in gym fees, $300/year in supplements (I personally spend way more), and $300 on video games (more now than avg. spend on music). They probably spend $1200/year, which I feel is conservative.

Technical Lead, Python Developer