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food and health

From winning the YES! prize to the marketplace

This young researcher’s story is one of success. And all thanks to the BCFN YES! Competition, which gave her the tools to develop her idea: an app rewarding physical activity with healthy food.

We were in Italy when we decided to apply for BCFN YES!. It was the summer, and what we had in mind was nothing more than a dream. Now, exactly two years on from that moment in July 2014, I look back and see something. I see a host of experiences, hundreds of new faces, a new company, and an impact. It’s astonishing just how fast things can happen if you have the right impetus and the right injection of confidence. The Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition brought me back to my native Italy after years of international studies. We were thrilled to be accepted into this unique community, which brings together young and experienced minds in the world of food and nutrition to create ties, work for a better food future, and share knowledge.

Two years ago our dream was called MindFood. It was nothing more than a questionable 10-slide pitch explaining the idea to reward people with healthy food for physical activity. It was an educational tool in the form of a mobile application. There was no real business model behind it, but we could envisage the impact we might get. Now we’re called Feat. We’re a company gathering, collecting, sharing and creating technology, people, lifestyles, wellness routines, healthy food, and community. We’ve made this tangible with the development of FeatApp, but our concept continues to evolve and expand to reach a broader audience.

Once we had the idea, we started to take action. BCFN YES! put us in the limelight, providing considerable media coverage and access to a great network. I believe it’s all about sharing and building the right relationships at the right moment: BCFN Young Earth Solution was crucial for this. In a few short months we found partners. I joined the Food Innovation Program. I embraced Design Thinking and we started prototyping. I learned to use what resources were available to put the idea into action. I took a pre-existing step counting app and asked my fellow Master colleagues to sign up. I kept them accountable for the steps they took each day, and compiled the data from the app. I ranked their positions and started offering small rewards for those with the most steps. I took Feat to the streets and shared my idea with passerbys to get feedback. I approached the first food vendors and asked if they would help contribute towards creating a stronger, healthier community and was surprised by how easily they got on board with my plan.

All of a sudden our idea was being validated. We then moved on from prototype to business plan to technical development. We involved outside sources to help create the initial beta-version of FeatApp. We tracked data incessantly, talked to users and shared the project with everyone we encountered. By October 2015 we had the first version of FeatApp available on the App store. It was exhilarating to see what could happen in just one short year.

But the official launch brought more investigation. I personally didn’t see FeatApp as something static. I wanted Feat to continue growing as a concept, and FeatApp to be a catalyst for change. Looking back at my experience, especially in making Feat a reality, I realized how important community is. I wanted to explore this aspect so we took Feat into the corporate world, testing out a pilot program with employees working in the same company, and using it not only as an incentive for better overall health, but as a team building exercise. I believe that every opportunity to take Feat into a new environment is priceless. I’m not saying that it is easy. It has been extremely hard. I’m not saying that it is perfect, but then maybe it doesn’t have to be. There are countless little mistakes we make every day and need to improve, but I like to think that making mistakes is a result of action. That making mistakes is just a sign of progress.

Now that the next BCFN Forum is about to start, I’m really curious, as an alumni, to see who will be this year’s finalists. In the meantime, we’ll continue to move forward into different fields. We’re exploring the technological side of things, trying to adapt FeatApp so that users can have the best experience for the most rewarding interactions. We’ll continue to track data, get researchers involved, and write down results. But most of all, we’ll continue to share, expanding our contacts and networks to enable Feat to take on different shapes and forms.

See you at the next BCFN International Forum on December 1st in Milan!

Chiara Cecchini (BCFN Alumni)
(Thanks to Duccio Tatini for the contribution)
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