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February 24, 2014

Channeling Chaos

Melissa Wingard-Phillips ’13 helps health and wellness startups grow and thrive.


Melissa Wingard-Phillips ’13 describes her work as shaping chaos into a productive force. “Every company has its share of chaos,” she says, “but in startups, there’s a never-ending list of things you could be doing and you have to prioritize. That’s as much about gut instinct as it is about science.”

Position
“Growth Hacker" for health and wellness start-ups

For her own gut instinct, Wingard-Phillips, in part, points to Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad class, in which students are told to “get out of the building” to learn directly from potential customers and partners. “I use the tools from that course every time I work with a start-up,” she says.

Why this field?
“It was about finding purpose. Healthcare is one of the biggest issues our country faces and needs more smart people working on it.”

These days, one of her clients is Atlas, a company scheduled to release its unique fitness tracker in December. The device, which you wear on your wrist, not only tracks your heart rate and how many calories you’ve burned, but from your movements it uses sensors to determine which specific exercises you’re doing. For example, it can tell you how many laps you swam or push-ups you did and it can help you analyze your form. Among fitness trackers, it puts “everything else to shame,” says Fast Company.

As a consultant, Wingard-Phillips has helped the start-up launch a wildly successful crowdsourcing campaign. Running from January 7 until March 8, the effort has already raised over $500,000 from more than 3,000 backers. For such success, Wingard-Phillips credits a willingness to experiment; Atlas has employed a host of tactics to spread the word, including a discount for military members and their families. “It has been an amazing ride,” she says.

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