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Change Collective, formerly Revv, raises $1.4 million to upgrade self-improvement

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 22, 2014 08:00 AM

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Ben Rubin says he "was your standard startup CTO" a few years ago: "a little overweight, working really hard but not efficiently, and kind of stressed."

But thanks to some advice from authors and experts who taught him about the paleo diet, CrossFit, inbox zero, and GTD, Rubin says he lost weight and became much more productive. (He chronicled the transformation on a blog called BecomingAwesome.com.) Now, with co-founder Derek Haswell, Rubin has a new startup, Change Collective, that wants to help others engineer changes in their own lives, using that ever-present smartphone. (In the photo, Haswell is on the left, Rubin on the right.)

The startup has just raised a $1.4 million seed round from local firms Founder Collective and NextView Ventures, along with New York-based Eniac Ventures. It's also part of the new TechStars Boston cohort that will be announced tomorrow.

"It's built into our DNA to turn to experts and gurus for advice, but we felt those people were getting left behind in the world of apps," says Rubin. "The emotional connection they created that led to real change wasn't integrated into these digital products."

Change Collective will be serving up material from experts like Ari Meisel ("The Art of Less Doing"), JB Glossinger ("Becoming an Early Riser"), and Chris Kresser ("Your Personal Paleo Code"). The platform blends text messages, web content, and short videos. A course from Happier founder Nataly Kogan called "Everyday Grateful" begins with a text message asking the participant to "share with me one thing that you're grateful for right now."

So far, Rubin and Haswell have been building Change Collective as a mobile website, but they say that native apps are in the works. As for the business model, Rubin says, "We want people to pay for it. There will be free courses and free trials, but we want to get the best experts and get really good buy-in from people taking these courses, so it will be priced somewhere between a book and a seminar. And we intend to share a very healthy portion of revenue with the expert."

Rubin and Haswell earlier worked together at Zeo, a Newton-based pioneer of the "quantified self" movement that that sold a device for monitoring sleep. (Zeo shut down last year.) The pair began working together last January, initially under the name Revv. Rubin says they "churned through a bunch of ideas, talking to hundreds of customers about different problems." Rubin says the company hopes to hire several engineers, customer acquisition staffers, and content producers over the next few months.

As someone who had started a company and raised venture capital before (Zeo banked more than $30 million over its life), Rubin says he initially didn't think he'd want to participate in an accelerator program — and part with a portion of Change Collective's equity. But "we have a new product and a new brand, and most of the TechStars companies here are in the same position. We think there's a ton to learn from the collaborative environment."

TechStars Boston, previously based in Kendall Square, just moved into its new digs in Boston's Leather District over the weekend.

Update: Here's a blog post from NextView partner Lee Hower explaining why his firm decided to back Change Collective.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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