Innovation Challenge winners intend to transform workplace wellness

When Gary Schneider and Lucas Atwood started a virtual personal training company in college, they soon couldn’t keep up with the volume of training requests they got. After dealing with the struggle of putting together tailored workout plans for clients, factoring in health changes and monitoring progress all at once, they turned to Atwood’s brother, who has a Ph.D. in machine learning, with a question: Could they use artificial intelligence to do that work for them?

The answer to that question led to their company, Tr(ai)nstation, a data-driven corporate wellness application that provides individualized wellness profiles and prescriptions. The team — who fine-tuned their idea over seven years — won the 2022 Regis Innovation Challenge, hosted this spring on campus. 

The Innovation Challenge, which started at Regis in 2018, gives entrepreneurs the chance to compete for up to $10,000 and co-working space for their businesses. As part of the challenge, entrepreneurs meet with experienced mentors to hone their idea and compete in semifinals in the fall. The challenge culminates each spring in a Shark Tank-style competition where finalists are judged on the desirability of their product or idea, feasibility, viability and presentation. Second- and third-place winners received $5,000 and $1,000 respectively, as well as co-working space and mentorship.

With their win, Schneider and Atwood are on track to transform workplace wellness.

After perfecting their algorithm and consulting with Atwood’s brother, Sam, they needed to figure out where to put their new technology. They landed on corporate wellness, specifically in the health care industry, to solve a problem they both have seen play out before: A company introduces a one-size-fits-all wellness program for employees, only to see minimal results, or in many cases, not measure progress at all. Atwood, who graduated from Regis with his master’s degree in data science in 2021, said most wellness programs lack personalization.

“One of the things that happens routinely with these corporate wellness programs is they set up generic methods to measure progress,” Atwood said.

A company’s wellness program, for instance, might encourage participation in a 5K, but as Atwood pointed out, not everyone can compete in a 5K.

“A lot of these generic measures are just that: generic,” Atwood said. “We want to make it unique to the individual and encompassing.”

Instead of promoting a 5K, he said, the app encourages users to walk their dogs, play basketball at the recreation center, take a walk in the park — any activity that fits into their lives. By tracking those types of activities in the app, they can create more opportunities for progress.

“One of our big focuses was making sure that not only did we have the exercise component figured out, but we also have a heavy emphasis on behavioral health and making sure we understand the person first and bring a solution that's relevant to them,” Atwood said. “There are lots of ways to make exercise more fun and less monotonous.”

For Schneider, the ultimate goal is to be part of a shift in health care toward meeting needs proactively rather than reactively.

“In the long run, one of our big goals is really bringing health back to health care,” he said.

Schneider and Atwood faced strong competition from their fellow Innovation Challenge contestants, each of whom walked away with cash to grow their business.

This year’s other winners were: 

Tied for second place:

EquaTea – “A social impact business that shares equity with farmers and others in the tea supply chain. We provide premium tea products to customers and pay farmers equitable rates to sustain their livelihoods. We dedicate 10 percent of our profits to partner with farmers in advancing sustainable community development and environmental and wild animal conservation.” The company currently is working directly with farmers in the Imenti region of Kenya and hopes to expand to other parts of Kenya and other countries.

The MindShift Game – “A powerful self-guided coaching system that will give people the tools to achieve their dreams. It is a comprehensive system based on the power of affirmations that offers a physical board game, a Facebook community, and a membership site.”

Third place:

Little Bear Mills – “A mobile grain mill to bring grain cleaning and milling services directly to growers and end users. The mill will also be modular to allow us to tailor equipment loads to specific customer needs.”

Learn more about the Innovation Challenge at Regis.