Any gamer will tell you that when you’re deep into the action of your video game, exercise is the last thing on your mind. This was particularly true for avid gamer Yash Jain, who experienced many days where he couldn’t bring himself away from the console. “Any time I spent away from the game felt like a waste,” he says, “my character’s level and gear meant more to me than my own health.”
This motivated Jain to create an app that would not only tackle the health crisis in the gaming space, but would incentivize people with gaming rewards. He is the founder of Hero Trainer, a free mobile app where users can earn rewards in dozens of games on all major consoles just for collecting steps. “The goal of Hero Trainer is two-fold – tackle obesity in the gaming space and rebrand the identity of gamers,” he says.
Jain boasts an impressive resume of qualifications, with an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering, a masters in biotechnology and engineering entrepreneurship, and a masters of business administration. But despite his brilliant technical background, he found himself in a completely different career space. “Strangely enough, my previous work experience had nothing to do with gaming or fitness,” he says. He worked at a cancer pharmaceutical startup company, where it was his responsibility to identify global partners that could help take their drug to market.
But in November 2019, he decided to try his hand at a new hobby: designing games. “I always envisioned myself one day starting my own gaming studio,” he explains. Due to the demanding nature of his work balanced out with his personal life, he never had an opportunity to explore this area of interest, but took a few classes on the weekend. But finding a career in the gaming industry still felt like “fantasy” to Jain. “I never thought the foggy dream would become a refreshing reality,” he says.
Saving For a Rainy Day
Throughout Jain’s professional career, he was putting savings into his “rainy day fund”, though he says it was more like a “healthcare fund” after he was diagnosed with generalized seizure disorder around three years ago. “Any trip in the ambulance, all the tests, and procedures were always expensive, especially living in San Francisco,” he says. He remembers one occasion where he had to negotiate with the emergency medical technician to take him to a non-private hospital to reduce the bill. “I never imagined using my funds for vacation or anything else because I was always worried about being able to take care of myself.” Prior to Hero Trainer, Yash’s only experience in app development was during his undergraduate degree, where his team created an app that could detect seizures 10 minutes before they occurred. At the time, he had no idea that he himself had epilepsy.
Eventually, that whisper in the back of his mind daring him towards his dream career, became a voice he couldn’t ignore. He decided to invest his savings into his brainchild that was Hero Trainer. “You must be asking why did I put my rainy day money into a startup? It sounds grossly irresponsible. It was, but remarkably it had the opposite effect.” In an unbelievable side effect, Jain hasn’t experienced a single epileptic episode in about 10 months. “It was a combination of finally getting a medicine that worked for me and being truly passionate about my work,” he says. “I sometimes think to myself that my episodes were my body’s way of telling me to change jobs”.
Despite Jain experiencing “major hiccups” in the early stages of the app, including what he says was a “horrendous” alpha launch, making just 5% of his kickstarter goal, and having people close to him try to lower his expectations, this didn’t change his trajectory. Since the app’s launch in April 2020, users have walked more than one billion steps, with one person losing over 30lbs. Not only this, but Jain regularly receives numerous messages from users, praising the app for its instrumental part in kick-starting their new active lifestyle. The results have been just as impactful on Jain as they have for the users. “It truly helps me get out of the bed every morning, he says. “It feels like an addiction. I am excited to run to the computer to hear about the progress from everyone in our discord channel.”
Despite Jain having some confidence wobbles in the early stages of the app, even applying for new jobs during the pandemic, the prospect of returning to regular work motivated him even more to give Hero Trainer everything he had. “I remember listening to one of my professor’s talk about each day being in a startup is the best day. It’s not when the acquisition happens. I feel like I can savor the moment everyday without having to look back at my life.
“I don’t imagine I would ever be able to return back to a regular job after this experience.”
Find out more about Hero Trainer here.