We sat down with Destin Bell, the Co-Founder and CEO of Card.io, to learn more about his new app that's inspiring people all across the world to reconsider their perception of cardio, keep runners safe, and making staying active a lot more fun.
Destin, great to meet you. Let's start by telling everyone a little bit about yourself...
Likewise! I'm a 24-year-old entrepreneur born and raised in Kentucky. From a young age, I knew three things: I was broke, I wanted to make money, and I had a problem with authority. These three things led me down the path into entrepreneurship, starting from selling candy at school at 11 years old. I graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Marketing in May 2020, during which time I spent more time learning about business than attending classes.
After graduating in the middle of the pandemic, I found myself jobless and sleeping on my dad's air mattress. One day I decided to pack up my things and move to Austin Texas without a job, family, or a place to live. Over the last two-ish years, I've created successful ventures in real estate, B2B SaaS, content creation, and now--the cardio fitness space.
We respect the hell out of that. Congrats on all your hard-earned success, it's well-deserved. So tell us about Card.io and how it all works.
Card.io is a gamified movement app turning outdoor cardio into a community-based game of team turf war. Users can join or form teams and claim or steal the areas of town they walk, run, or bike through from other players in their city, all while still tracking stats like mile pace, distance, and calories burned.
I have more questions, but first, how'd you get the idea for the app?
I got the idea for the app during COVID. I like fitness, but running for running's sake was always a struggle for me. I looked at an app like Pokemon Go and how it got people who hated cardio to walk miles on end every day and it made me wonder if it were possible to do that for a cardio fitness-focused app. Flash-forward some two years later and the idea eventually became a giant app-based game of turf war through walking, running, and biking.
I love when digital products are used to promote getting outdoors more. Off the cuff, Card.io kind of sounds like an infinitely more immersive form of Strava's Local Legends?
Way more immersive, and inclusive! Strava segments are cool, but are hyper-focused on areas dedicated runners are going to and running on a near-daily basis. Unless you're a super athlete, it's rare that you'll ever work your way up to be a Local Legend (LCL). In addition, LCL is all about individualist competition. We've found that more than the competition, many runners, especially those in run clubs, are interested in collaboration among their group and competing against other groups.
With Card.io, our focus is taking all movement (whether it be walking your dog or running a marathon) and giving people the chance to "win" whatever area of town they move through for their team - the team being their friend group, alma mater, run club, gym, or any other group they want to claim their city for! Pace doesn't matter, and the entire map is a claimable block rather than very specific, high-traffic areas being the only places of interest! The idea is to make any movement no matter how small--feel fun, impactful, and hopefully habit-forming.
Couldn't agree more. Your boy has to be creating segments down back-alleys in Greenpoint no one would ever think to run just to get LCL status. I also love the team approach-makes it so much more fun.
With all-too relevant concerns around runner safety, most especially for women, how do you approach privacy and safety today?
Privacy is one of our biggest focuses with this, especially for our ladies on the platform. Our primary investor and advisory group created Pokemon Go and they have deep knowledge on the subject having dealt with similar issues at scale and have given us a litany of ideas to ensure safety. A few ways we establish safety: Every player must be on a team, so that way instead of "Rachel" owning her neighborhood, it's some user from "Bandit Running" as a whole (much harder to track down).
We have the ability for expanded views for specific blocks to see who specifically on the team owns that block, but the default for this is anonymous - players have to specifically toggle it on to show their username (if they want to).
Anonymity is our primary focus on all activities. Users have the ability to hide behind being part of a team, can use a username instead of their real name, and their profile only displays the city at large they own blocks to, rather than specific blocks. Additionally, if users toggle "ghost mode", their digital footprint on the entire map will be made anonymous for any user-public information.
We also don't show blocks flipping in real-time. Other users will only see the map change when someone's completed their activity, not during. To add to this, we've made sure each block is meaningfully large enough (~500 sq. ft), so even if you claim a block, pinpointing where you are exactly is mitigated.
Sounds like you're off to a great start and it's awesome to see this level of thoughtfulness incorporated into the earliest versions of the platform.
One more big question for you: there seems to be a slightly toxic underbelly of fitness tracking apps (i.e., comparing yourself to others) that can be discouraging. How does Card.io focus on gamifying for good?
Our whole goal with Card.io is to create a community that exists outside of that toxic underbelly. For better or worse, Strava and similar apps have created an environment where everyone feels like to use it they have to be an athlete with long-distance runs and great mile splits. Our app is focused on rewarding any movement, which is specifically why we're branded as a "movement" app, not a cardio fitness app.
Our hope is that we can shift people's perception of what cardio is from being long, fast runs, or endurance bike rides, to say, a 30 minute walk with their dog. Our social sharing isn't centered around speed, distance, or calories burned - it's centered around blocks captured and your impact on your team's collective success. Even if one person is a marathoner and another is a dog walker, both get the dopamine hit of claiming a few blocks from other teams and contributing to the collective goal of the groups and people they feel connected to!
This is what it's all about! Final question. Any great user stories yet?
My favorite user story would be our first true beta user. When my co-founder and I first started building and launched our website, we got a chatbox entry from some guy asking about when it would be active. We were months away from even having the private beta ready for testing, but we figured we'd add him to our waitlist. Turns out this guy lived in Italy and doesn't speak a lick of English. The only way he was able to chat with us was by texting us in Italian and we'd use Google Translate to read it and respond back.
To this day, he's the 2nd largest turf claimer in the world, with over 4,500 blocks captured (over 900 miles), and the only person overseas we rendered the game map for because of how passionate he was about it.
Well, we're psyched to own our turf here in Greenpoint. Thanks so much Destin!
Download Card.io from the App Store and join team Bandit Running today.