When Eugene Baah ’97 worked as an investment banker in Manhattan in 2008, the former Ivy League basketball player noticed that he had put on 30 pounds since his playing days.
“I really wasn’t taking care of myself,” recalled Mr. Baah, who played for The Hun School, Princeton University, and then professionally in Italy for two years. A graduate of Stanford University’s business school, Mr. Baah left New York to head back to the West Coast. At a new, more flexible job at Microsoft in Seattle, he started getting back into shape, doing self- designed workouts, and pondering the age-old fitness question of how to stay motivated.
“I have always been really interested in what motivates people to exercise,” noted Mr. Baah, who worked on cloud computing and augmented reality at Microsoft, helping to launch Microsoft’s HoloLens. (The device is an augmented reality headset, that combines actual surroundings with projected figures, or holograms.)
After moving on to digital design company IDEO in San Francisco, he and former Microsoft coworker Guy Shahine decided to develop a website and app that would motivate people to exercise “on their own terms.” They created Resoltz, which keeps track of exercise stats showing a user’s improvement, and hooks them into a community of friendly competition with co-workers, classmates, or others. And Mr. Baah knew just the population to target.
“More than one-third of college students are overweight or obese,” he said. “Some avoid the gym because it’s too crowded, they don’t have time, or they are intimidated by the jocks,” he explained. Resoltz streams fitness videos to your screen, syncs with wearable devices, and lets students join a community while they get in shape.
Mr. Baah’s first client is Princeton University, where participants can log in with their university email. In addition to exercise, members can join challenges, such as not consuming sugar for five days. The app also offers content on staying healthy physically and emotionally. Universities pay a flat fee for the service.
In addition to Princeton University, Resoltz recently went live at Delta Community College in Stockton, California, a pilot for the state’s 112 junior colleges, which have a physical education requirement. And Mr. Baah is currently negotiating with a tech giant that is looking to motivate employees to live healthier in a fun and communal way. (Small groups and individuals can use the app, too.)
Mr. Baah himself has never lacked motivation when pursuing his goals. The son of immigrants from Ghana who moved to London, and then New York City, his family valued education. He came to The Hun School as a sophomore, and met basketball coaches Kevin Long and Jeffrey Goddell, who became mentors. College counselor and teacher Janet Kuenne, he said, “was caring enough to let me know there was another level, another gear, of achievement.” Senior year, he was accepted to several excellent colleges, but not the Ivies he was aiming for.
“That was my first real experience in dealing with rejection,” he said. “The question was, do I accept the cards I have, or do I try again?” He went to Princeton’s admissions office to ask why they rejected him. After a post-graduate year in which he improved his GPA, he got into Princeton and six other Ivies.
He continues to employ the strategy of asking those who reject him how to improve, and his resilience has paid off in many parts of his life. “The key is showing humility when asking,” he said. “When I overcame my fear of being judged and embraced the potential for negative feedback, I (grew) as a father and husband as well,” said Mr. Baah, who has two children and expects a third soon with his fiancée, Lindsey Smith. “It’s a strategy that I recommend.”