Joel Lieginger x The Future of Fandom

Paceline Founder & CEO Joel Lieginger on the Fusion of Financial and Physical Health

by The Future of Fandom

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The Fusion of Financial and Physical Health

On this week’s episode of the Future of Fandom, how’d you like to get paid for being fit? Today we predict the future with Joel Lieginger, Founder & CEO of Paceline. Paceline is pioneering unified wellness and giving its fans real compensation in exchange for their healthy habits. In a world where most consumers get rewarded based on expenditure, today we explore a future in which they can also and should be based on exercise.

Connect with Joel Lieginger on LinkedIn: 

Read more about Paceline: 


Here’s a quick sneak peek of this week’s episode:


Adam Conner (00:09):

Today on the Future of Fandom, how’d you like to get paid for being fit? My name’s Adam Conner, I’m your host. And today I actually have a way for you to do that, thanks to a company called Paceline. In particular, you’ll hear from Joel Lieginger, who is their founder and CEO. Paceline is pioneering unified wellness and giving its fans real compensation in exchange for their healthy habits. In a world where most consumers get rewarded based on expenditure, today, we explore a future in which they can also and should be based on exercise. It’s easy to agree that if a person spends their time with a business, that business should spend right back, but it’s rarely done this directly. And Joel describes why it should be that way going forward. Put this on while you go for a run maybe, as we predict the future with Paceline and Joel Lieginger. Hey Joel, how you doing? Thanks so much for being on the show. I hear it’s your first podcast. No pressure.

Joel Lieginger (01:20):

Thanks, Adam. Appreciate being here and look forward to the conversation.

Adam Conner (01:24):

I do want to learn all about Paceline of course. What people who use it can expect, what people who don’t use it should expect, the unified wellness movement. I’ll get to all that in just a second. First thing I want to ask you is just from looking at your Twitter profile, what’s a recovering insurance exec doing tiptoeing back into that game in the health world?

Joel Lieginger (01:45):

Yeah. A great question. I think one of the things that’s been happening a lot lately is the emergence of new technologies is allowing older industries and perhaps even more state industries to be able to reinvent themselves. And one of the last bastions of what I call as yet, undisrupted financial services is insurance itself. And in this case more specifically life insurance, but one of the things that is required to truly change highly regulated, highly complicated money industry is expertise. And so having spent nearly 20 years in the insurance sector, the opportunity to reinvent it for the next generation, obviously in this case through health and wellness, was almost good of an opportunity to pass up. After 17 years in the industry, I jumped out to create a new one.

Adam Conner (02:35):

Yeah. What specifically was about it that you wanted to change or evolve on? Because that’s a heck of a lot of time to be in one industry before making a change and a change to founding something, so I’d be curious what the Genesis of it all was.

Joel Lieginger (02:47):

The simple concept is that life insurance can and should be the payer of preventive health in society. And it’s really a pretty intuitive and you know, almost obvious concept, but if people live longer, that means that they’ll pay premiums to a life insurance company longer and they’ll claim less because they get sick less and hopefully, as they’re living longer, they die later. And that means that a life insurance company will make actually anywhere between three to five times as much money from that consumer. And if you are believing in that outcome, you can actually create a paradigm shift in the industry where actually the insurance company should invest proactively in creating that outcome and actually share that increased profit back with the end consumer itself.

Joel Lieginger (03:35):

And simply the business model exists to do that was enough to get me to change my career, to go try and achieve it. And the simple concept was there is product out there like a Strava or a MapMyRun or MyFitnessPal. There’s digital consumer engagement that can really lead to, through behavioral economics, better health outcomes for end users. What we know to be true is that money talks and we should, and almost are obligated to, figure out how to fix healthcare because healthcare is not healthcare, it’s sick care, but we can actually pay people to live a healthy lifestyle. You just need to bring the right business model to it. And life insurance knows how to do that.

Adam Conner (04:15):

It’s an interesting incentive misalignment that you identify there and you’re right. If I’m healthier, they make more money on me. Why shouldn’t I also share in the longer tail of that benefit and all you got to do is go to Hey listeners, if you haven’t yet, you should. Because the first thing you’ll see on that page is you should get paid to be healthy. Wow, that’s great. I don’t even have to do anything except well take care of myself. Haven’t heard of that elsewhere. And it’s also clear by scrolling down for two seconds that you also launched the first health and wellness credit card, which is interesting. I will get to that in just a second. First off, when you initially broke into this world, who were you going after and how has that changed over time?

Joel Lieginger (05:03):

I guess twofold. One is from a business model perspective, what we’re going after is the confluence of new technologies allows for us to better engage with consumers through very sticky means, right? Not just a sticky product, like an Uber or an Airbnb or a Strava, but actually a sticky business model, like an American Express. And ultimately if you can have really high engagement in a financial services product, like a credit card, which American Express platinum cards, now Chase Sapphire, Reserve and others have proven to be true, that people pay as much as $550 a year to get a perceived value a reward from being a member in this program, right? That is the same exact thing as paying an insurance premium to an insurance company, to be a quote unquote member. The problem is you don’t actually get anything every day or every week or every month in a return for that.

Joel Lieginger (05:56):

But you do from AmEx or at least you perceive that you do. And so if we can actually just blend those three worlds together, again, the power of a consumer product, like an Airbnb, Uber, or a Strava, with the power of a credit card engagement platform like America Express, but actually power it with the P&L power and financial power of insurance company, that will allow us actually go after and end consumer, right? Who we’re really going after is anybody who aspires to be more physically active and healthier next week than they were last week. We’re not going after athletes. We’re not after performance oriented individuals. We’re going after everyone because the Untied States of America spends 16% of GDP on healthcare. And again, that’s not healthcare, that’s sick care. And if you can actually reorient the power of that spend, not in economic waste, which is generally speaking again, more destructive because you’re trying to fix people who are already sick, spend it on keeping people healthy to begin with. That’s who going after.

Adam Conner (06:59):

And I’d be curious to know from your not only expertise here, but from your learnings over time, the extent to which financially conscious people overlap with health conscious people. They say that health makes wealth or wealth makes health. I think any intro to economics classes probably had that lecture, but what have you found to be the way in which you’ve enriched the relationships with your consumers and thus your fans by tying those two together?

Joel Lieginger (07:25):

Absolutely. Fantastic question. And that’s ultimately a question of causality, which in many ways is hard to unpack,

“Ultimately, the social determinants of both health and wealth are significant. And actually if you can take a step back and think about the increasing access and inclusion into financial services, by lowering the cost, ultimately lowering the cost in financial services is about better understanding and identifying risk. And both in credit cards and in life insurance, the true nature of the relative responsibility of the individual, which is what we’re trying to understand, is actually best looked at not by the track record of how much money I make or how often I pay the bills. It’s actually by looking at who they are individually.”

— Joel Lieginger (7:33)


Joel Lieginger (08:25):

And if we can actually identify healthy people who are, generally speaking, more responsible, but build a platform where we’re not just rewarding already healthy people who are the outcomes of a socially determinate system that is largely incorrect today, but build a dynamic one that allows everybody to lift themselves up just by going and being more physically active.

The correlation between healthier people, being more responsible, getting better access to financial services because they’re healthier and then actually the virtuous cycle that we create by giving them more money back in their pocket to go do the same, really fundamentally can change, not just the social health and individual health of people, but it can actually change the long term economic growth and trajectory of the entire economy because you’re actually reinvesting what is otherwise spent on sick care back into people being healthy to begin with. And that actually then drives increases in productivity, increases in better nutrition, increases in better output, increases in happiness.

Adam Conner (09:19):

Okay. The business case is clear here that this is a way to fundamentally disrupt this sick care, as you’ve said, and further cement the similarities, and in fact, the inextricable nature of those who are financially conscious and health conscious because that makes everybody better both individually and collectively. And now will get into the actual Paceline, what it is, for people who should know, but don’t today, how exactly does it work? And the reason why I’m asking that purposely broad question is to dive into a trend that I’m seeing, but I want to ask it secondary to your direct explanation of what is it?

Joel Lieginger (10:00):

Great question. And it’s quite simple, but if you just take a step down into the funnel now of what we just talked about, what we actually have to do to prove that people are being healthier is very science based in cardiovascular health. All of the studies out there that go back decades and decades and decades really do show that cardiovascular health is, this is an insurance term here, the number one predictor of all cause mortality. And so if we can actually understand your current cardiovascular health and then improve that going forward at scale, we can change societal health. What does that actually mean? That actually means doing 150 minutes of elevated heart rate activity each week.

Joel Lieginger (10:44):

And everyone’s heart rate is constantly calibrated and dynamic based on you. 10,000 steps is something that’s been around now for over a decade. And as Fitbit started first as a pedometer and it was trying to get people to be more physically active it was very easy to count steps. But steps for me, steps for you, steps for my mom, steps for your mom, 10,000 steps is not dynamic and it can mean very different things to each of us. If I go do 10,000 steps everyday, I am not actually living a healthier lifestyle because I happen to be a quite fit individual. But for me to go get an elevated heart rate minute because I happen to be fairly fit is quite difficult for me to do.

Joel Lieginger (11:24):

I actually have to go work out with a certain level of intensity, right? But anybody who might be more sedentary or even perhaps chronically ill, they can just get up and start walking and still have that 150 minutes of elevated heart rate be achieved just by doing a couple of laps up and down some steps or a couple of laps around the block. Whereas you could even have an endurance athlete who’s an iron man on the Paceline platform who to get his 150 minutes or her 150 minutes, they have to actually go out and do something with a certain degree of intensity. And we’re not the experts when it comes to this. What we simply do is reference what the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association have been saying for decades. And unfortunately we also know from the National Institute of Health that less than 18% of Americans actually regularly engage in this. And if we can simply just put behavioral economics with material, financial incentive, alongside of actual physical activity, that can be tracked at scale, we can make this happen.

Adam Conner (12:26):

And you needn’t be an expert in this world to understand that health, while on the overall spectrum is absolute, improvements are relative to everyone, as you say. No marathon runner putting in 10,000 steps is going to have close to the same health impact as somebody who may be chronically ill getting in 10,000 steps, and the rewards should scale and be relative as such. I get that. What’s fascinating about this world though, is being rewarded for healthy activity. Now, the reason why that is so interesting is not because it’s novel.

Adam Conner (13:00):

You said so yourself, getting that 10,000 steps has been around for a while and the reward may have just been mental rather than financial. But that construct has been around just for a little bit. However, customers getting direct rewards, I say a customers here because in this case, I guess they’re consumers of Paceline, but just people, let’s say, getting direct rewards for an action, which is not necessarily tied to a prerequisite expenditure to me is novel. Where else is that happening in the world? And by the way, I’m okay if the answer to this is it’s not happening. That’s why we’re doing in it, Adam. But I’d be curious because I don’t think that’s something that your everyday consumer can expect out of basically anything right now.

Joel Lieginger (13:43):

Yeah. I think the answer really is that it’s not really happening in a truly direct to consumer way with literally no existing infrastructure context or business model behind it. I think that’s something that we are pioneering ourselves and it’s never been done before. I think the places where the proxies exist or the corollaries exist, certainly exist in the employer world where most wellness platforms, just to use a generic term, exist today within large Fortune 500 employer health platforms where the primary beneficiary of trying to keep an employee healthy, isn’t actually the employee itself. It’s the company and the company’s reduction in annual healthcare premiums, that they pocket based on your increased activity. But because of those programs and platforms are built for ultimately the HR person to buy, they have extremely low engagement in adoption from the broader employee population, particularly the healthier employees. Most employer wellness programs are actually targeted at the already sedentary or chronically ill because that’s where the vast majority of healthcare dollars are being spent.

Joel Lieginger (14:57):

It’s on smoking cessation, diabetes management, hypertension, et cetera. But again, you can’t fix healthcare by only fixing the people who are already sick. You actually have to truly build healthcare for the first time by actually keeping healthy people healthy to begin with. And you can’t do that only in an employer construct. I think again, back the social determinants of health, the fact that good healthcare really is only accessible to people who work white collar jobs is bad. It’s bad for society. It’s bad for families. It’s bad for individuals. It’s not portable. There needs to be a direct to consumer health platform that actually rewards and incentivizes good behavior, but not penalize you, right. It literally just needs to be upside to get everybody moving to begin with. And in that construct, not only does our platform and our health and wellness credit card and where we go by bundling life insurance into it, that unlocks an immense potential.

Joel Lieginger (15:58):

And I use this example a lot, but if you’re going to change the future, a lot of companies, particularly startups, start out by building an employer version of that product because you can go just sell it to a number of a couple of big corporates and you can build a billion dollar business if we just rolled this out to Apple or we just rolled this out to another big company. But actually, if you do that, you ultimately limit the potential of what that business could be. And the best example of that is if you’re going to build a brand new thing, don’t build the Blackberry. Build the iPhone. Because Blackberry was so successful early on because it was enterprise based, but it was an inferior product. If you actually build an iPhone that is designed for the end consumer and delights the end consumer constantly, you’ll eventually dominate the market and truly create the category of what is now we know to be true, the only smartphone that really matters. We’re approaching the same thing by building a health and wellness platform in a brand new way to go direct to consumer.

Adam Conner (17:03):

Well, let’s peer into that direct to consumer future then, and let’s drive the democratization home. The movement, the business model, which you are pioneering is underpinned by this name, which I want you to define, which is Unified Wellness. This is at least what I’ve heard. Do you mind defining that for us or perhaps you just have, but I’d be curious to learn how you look at that as the overarching trend here, that via Paceline, you are the first to move in.

Joel Lieginger (17:32):

Appreciate the question. I think yes it is. We are trying to unify two things and that’s the traditional health world with one of the most important things in health that people don’t recognize, which is your financial wellbeing. And ultimately what is actually quite fascinating about just the definition of health, right now, healthcare as it’s defined, actually only treats disease and sickness, but the true definition of health isn’t, and this is actually the dictionary definition of health and particularly from the World Health Organization, is it’s not the absence of disease. The definition of health is the presence of physical, mental, and social health. And what we believe is necessary to truly unify wellness is to materially financially, incentivize that outcome.

Joel Lieginger (18:27):

And so to unify what wellness, we need to see the presence of physical, social, and mental health, and we need to pay people to achieve it. And that’s where Unified Wellness really brings in this financial angle. You can’t truly be well, if you don’t have good finances. You can’t truly be well, if you don’t have presence of physical, mental, and social health, and by increasing the access and inclusion to financial services products by better identifying risk and lowering the price of those products, we can actually do both of those things.

Adam Conner (19:04):

Well, let’s talk about getting paid then because as a consumer on the outside looking in, that’s fascinating to me. If I can keep fit, I want to get something for it and something real, not just the knowledge in my head that I am getting better. As part of the Paceline offering, my understanding is that there are more parties at play than of course just Paceline. There are wonderful partners out there who you are joining or who are joining you in this journey to provide these sorts of rewards. In that of course, Paceline as a platform, but it’s also working sort of as an aggregator brand here. Can you talk briefly to the power of those partners and maybe touch on how other businesses can be leaning in assuming that answer is beyond well, part of Paceline?

Joel Lieginger (19:49):

Yeah. Well, and I think this really goes to the future of Fandom type-

Adam Conner (19:53):

Thank you for dropping the name. Let’s go. Appreciate it.

Joel Lieginger (19:57):

Absolutely. That’s why we’re here, but it really does speak to the future of Fandom type platform, access and gamification of what really truly engaging through health and wellness means not just for us to be able to bring together or these historically disparate industries, but actually to change the way that brands market and position themselves to end consumers. Every brand out there ultimately wants to be able to be a part of your health and wellness journey. It is the most powerful way to engage with anyone because it starts with you living a longer, healthier, and better life. And so what we’ve done quite well is, particularly in the booming health and wellness industry, give exclusive access to our end consumer, to health and wellness brands that are equally rewarding them for that activity. And these affiliate marketing deals that are typically out there in every industry where you can go get a discount, you can go get a gift card, you can go get, quote unquote, value from a health and wellness company or any other company is not exclusive in nature.

Joel Lieginger (21:05):

And for people to really feel a sense of community, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of value, those things can be and should be exclusive. And particularly for us, not only do we give you hard dollar cash for working out, but we really want to foster this sense of your physical activity is in its truest form, your biggest asset. And so for brands to want to participate in giving you that value, it makes perfect sense. We on our platform because of the data that we get the privilege to work with because our end users give it to us. We know when you ran 300 miles on a pair of Nike running shoes that you now need a new pair and Nike is more incentivized than any other company on the planet to ensure that you go get another pair of Nikes and not switch brands.

Joel Lieginger (22:06):

What they want to do is engage with you through us to actually surprise and delight you with pair of Nike shoes, not just with a discount, but even perhaps drop shipped to you for free because we have all of that data to create an end used experience that is unparalleled in the marketing world before. And so this is the power of the platform, which is we can create and foster true fandom by leveraging high intent users through health and wellness who give us privileged access to their data, to continue to surprise and delight and further their health and wellness journey. And everybody wants to be a part of it.

Adam Conner (22:47):

I just want to repaint that picture in the eyes or the ears of the listeners here. Imagine that, and we’ll be as illustrative as possible, but your favorite athletic wear, the brand that you shop from already that you already like, through Paceline, maybe drops it at your door every year. I think about this, every year on my birthday, and it’s just because I tell my wife that’s my birthday gift. It’s what I want. I get a new pair of running shoes. True story. And how interesting would it be, and maybe more convenient for my wife, if instead I log a certain amount of miles and show those active minutes on my Paceline and boom, shows up in my door.

Adam Conner (23:29):

That’s a fandom and a relationship that I could get behind, one of surprise and delight. I get it in a microcosm. Let’s round this out by speaking a little more broadly to the future, but maybe just over 2022, because my guess is once word gets out across multiple industries and sectors and even businesses that this is the best way to engage with and incentivize people, we’ll see this model all over the place. For 2022, what do you expect for consumers to be future of their fandom of these types of organizations? Understanding of course, that you’re the leading edge of that.

Joel Lieginger (24:12):

I think that some of the biggest macro trends that are going to drive 2022 really do continue along the lines of, I guess, two big things. One is COVID and the pandemic has pushed every industry to digitize in ways that obviously many of the technology leaders have been doing for more than a decade now, but now everybody’s been forced to do it.

“What’s most interesting about better digital engagement isn’t just that you can have more frequent engagement and more eyeballs in a product, but actually it’s all ultimately about how do you actually add greater value to that end user’s life. And through direct user consent and permission to access their data and their most valuable data, which we’re very privileged to have both in terms of their health ad wellness and in terms of their financial lives, if you can actually have an end user trust you with that data, because the only thing you’re going to do with that data is what I call create added value, goods, and services back to that end user.”

— Joel Lieginger (24:35)


Joel Lieginger (25:16):

To me, that’s the future of everything. And you can see everybody moving in that direction. Every brand wants to figure out how to better engage digitally, but actually to exist with the end user out in the real world, in their natural course of their lives, organically as possible. And digital technology, truly the nature of AWS and native serverless architecture really does allow for the immense processing power of data to create hyper targeted and hyper personalized experiences. And back to us, if you can harness the power of health and wellness, but through a credit card actually deliver seamless rewards and redemption surprise and delight experiences because we know what you love most in life and we exist basically just to give it to you, that really changes the fundamentals of all engagement for all industries.

Adam Conner (26:18):

I think there will be plenty of change there to come and all good news for consumers. Once again listeners, you might as well all get rewarded for stuff that you’re already doing. And you know what, if you’re listening to this around the beginning of the year, my guess is that you’ve recently set a New Year’s resolution. My guess is that it also has something to do with your health. You might as well set up a reward mechanism for that. And thankfully, you’ve just listened to the story of somebody who is pioneering that journey in a real way, that’ll pad your wallet. For telling us that story, for sharing this world of unify wellness with us, and for helping me get paid for elevating my heart rate a little bit, maybe I’ll just do that later this afternoon. I’ll go out for a run and I’ll think of you. Thanks so much, Joel, for joining us and telling the Paceline story.

Joel Lieginger (26:58):

Thanks for having me. I really appreciate the time and look forward to staying in touch.

Adam Conner (27:05):

Thanks again to Joel Lieginger from Paceline for joining us. This really is the next step, or should we say 10,000, towards more closely aligning personal and financial wellness. And thanks to you, the listener, for exploring the Future of Fandom with us today. I’d encourage you to stay connected, so please do that. Subscribe to the Future of Fandom, wherever you listen to your podcast, or you can also find all our content at Across socials, we are on LinkedIn at LiveLike and Twitter at LiveLikeInc. I look forward to predicting the future again with you soon. Until then, I’m Adam Conner saying so long and thanks for being a fan.

Written By
Megan Glover
Content Manager
Written By
Megan Glover
Content Manager

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