Gaming the System: Q&A with James Dickerson of Leap

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Leap founders (l-r) Nick Cramer, James Dickerson, and Ryan Tinker

Hot new iPhone app Leap lets you create challenges for your friends, and then earn points by snapping photos of yourself completing them. Basically, it turns your life into a motivational game. A game that’s not only fun — it can make your life better.

James Dickerson, along with his business partners Nick Cramer and Ryan Tinker, created Leap as a motivational tool. The idea is simple, the possibilities limitless.

We asked James to tell us about Leap and why it’s struck such a cord with users.

Apple Gazette: What inspired the idea behind Leap?

James Dickerson: The idea was inspired by a couple different things. One is that we had an app prior to Leap that was meant to get employees working in the corporate world more engaged in a healthy lifestyle. However, we learned that people wanted to compete with their friends, not their coworkers, and they wanted to create challenges that were based around their interests, not just health.

Leap - challenge feed screen

Leap just launched at the end of February. What’s the response been like so far?

So far the response has been phenomenal. We’ve already acquired tens of thousands of active users and have learned so many ways that we can improve the product for the better.

There’s a kind of “video game” mentality at work in Leap: accomplish something cool or something important, and you get an “Achievement.” There’s no actual reward beyond bragging rights, but that’s more than enough for most people. What do you think it is about competition — even “friendly” competition — that makes for such a powerful motivator?

It’s such a powerful motivator to compete against people that you actually know. That’s why we are integrated so deeply with Facebook. I think that we as humans are naturally competitive. Challenges and competition are things that we’ve been doing forever, and Leap helps groups capture it.

Leap challenge winner screen

Early Leap challenges seem to be geared toward health issues and party-related activities. Do you have plans to promote it to other kinds of users? If so, what kinds of groups are you thinking of?

Our next release is going to greatly expand the types of challenges that we offer on the app. You’ll see various categories that will appeal to all types of users. From health, to travel, to more socially oriented challenges, there are going to be many more choices. I think this is going to help us spread the app into many of these niche communities.

What’s the weirdest or funniest Leap challenge that’s been held so far?

I can’t really say publicly since it’d probably be inappropriate! However, I’d say I got a good laugh out of a Planking challenge that popped up the other day.

Let’s talk Apple for a minute. What’s your favorite thing about working with Apple?

Our experience working with Apple has been great so far. I think my favorite part was the amount of downloads we saw when we were featured in the New and Noteworthy section.

Leap - create a challenge screen

On the flip side… If you could change one thing about Apple, the iPhone, or the App Store, what would it be?

It definitely takes a bit longer than I’d like to get through the approval process when you submit fixes and updates. We’re trying our best to take feedback and make the product better, but it can be slow at times.

Any plans to expand Leap to other platforms? Android? Web app? And if/when that happens, can we assume that users will be able to challenge other users across platforms?

Yes, we have plans to release our app on Android next, users will be able to challenge across platforms. We’re really excited because people have been begging us to get it out as soon as possible!

Picture of Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

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