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    Betchyu mobile app enlists your friends to bet for -- and against -- you nailing your fitness goals

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It's July. How are you doing on those New Year's resolutions? A free mobile app launching today called Betchyu promises to help you reach those long-sought-after fitness and wellness goals -- by using your friends to bet you can't do it.

    "Pick a goal. You want to lose weight. Exercise more. Run farther. Quit drinking. Now imagine someone betting that you won't do it. Do you feel that spark of indignation?" Betchyu says in a written announcement. "At Betchyu, your friends become your opponents." They aren't just sitting on the sidelines; they are invested in how you do. Or don't do.

    Because not only have you shared your fitness goal with your friends, you've bet them each at least $5 in gift cards that you'll make it. Fall short, and you pay up. "Using one of the oldest tricks in the book, the double-dog dare, Betchyu... increases accountability [and] engagement, and makes the entire goal-setting process more enjoyable," the company said.

    Betchyu Co-Founder and Chief Executive Adam Baratz, 25, was so certain that his idea would catch on that he moved back to Cleveland after graduate school in England specifically to start the business in his hometown. A native of Tel Aviv, Israel, he has a bachelor's in science from Cornell University and a master's degree in International Development Studies from the University of Cambridge.

    Baratz knew that not only would it be cheaper to launch his start-up from Cleveland, but that he would be able to tap into the city's enthusiastic support network for aspiring entrepreneurs. Bizdom, a start-up accelerator for technology companies in Cleveland and Detroit, gave him a $20,000 investment in return for an 8 percent stake.

    Cleveland is also where he met his Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Daniel Zapata, 21, a Houston native who just earned his bachelor's degree in computer science from Case Western Reserve University in May. Zapata, who has built a number of start-up web apps, was intrigued by Baratz's description of Betchyu on Case's Hacker Society listing.

    The two clicked immediately.

    "I'm a very technical person," Zapata said. "If you need something to be coded, I can do that. Adam has a large network of people who provide support, he has experience with management -- he's the one who hired our two interns this summer, and he's actually gotten some funding."

    Baratz and Zapata are co-hosting Betchyu's official launch party at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Market Garden Brewery, 1947 West 25th St., in Ohio City. That's the day Betchyu becomes available in Apple's App Store, and when Zapata turns 22. The event is open to the public, but space is limited.

    Here's how Betchyu works:

    1. A user downloads Betchyu's mobile app via its Facebook page: (the app is compatible with iPhones and iPads, but an Android version is coming).

    2. The user picks among the four goals he wants to accomplish: lose weight, quit smoking, run more or work out more. For example, "I will run 10 miles by July 30, 2014." (More goals are planned for future versions.)

    3. The user then chooses among the three merchants whose gift cards he will wager (, Target or iTunes) and how much he will ante up (from $5 to $100 per person). He pays for the transaction up front so there's no chance of backing out.

    4. He then invites his Facebook friends to download Betchyu and bet against him for the chance to win the gift cards. Those who accept also enter their credit cards, and Betchyu gets a certain percentage of those sales.

    5. Betchyu tracks the user's progress towards the goal, and also takes care of buying and sending the reward to the winner.

    "They're betting against you, but they want you to succeed," Baratz said. "We found that the social network provides the best motivation to change behavior." In an earlier test version of Betchyu, 24 of the 30 people who tried it met their fitness goals.

    He sees the potential to integrate Betchyu with wearable fitness tracking devices such as Jawbone or Fitbit, and make using those more like a game.

    "An idea is only as good as how you build it out," Zapata said. "We've spent a year on it, and gotten a lot of 'That's cool,' 'Seems useful, and 'I might try it.'"

    During development, "we've made, like, a million test bets," he said. "But [with Tuesday's launch], we're making an actual, putting-it-all-on-the-line bet."