For Lose It!, charging to shed pounds was a ‘scary’ gamble that’s paying off

Boston weight-loss company Lose It! has been helping dieters and picking up accolades for a while, including recognition by the Globe’s Scott Kirsner for making the most popular locally developed mobile application in 2011. But popularity and profitability are different things, and Lose It! has been far from the latter — until now.

Chief executive Charles Teague reports that nine months into the company’s experiment with a paid, premium service ($39.99 per year), Lose It! has signed up “tens of thousands” of subscribers and will soon announce weight-loss program partnerships with several Fortune 500 companies.

“We’re not [profitable] yet, but we’re not far off it,” Teague said. “We had a plan for this year that would make us almost profitable and we’re ahead of schedule.”

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Charging was “a really scary transition for a company,” he acknowledged, but one key to pulling it off has been brand identity. Teague emphasized that Lose It! is a weight-loss company, not a technology company. That’s an important distinction, he said, because 40 bucks a year is a bargain for a health program but a fortune by app standards.

“I wouldn’t say we compete against apps,” Teague said. “We compete against Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.”

The original, free Lose It! app still exists, offering users a convenient way to track calorie consumption and progress toward their goal weights. But the premium version tracks what Lose It! calls “advanced goals” — things like exercise regimens and carbohydrate intakes. It also interfaces with other fitness tools, like RunKeeper (which logs runs) and the Nike FuelBand (a pedometer/watch that monitors calories burned).

The real test for Lose It! is on the horizon. In the coming months, all those premium users will decide whether to renew their subscriptions.

“That’s when we’ll learn about the upward trajectory of our company and how do we goose it,” Teague said.