Saks Snacks #8: Headspace Health Merger, Inclusive Digital Health + Wellness Platform, and Bangalore-based Metabolic Health Start-up
This Week's Snacks: Healthcare access in Hispanic communities | Creating the "most accessible, comprehensive platform | Churn, retention, and vanity metrics? | Another Diabetes Management Series B
Happy Sunday to my favorite health tech fanatics!
Below are the 3 health tech snacks we’ll explore today:
🤑 Startup Scene - digital health platform for U.S. Hispanic population
🤝 Mindfulness Merger - one of the most fascinating mergers in digital health (Headspace + Ginger)
💰 Capital Raise Radar (Series B): Bangalore-based Metabolic Health start-up with a different approach
📖 Read of the Week
🎙️Pods of the Week
🤑 Startup Scene
MiSalud Raises $5M To Launch a Personalized Digital Health and Wellness Platform for U.S. Hispanic Community
MiSalud, translating to “My Health” in Spanish, aims to make healthcare more inclusive by offering personalized healthcare services and traditional healthcare via Spanish-speaking physicians through its mobile app and platform.
The pandemic highlighted many longstanding problems with healthcare access in Hispanic communities. According to the CDC, Hispanics were nearly three times as likely to be hospitalized from Covid-19, and 2.3 times as likely to die from the virus. Longstanding inequalities in the healthcare system also contribute to Hispanics being 23% more likely to be obese, 24% more likely to have uncontrolled hypertension, and an astounding 50% more likely to die from diabetes.
While there are hundreds of English-first digital health services, even the translated services still carry their English-first bias.
MiSalud aims to combat these inequalities by making culturally-sensitive medical and wellness services available in real-time, in the patient’s native language, via its mobile platform.
Tech can enable us to enter the golden age of precision, personalized medicine.
I’ve mainly written about this in the context of healthcare, but all of the best tech solutions must be personalized. In past Saks' Snacks, we’ve explored this: personalized health dashboards (Gyroscope in edition 5), personalized adaptive commentary to your performance (FitXr in edition 4), Nutrisense’s personal coaching in edition 5.
While personalization is table stakes for innovative health products and services, language and cultural relevance are also foundational elements that can’t be understated.
I hope and expect to see more diverse ventures focused on bringing health equity at scale, like MiSalud. MiSalud is currently in closed beta and will launch publicly later this year.
🤝 Mindfulness Merger
This week, Headspace (meditation) and Ginger (teletherapy) signed a definitive agreement to merge as Headspace Health to expand their list of services.
Ginger and Headspace will merge to meet escalating global demand for mental health support. The combined entity, called Headspace Health, will be the world’s most accessible, comprehensive digital mental health platform.
The “escalating global demand for mental health support” and hardships of the pandemics are only starting. There are a mere 100,000 therapists to meet the needs of approximately 50,000,000 U.S. adults with mental illnesses.
I’m worried, and you should be too. I’m optimistic, and you should be too.
I’m optimistic because this new platform will make mental health treatment more accessible than before, and because we’re figuring out how to create digital offerings and coaching that drive meaningful outcomes. Andrea Niles, Co-founder & chief science officer at Youper AI, believes the same.
From a business perspective: Why now, and what are the upsides/downsides?
Upsides: There are undeniable brand synergies that each company can benefit from. In theory, the merger can turn Headspace Health into a flywheel business with a low entry price point via Headspace, leading to upselling mental health coaching via Ginger.
The size and “early” momentum built by Headspace could allow them to capture new opportunities for growth and maintain market share as new entrants uniquely try to solve the sector’s complexities with >$1B in VC Mental Health investments.
However, Headspace must improve user churn and retention metrics as they make pushes to IPO (my speculation). Per an expert in App Optimization, Headspace’s average churn rate is above 75%, which is “worse” than average 90d churn rates of ~ 72%. Their retention rate is below 20% and decreasing, and the merger might help them chip away at these declines.
These are some of the real, non-vanity growth metrics that will help determine whether Headspace Health can redesign its offerings to actually help its users.
While user churn and low user retention are common in the meditation space, some of Headspace’s declining metrics are worrisome.
Regardless of the incentives driving the merger, I believe cooperation among large platforms like Headspace and Ginger present win-win opportunities. As the most prominent players gain learnings (and data) about what actually drives meaningful health outcomes, cooperation will help improve and create truly comprehensive mental health offerings.
💰 Capital Raise Radar
Ultrahuman, the metabolic fitness platform, raised $17M in series-B funding, aiming to help over a billion people in the world suffering from a metabolic health disorder.
Another player enters the glucose management game, but with a slight twist.
Unlike other prominent competitors in the CGM Space (Levels, Nutrisense, Supersapiens, January.ai, to name a few), Ultrahuman is positioning itself as a comprehensive “fitness” subscription, incorporating workouts, mindfulness, and sleep in one platform.
Ultrahuman’s subscription uniquely contains over 200 sleep sessions, guided meditations, workouts, guided nutrition plan, a music collection for sleep, focus, relaxation, and a unique biofeedback integration with Apple watch. Its app aims to help boost users’ metabolic fitness by incorporating other parts of health, including sleep, meditation and exercise to its technology.
Users are able to get health nudges and insights about diet and exercise.
While Ultrahuman’s approach is different, the hardware that’s measuring blood sugar levels is the exact same as other competitors, the FreeStyle Libre.
I love this concept in theory but am a bit skeptical if they’ll be the company this early that develops and delivers the most powerful insights that will deliver outsized value to their customer base and improve the product.
The future of fitness and wellness solutions will take an integrated approach to health and the app’s ability to focus on specific areas (workout + mediation) is in line with fitness trends (Peloton rapidly expanding product/service suite) and software trends (iOS 15 offering a “focus” tool to let users create custom focuses at different times of the day).
Looking forward: I expect to observe and report back on several more ventures aiming to use tech for diabetes management and am excited to see an India-based company productize.
📖 Read of the Week -
CGM’s for professional athletes - The director of player development for a professional baseball team on how CGM can maximize performance for pro athletes—and the rest of us
How can wearing a CGM can help professional athletes?
What CGM has done is to take the blindfold off. I say this to our coaches and athletes: Tech has given us the ability to coach with the lights on. I’ve been in the training field for 15 years and the education part is super tricky—this helps.
Baseball is a grazing sport. We’re in a clubhouse for 7 hours a day with basically whatever food you can think of readily available. And you can eat in response to however you’re feeling—happy, sad, bored, etc. I find that I fill my gas tank up too much so that it overflows, and I have athletes that do that. But baseball is also a unique sport in that you have to be ready to sprint as fast as you can for 4 to 16 seconds at any given time. How do you fuel for that? People knock baseball athleticism and energy system capacities, but I challenge people to take 50 ground balls before a game or take 100 swings before a game or play 9 innings at third base and see how they feel. What we can help teach our bodies is metabolic flexibility. Our guys need to be able to burn fat for long-standing energy but also be able to burn sugar effectively when they need to sprint during the game
🎙️ Pods of the Week - a few of this week’s listens
Sam Corcos, Levels Co-founder discusses creating a whole new product category centered around metabolic health, changing the way the world interacts with food. A few takeaways (of many):
On hiring: “Hiring is an emotional burden more than time investment” - and he proves it with data after logging every minute of time as a CEO
Similar to the early Tesla product (making an electric car), the CGM hardware is really expensive now, but this won’t always be the case
Problems get out of hand without tight, effective feedback loops
Sridhar Ramaswami, Co-founder and Ceo of Neeva (ad-free search engine) shares his view on the potential end state for ad-based search engines, and how his past experiences / 15-year career building Google’s ad business.
Endnote & Calls to action
Thanks for reading! How’d you like this week’s edition? Did you appreciate the depth and thoughts on each venture, or do you more variety to skim with shallower analysis?
Let me know! As always, I welcome any feedback and hope to hear from you.
Calls to action
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Until next time,