Startup Spotlight: Wellable

February 22, 2016

This week Shaan Gandhi – Chief Medical Officer of Wellable talks to us about their mobile health solution that helps employers encourage employees to integrate health and wellness in their daily lives. Best advice he got early on? To draw a concept map to understand the difference between ‘who benefits from your product’ vs ‘who will pay for your product’. For Wellable, that was a game changer.

GH: What is Wellable?

Shaan:  Wellable is a mobile health solution that enables employers to deliver a comprehensive health and wellness strategy for their employees while allowing them to use their preferred smartphone apps and wearable devices. By working with Wellable, employers can empower their employees to integrate health and wellness into their daily lives.

GH: How did it get started?

Shaan: We’ve all worked in large companies that have health and wellness engagement programs, but we noticed that it was extremely hard to participate in them. From filling out paper forms to entering numbers into an online portal, it was much easier to ignore the program (and giving up the incentives in the process!) because of the administrative burden. We got to thinking-why couldn’t we use the fitness trackers on our phones? If we could buy things online using mobile apps using one press of a button, why couldn’t we participate in health and wellness programs through our favorite fitness app or wearable? We started Wellable soon after that realization and began testing prototypes among our friends and family within months.

GH: What was an obstacle you had to overcome?

Shaan: We focus on the small-to-medium-sized enterprise (SME) market because most providers of health and wellness products tend to be too expensive and complex for SMEs. With our off-the-shelf, lean, scalable product, SMEs could easily integrate a health and wellness program with little administrative complexity and at a low cost. We felt our value proposition was sound, but convincing our customers to purchase was challenging at first. Most SME human resources departments are small and overworked, and their vendor contracting sales cycle often lasts longer than a year. They grasped the value of our service, but converting those interested customers into actual ones took determination and many hours of phone calls and meetings. Progress was slow at first, but over time, more customers came to us and our sales began rising quickly!

GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
Shaan: Integration and deployment are of paramount importance, especially for SMEs that don’t have a large staff to help troubleshoot issues. Across the entire healthcare IT space, the product can be beautiful and effective, but if it isn’t working for the one device that a particular user has or the data aren’t transmitted quickly enough, users don’t want to use the product. While we have designed an amazing product, we spend >80% of our time ensuring that our users have a tight, integrated experience with Wellable every time they use their fitness app or wearable.

GH: What has the Boston/New England ecosystem provided you?

Shaan: The Boston tech ecosystem is full of smart and experienced mentors that have personally overcome the challenges that startups like Wellable face on a regular basis.  By leveraging their shared experiences and mentorship, we have been able to anticipate and manage through these obstacles.  Specifically, our participation in PayPal’s Start Tank incubator afforded us access to a large network of entrepreneurs whose counsel helped get us where we are today.  We are thankful to all those people who volunteered their time to make Wellable and other startups a success.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

Shaan: The healthcare space, especially the healthcare IT space, is complex because of the number of participants and the multiple interests (often conflicting) that they have. When we were starting Wellable, one of my mentors sat me down and made me draw a concept map, with our perceived customer at the center and all the other potential actors around it with lines listing the connections. He asked me two questions: “Who benefits from your product?” and “Who will actually pay for your product?” If the answer to both those questions isn’t the same, something has to change. We stared at that concept map for weeks before figuring out the right customer strategy, and the rest is history.

 

GH: What’s the most exciting thing that happened to Wellable in 2015?

Shaan: Our partnership with the Clinton Foundation, in which our technology is used to reduce health disparities through engagement around wellness, took a major step forward with the expansion of our relationship through the Health Matters Initiative and the use of Wellable technology across multiple, ongoing projects of the Foundation. Not only has it allowed us to help tens of thousands of people lead healthier lives, but our work has attracted the attention of even more customers and raised our profile within the health and wellness community.

 

GH: What does the future hold for you and Wellable?

Shaan: We focus on the SME market and on exercise as our target measurement. As app technology improves and as our platform becomes more scalable, we want to offer more services to our customers. Our dream is for every person to be able to use their phone or wearable device to track diet, exercise, meditation, all the things that we can do to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. The methods for tracking such activities exists, and the data collection and analysis tools exist. We want to put them together in an intuitive and meaningful way.

Want to learn more about Shaan or Wellable? Follow him @ShaanGhandi & @GetWellable or come and hear him speak at the Life Science Fast Track on 2/25.

 

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