Welltok Acquires Zamzee to Optimize Child Health

Welltok, an IBM Watson venture investment, buys the Zamzee health program to help optimize child fitness.

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Welltok has announced its acquisition of Zamzee, a health program developed by HopeLab, to add more solutions for children to the Welltok CaféWell Health Optimization Platform. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

HopeLab, a philanthropic research and development organization, developed Zamzee to help boost physical activity in kids and families. While many blame technology for a rise in sedentary behavior, HopeLab tapped into the power and appeal of digital products to engage and motivate kids to be more active. A video of a Zamzee-based healthy family success story can be found here.

The Zamzee program uses gamification, rewards and behavior change science to get kids moving more. It encourages activity for kids through play, engaging them with customizable avatars, an activity tracker and challenges. Zamzee has a track record of success, increasing physical activity in kids by nearly 60 percent. It also has demonstrated that motivating kids to improve health behaviors can have a positive impact on the entire family. Parents often join in and are motivated to change health behaviors as well, Welltok said.

“Zamzee will be an essential component of CaféWell since it gets the whole family involved in their health,” said Jeff Margolis, chairman and chief executive officer for Welltok, in a statement. “Health optimization is achievable at every age, and engaging in healthy behaviors in adolescence is proven to have great impact on bending the curve over the long term and creating healthier, happier populations.”

Zamzee is a natural fit with CaféWell as health plans, large employers and government organizations, such as Medicaid, are recognizing the importance of a multi-generational, family approach to optimizing health. Extending support beyond the primary beneficiary to include dependents provides both business and socio-economic benefits. The average total health expense for children treated for obesity under private insurance is more than three times the average health costs of all children.

“CaféWell is the perfect home for Zamzee,” said Margaret Laws, chief executive officer and president for HopeLab, in a statement. “We created an effective, evidence-based product that uses technology to motivate healthy behaviors among kids and families. We are seeing the impact of that work extended further as part of an integrated health program for both kids and adults.”

In February 2014, Welltok announced it raised $22.1 million in Series C funding led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) with participation from IBM and Qualcomm, through its venture capital arm, Qualcomm Ventures’ life fund portfolio.

The Welltok CaféWell Concierge uses Watson’s ability to uncover big data insights by understanding the complexities of human language, reading millions of pages of data within seconds and improving its own performance by learning.

Welltok’s CaféWell has gained traction with population health managers by solving two key challenges: organizing the expanding ecosystem of health and wellness solutions -- apps, condition management programs, tracking devices, content and more -- and delivering an engaging consumer platform that aligns activities with incentives, such as premium reductions for taking actions that lower Body Mass Index (BMI). CaféWell accomplishes this through the use of Social Health Itineraries that are personalized based on an individual’s health status, available benefits, behavioral characteristics, interests and other factors.

“We must transform beyond the current ’sick care’ system built for patients to one that optimizes each consumer’s health status,” Welltok’s Margolis said. “To do so, the industry needs a practical, but radically different approach to engage the 85 percent of the nation’s population who are making daily choices that impact their health. Our Platform- as- a- Service solution meets this need by revolutionizing the way population managers partner with consumers and connecting them to the right resources and incentives. We have the vision, industry expertise and financial strength to lead the charge in optimizing consumers’ health and maximizing rewards.”

Welltok was the first investment from IBM’s Watson Group. IBM formed the Watson Group in January of 2014 and committed $1 billion to the business unit to focus on development and research and bringing cloud-delivered cognitive applications and services to market. At the launch of the group, IBM also pledged $100 million for venture investments to support Big Blue’s ecosystem of start-ups and businesses that are building cognitive apps powered by Watson in the IBM Watson Developers Cloud.