An Ann Arbor company that wants to take traditional workplace wellness to an entirely new level using artificial intelligence has drawn a large share of capital from Grand Rapids-based investors.
Jool Health Inc. closed this month on a $4.5 million capital raise that will accelerate product upgrades and support sales and marketing.
The capital round was led by CVC Jool Investors LLC, a corporate entity based in Grand Rapids that investor Robert Boylen formed specifically to invest in Jool Health. Boylen, a financial adviser, recruited about 15 investors who collectively invested $1.6 million in Jool Health, which offers a program for employers to tailor their wellness initiatives to individual employees based on their personal lifestyle, habits and health status.
Using data entered by employees, the software in Jool Health’s product produces a personalized wellness program for each user based on information they shared about how well they sleep, their eating habits, energy level, willpower, creativity, daily activity, medical conditions, and even the local weather conditions. Over 15 days, the software learns about the individual to create a customized, constantly evolving program for each employee.
“It’s an incredibly innovative technology that’s beneath the surface,” said Boylen, who met Jool Health founder and CEO Vic Strecher last year and decided to invest after learning more about the company.
“I believe in him, I believe in the technology, and I believe in the purpose of this technology as far as improving people’s lives,” Boylen said. “When you really look at it, it’s a great combination of technology and wellness, or precision wellness, which is what Vic and his team are really looking for.”
Wakestream Ventures LLC in Grand Rapids, a venture capital firm led by Rick DeVos, also invested in the latest capital round for Jool Health, along with Tappan Hill Ventures and Michigan Angel Fund, both based in Ann Arbor, and other angel investors.
Strecher introduced his wellness application about six months ago for use on smartphones, tablets or computers.
Right now, Jool Health primarily targets large employers with thousands of employees. Strecher counts among his early customers Dow Chemical Co., Steelcase Inc. and Trinity Health. He most recently signed a deal with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
Strecher likens the technology behind Jool Health’s application to the new era of precision medicine that uses genetic testing to match cancer patients or people with depression with the drug that works best for them and their conditions.
The Jool Health application either can replace or complement an existing corporate wellness program with the aim of maintaining or improving employee health, increasing their productivity, and curtailing medical claims tied to chronic medical conditions that drive up the cost of health coverage.
In a four-county region of West Michigan, treating diabetes cost about $12,000 annually as of 2015, according the annual Health Check report from Grand Valley State University that uses claims data from insurers Priority Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. A person with diabetes and hypertension costs nearly $15,000 a year to treat.
“Our approach is very fundamental and addresses the very issues that our society faces,” Strecher said. “We’re excited about where it is, but we’re even more excited about where it will be in the future.”
The cost for the application varies based on the size of the employer. A company with 5,000 to 10,000 employees would probably pay $10 to $15 per employee for a subscription to use the app, Strecher said. He also wants to develop a version of the app for smaller employers.
In addition to their personal data, employees using the app also enter the outcomes they want to achieve — such as losing weight, eating or sleeping better, reducing their blood sugar, alleviating chronic pain, or having more daily energy. They are provided daily tips to help them achieve those goals as the application learns “what makes you tick,” Strecher said.
The artificial intelligence element and personalization differentiates Jool Health from a traditional wellness program, where “everybody is treated as an average, but we know that nobody is average,” he said.
“It gets really detailed (information) about you specifically, and doesn’t give you the same old bland courseware as if you’re just an average person,” said Strecher, a professor of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “It’s becoming a life coach sitting on your shoulder, almost like an angel.”
Strecher formed Jool Health in 2014 and has primarily marketed the product by speaking at conferences for large employers and via word of mouth. He also intends to create and offer webinars.
Jool Health won $50,000 at the 2016 Accelerate Michigan business competition by taking first place in the life sciences and heath care category and third place overall. The company also received $20,000 in legal, design and consulting services as a result of the competition.