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Welltok moves forward with
new execs, fresh acquisition

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s one of the most fertile grounds for IT innovation, the healthcare industry has spawned myriad technology initiatives offering solutions for everything from medical record management to insurance exchanges. But Welltok, Inc., headquartered in Denver, has enjoyed significant success in a corner of the market that has thus far been somewhat less crowded.

Health insurance providers have long known that one of the most effective ways to keep costs under control is prevention. A healthy body means less illness and injury … and lower medical bills. Hence, insurers and businesses that insure employees search endlessly for ways to preach the gospel of preventive healthcare and healthy lifestyles.

With the rise of the Internet, Welltok saw an opportunity to leverage technology to spread the message and stimulate active participation. The company has created a Web-based platform that combines social, gaming and personalization technologies to guide would-be slackers to an active and healthy way of life. Called the CafeWell Health Optimization Platform, the company sells it as a platform-as-a-service to insurance companies and businesses.

Welltok was founded in 2009 and has since attracted substantial investment; the company has banked a total of $48 million in funding since 2011. The latest round — $22.1 million — came last February, from a group of investors that featured IBM and Qualcomm Ventures, as well as New Enterprise Associates. (See story.)

Part of that money will be used to move into the mobile device realm. Just last March, the company acquired Mindbloom, a Seattle mobile design firm specializing in health-related apps. The acquisition will help Welltok deliver interactive experiences through its CaféWell platform. Margolis said the company will eventually expand into the Northwest.

Welltok has also steadily bolstered its executive team. CEO Jeff Margolis was the founder of TriZetto, a successful health IT company, before joining Welltok in 2011. And last week, the company tapped two seasoned healthcare industry veterans as the firm’s new chief operating officer and new chief financial officer.

Brian Ancell, former executive vice president of health care services at Premera Blue Cross, was hired as the new president and COO. At Premera Blue Cross, Ancell led the IT division's integration and platform consolidation efforts, and oversaw the execution and launch of several mobile and web-based consumer engagement solutions. He previously worked for Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Linda Fenton: New CFO

Linda Fenton: New CFO

Linda Fenton is the new CFO. She most recently served as a principal with SpringBoard Strategic Advisors, leading the healthcare consulting practice. She spent more than a decade in senior management positions at TriZetto, including chief risk and compliance officer and interim CFO. Before that, she held executive positions at Interliance, a boutique consulting firm specializing in platform enablement, CalFed Bank and South Coast Home Healthcare, where she worked closely with government-sponsored healthcare plans.

"Ancell's industry expertise and operational acumen is critical to help us scale the company and continue on our growth trajectory,” says Margolis. “I'm also excited to bring Linda's wealth of financial experience to the organization and know that she'll provide the stability and discipline we need to aggressively fulfill our mission."

Welltok is not alone in the health optimization technology space. Companies offering similar products and services include Seattle startup EveryMove, Audax Health and OneHealth, among others. You can read that as good sign (lots of interest in the concept) or a bad sign (competitive shakeout on the horizon). As with all things, time will tell. But Welltok looks like a pretty solid bet to us.

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