From Google to Amazon and Apple to Microsoft, some of the biggest names in tech are making big bets on healthcare. While the industry is notoriously complex, the prospect of fixing America’s flawed healthcare system is precisely what these tech giants are seeking out. After all, becoming a company whose name is synonymous with helping solve a problem this big and important is an opportunity too lucrative to ignore.
That’s especially true of Amazon, who has amassed more than 100M Prime subscribers and has shown an ability to play the long game, making bets with low or no short-term return. Now, Amazon’s healthcare ambitions are becoming more clear.
In 2018 alone, Amazon joined JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway for a secret healthcare project, spent $1B to acquire PillPack, announced a machine learning service that mines patient medical records, and began selling medical supplies via an app where doctors prescribe through Amazon links.
All of these developments point toward the game-changing potential of Prime Health — a would-be (maybe could-be) service that offers medical and health services similar to Amazon Prime. It’s a move impactful enough that, if enacted, would “scare the shit out of everybody”. At least that’s how NYU professor Scott Galloway referenced it in a recent episode of Pivot Podcast.
Galloway went on to speculate about Amazon’s healthcare pursuits by pointing out that they will know all the indicators of whether a person is in good or poor health: they’ll know a consumer’s body mass index based on clothing size, they’ll know how healthy an individual’s diet is, what pharmaceuticals they’re taking, and if they’re wealthy.
Armed with that information, Amazon could begin to ensure the healthiest, most actuarially appealing households in America with a simple Alexa prompt: “Hi Prime member, would you be interested in exploring ways to cut your healthcare costs in half with Prime plus insurance?”
|Content is King →
Delivery system aside—whether it’s audio or video, accessed via app or connected equipment—content is the buzziest word in fitness. While we tend to focus on Peloton-like competitors who manufacture at-home equipment or obsess over the yet-to-be-realized wearables revolution, there’s an insane amount of fitness content being created and consumed.
Consider some of the recent headlines: Aaptiv is going global, Peloton opened a new production studio to create yoga and meditation content, Peerfit partnered with FORTË to offer streaming classes, CITYROW and Rumble entered the at-home space, Technogym is launching a new platform for live and on-demand workouts, SoulCycle created a media and events division, and Life Fitness partnered with Studio to offer audio-based run coaching on their treadmills. That’s saying nothing of the infinite amount of fitness content on platforms like YouTube and Instagram.
Assuming the content boom continues, it will be interesting to see 1.) which companies will reign supreme, 2.) who can offer the highest-quality content at the lowest cost, and 3.) if anything will actually make the general population healthier.
|Sex-Care is The New Self-Care →
Until recently, sexual wellness was just plain awkward. For proof, look no further than ED commercials targeting seniors. That was the beginning and the end of a conversation about pleasure or performance in the bedroom. Flash-forward to the present day, where startups promising to end erectile dysfunction plaster their risque ads across the New York subway system.
What did you expect? With the wellness industry topping $4.2T in value, everyone, including sexual health and wellness companies, want in on the action, making it clear that sex-care is set to become the next frontier in an amorphous wellness industry. In fact, this sector of the wellness market is expected to grow from its 2014 value of $23B to a projected $57B by 2020. From vitamin C and CBD to ED and K-Y, wellness is officially TBD.
|Headlines & Happenings
From grocery delivery to Prime deals, Amazon’s $13.5B acquisition of Whole Foods has already upended the food industry. Now, they’re reportedly testing Amazon Go’s “Just Walk Out” tech for use in bigger stores, meaning Whole Foods could someday become Whole Foods Go.
GT Dave, the founder of GT’s Living Foods and reigning kombucha king, announced that the company would be rolling out a new line of CBD-infused sparkling water with 25mg of CBD per 10oz. bottle.
Former NBA star Kobe Bryant is partnering with Sports Academy to create MAMBA Sports Academy. First, Sports Academy’s existing 100,000-square-foot facility in Thousand Oaks, California will be rebranded as MAMBA Sports ahead of opening additional facilities in Southern California.
Fun fact: Okta, a cloud software for identity management that went public last year, has a market cap of nearly $7B. The company’s CEO Todd McKinnon is a top 50 CrossFit athlete in the 45-49 age group (h/t Ari Levy).
Mindful-less: After a 10-day meditation retreat, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to his company’s platform to pontificate about his experience. The contradiction, though, the idea of @jack silently meditating while also running a company that creates a whole lot of noise (and harbors a lot of hate) was not well received. FWIW: Famed investor Fred Wilson saw it differently.
Just plain weird: Hummus milkshakes are apparently a thing.
Oura Health, a sleep-tracking startup that uses a smart ring to track and improve sleep habits, raised more than $20M in funding led by MSD Capital. The round also included participation from Shaquille O’Neal, Lance Armstrong, and Will Smith (via The Dreamer’s Fund).
Chip Wilson, the billionaire founder of yoga retailer lululemon, is seeking a 20% stake in the Chinese investor group vying to take over Amer Sports Oyj, owner of brands including Wilson tennis rackets, Salomon ski boots, Arc’teryx outdoor gear, and Atomic winter equipment.
Tivity Health, the parent company of fitness program SilverSneakers, is set to buy Nutrisystem Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $1.4B.
The DTC vitamin boom continues as Persona (formerly Vitamin Packs) raised an undisclosed Series A1 from Emil Capital Partners.
Chirps, a company that makes chips using cricket flour, launched a Kickstarter for a new product: Cricket Protein Powder made from peas, brown rice, chia seeds, and crickets. The campaign has already exceeded its $10,000 goal, raising more than $24,000 with 45 days to go.
After wrapping up Y Combinator, meatless meat startup Seattle Food Tech raised $1M as they begin delivering their plant-based chicken nuggets to schools and restaurants.
French startup Agricool announced a $28M round of funding as the company builds out a network of repurposed shipping containers to grow fruits and vegetables in urban areas.
Breakwater Management invested $20.85M in the The Madera Group as they expand three of their healthyish, Mexican-themed restaurant chains—Tocaya Organica, Toca Madera, and Casa Madera—throughout the United States.
InnovoPro, an Israeli food-tech company, raised $4.25M to scale production of its chickpea protein as it expands into strategic global markets.
In the world of enhanced beverages, Yerbae—makers of yerba mate-enhanced sparkling waters—raised $5M while New Age Beverages Corporation secured a deal to buy Morinda Holdings for $85M.
Fresh food supplier Landec Corp acquired guacamole company Yucatan Foods for approximately $80M. Some context here: the US guacamole market is valued at $375M and is growing at about a 20% rate per year.
Vagaro, a business management software for the beauty, spa, and fitness markets, raised $63M in a round led by FTV Capital.
Billing itself as Whole Foods built by tech founders, Farmstead, a company with potential to disrupt the online grocery delivery market, announced an additional seed round of $2.2M, bringing its total raised to date to $7.5M.
With plans to expand its online pharmacy across the US, Alto raised $50M to compete with similar services, including New York-based Capsule and Amazon’s PillPack.
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