WELL Ventures launches with a focus on early-stage digital health companies

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Canadian healthcare and technology company WELL Health Technologies will now be investing in early-stage digital health companies through the formation of WELL Ventures.

The new investment firm is a wholly owned subsidiary of WELL with a focus on backing startups that create practitioner enablement tools and technologies, especially those in Canada.

In addition to capital, an investment from WELL Ventures includes a strategic alliance or collaboration agreement that gives portfolio companies access to WELL’s own technology and healthcare products. The firm will also offer guidance to its portfolio companies to support their growth.

WELL Venture’s investment and advisory teams are made up of the company’s own board of directors, executive management team and business unit operating teams.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT

Since creating a formal venture firm, the company has made a strategic investment into Bright, a Halifax, Nova Scotia-based virtual wellness platform for employees.

Bright’s platform runs hundreds of weekly virtual sessions such as fitness classes, mindfulness exercises and nutrition content for small to medium-sized businesses.

WELL’s $250,000 investment comes with the beginning of a strategic alliance agreement between the two companies. The alliance will give WELL rights to use and sublicense Bright’s offerings to its own workforce and customer base – with profits to be shared with Bright – as well as supplying it with purchasing warrants to buy common shares of Bright.

“We are excited to receive this investment and be a part of the WELL Ventures family of portfolio companies,” David Howe, CEO of Bright, said in a statement.

“This investment helps fund the expansion of our sales efforts and future growth initiatives. We look forward to working with the extended WELL Health network.”

This investment follows a number of financial contributions WELL made prior to forming its venture firm, including to INSIG, Circle Medical, Phelix.ai, Pillway and Twig Fertility. Similar to WELL Ventures’ strategy of pairing an investment with a strategic collaboration, these previous backings were supplemented with guidance and access to WELL’s network of clinics and healthcare practitioners.

THE LARGER TREND

Outside of making investments in digital health companies, WELL has been on a bit of an M&A kick this year. Already in 2021, the company has acquired Intrahealth Systems, CRH Medical and MyHealth.

With eyes set on Canadian digital health startups, WELL is targeting an emerging innovation area. In 2020, Toronto had 19 digital health deals, coming to a total of $282 million, according to a Startup Health report. This made the city the fifth largest non-U.S. digital health funding hub in the world.

A number of other medical device and digital health companies also have venture funds, including Dexcom, Boston Scientific and Medtronic.

ON THE RECORD

“The formation of WELL Ventures and the investments we’ve made to date reflects our commitment to invest in, nurture and build strategic alliances with innovative digital health companies,” Hamed Shahbazi, chairman and CEO of WELL, said in a statement.

“We specifically seek to invest in companies that are genuinely committed to leveraging technology to improve health outcomes and that can directly benefit from WELL’s ecosystem, size and scale. Our most recent investment in Bright is a natural fit, addressing the importance of preventative health and wellness for a growing remote workforce. Caring for our own employees and network of practitioners, as well as for the health of all hard-working Canadians, is a value shared by both companies.”

 

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