A corporate wellness program that’s actually fun? Keas nabs $8M to make health social

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Health tech startup Keas seems to have finally found its footing. Launched in 2009 by the former head of Google Health, the company was initially intended to be something like a “Mint.com for health,” but later pivoted into a gamified employee wellness service. Earlier this year, the company evolved further with a new management team and strategy meant to make the product feel even more consumer- oriented. And it looks like its twists and turns may be paying off.

In the last year, the company said it’s doubled its count of registered users and enterprise clients and, on top of that, it said Tuesday that it has raised an additional $8 million in venture financing. The funding, which brings Keas’ total amount raised to $26 million, came from Ignition Partners and Atlas Ventures. With the additional funds, the company said it plans to ramp up product development and expand to new clients.

“We want to make health social and mobile and really engaging for employees,” said Keas CEO Josh Stevens, who took the helm last year (founder Adam Bosworth is now CTO).

As health care costs climb and health-related productivity losses continue to mount, Keas targets employers with a workplace social network that boosts employee health and engagement. Through the platform, companies’ HR teams can broadcast messages about flu shot programs and other wellness initiatives and employees can share updates about their health-related activities– from eating to daily exercise. All employees are divided up into small teams with the goal of using light peer pressure to nudge users into better habits and more engagement.

The service seems to be doing its doing its job — Keas said the average employee engages with the site 12 times a month and that the number of monthly active users for each company tends to be triple that of users on incumbent sites (which are usually barely-trafficked portals offered by health plans).

Keas is also available on mobile so that users can access it wherever they go and, as of Tuesday, it integrates with fitness startups like Fitbit, Runkeeper and GAIN Fitness, stress coaching service meQuilibrium and LabCorp, a company that offers lab tests, biometrics and health assessment services.

For employers, Keas’ pitch is that improving employee health can lower health expenses and improve productivity. For employees, the social service is intended to help them reach new health goals and get rewarded for their healthy activities – for example, logging additional steps via Runkeeper or showing improvements through a health assessment could lead to health insurance discounts or extra cash in a flexible spending account.

The company is hardly the only startup courting employers with a social wellness program. For example, startups WellTok and ShapeUp also see opportunities in offering companies health-centric employee engagement programs, especially now that they’re extra incentivized by the Affordable Care Act.

But Keas seems to be picking up clients at a healthy clip. Its most recent customers include Pandora, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and KLA-Tencor.

For now, Stevens said, the company is focused on enterprises’ employee wellness-related needs. But, given its ability to get employees to participate on the network, he said it could eventually expand to cover other online HR services.

“This is the beach head into human capital management for corporations,” he said.

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