This wearables startup wants to cut employer healthcare costs

March 13, 2015, 12:56 PM UTC
Fitbit Force, Jawbone Up,  Fitbug Orb, Nike FuelBand SE
Four fitness trackers are shown in this photograph, in New York, Monday, Dec. 16, 2013. They are, from left, Fitbit Force, Jawbone Up, Fitbug Orb, and the Nike FuelBand SE. For aspiring health nuts and to inspire couch potatoes to get active, the latest crop of fitness gadgets will record much more than how many steps you took on any given day. From sleep patterns to calorie intake, mood and progress toward exercise goals, few aspects of life are left un-tracked for those in search for a more quantified self. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Photograph by Richard Drew — AP

As if their day jobs advising companies like Facebook and PayPal weren’t big enough. Entrepreneurs Stan Chudnovsky and James Currier are behind Jiff, a wearables startup that has raised just shy of $26 million to disrupt employer benefits programs.

The plan is simple: encourage employees to adopt healthier behavior by giving them incentives to do so. An example: credits toward the health savings accounts used to pay deductibles.

Who should be rewarded? That’s determined by data generated from fitness trackers, watches and other gadgets, and analyzed against corporate goals.

“Our engagement is usually with the head of benefits. … We work with them to determine what behaviors they want to incent or what challenges they want to design into the system,” said Jiff CEO Derek Newell.

Incentives can be customized depending on the health of the employee. Someone managing diabetes, for example, might receive different rewards than someone who isn’t dealing with any sort of chronic condition.

What’s in it for employers? Potential reductions in the cost of providing employee healthcare, along with the goodwill engagement programs can engender.

Jiff is selling its approach to self-insured companies that have an interest in controlling healthcare costs—about 30% of all U.S. companies (approximately 100 million workers) are covered by plans of this nature. Jiff’s platform is already available to more than 300,000 employees of companies including interactive entertainment company Activision Blizzard, healthcare distributor Henry Schien, beverage maker Red Bull, and semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm. The workforce adoption rates at Jiff customers range from 50% to 80%, Newell said.

While employers subsidize access to the platform, Jiff’s software integrates with apps and gadgets that people already use, such as Fitbit or Jawbone. Right now, the startup has more than 55 partners with at least that many new relationships in the works. The Apple Watch will be part of the mix, and Newell believes the simple fact that people won’t have to think about activating a mobile app to start monitoring data will inspire higher levels of adoption.

Newell has plenty of insight into healthcare technology: he previously led the company behind the first FDA-approved, Internet-connected medical device. Last September, Jiff closed an $18 million Series B round led by Venrock. (The other investors in that round were Aberdare Ventures and Aeris Capital.) “All employees are different, so incentives should be, too, and Jiff is the only platform that allows employee-level personalization,” said Venrock partner Bryan Roberts.

Co-founders Chudnovsky (Facebook’s vice president of messaging) and Currier (an advisor to PayPay) are partners in Ooga Labs, founded back in 2000. Their experience with consumer technology will be instrumental for Jiff’s product design. “People see our products and think that’s how something like this should look,” Newell said.

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