Withings raises $60 million to develop connected health services for companies
Withings has raised $60 million in venture capital as the connected health company, primarily known for its consumer gadgets, expands its focus to include business customers.
Gilde Healthcare, Idinvest Partners, and Bpifrance co-led the round. Other investors participating included BNP Paribas Développement, ODDO BHF Private Equity, and Adelie Capital.
Paris-based Withings has been through a tortured journey in recent years, getting sold to Nokia and then bought back by one of its cofounders. As the company seeks to reestablish itself, the move to target more enterprise customers offers an opportunity to leverage the work it has done making devices for consumers as well as the data those gadgets generate.
“What makes us strong today on the B2B market is all the work we did on the B2C side, like working on the battery life and the design and the connectivity,” Withings CEO Mathieu Letombe said. “That will be really important for us as we develop devices because the needs in the two markets are overlapping.”
The latest round of funding will be used, in part, to expand MED PRO, the company’s B2B division. Withings currently has 250 employees. The company plans to hire 100 more total, including some for its sales and marketing in the U.S. as well as its engineering group in Paris.
Founded in 2008, the company’s driving motivation has been the belief that data would help individuals make better choices about their health.
Over the years, the company launched everything from a connected scale to fitness bands to smartwatches to a blood pressure monitor. Its products can measure such things as arterial stiffness to detect potential heart issues and sleep to help patients who suffer from sleep apnea.
But realizing that vision hasn’t followed the straightest of lines. In 2016, Nokia acquired Withings to start its own connected health device business. The relationship quickly soured, however, and in 2018, Withings cofounder Éric Carreel bought the company back with ambitious plans to make it a connected health powerhouse.
Since then, the company has introduced personalized manufacturing for some devices, a new sports smartwatch, a heart-rate monitor, and an electrocardiogram-recording version of the tracker called Move ECG.
To somewhat less fanfare, the company also entered the B2B space last year with the launch of MED PRO. The new group targets opportunities with corporations, insurers, research institutions, and medical platforms. The goal is to find ways the devices and data Withings has created could be put to wider use.
As part of that effort, the MED PRO division makes Withings data available to academic and pharmaceutical researchers to enable both clinical and academic studies. For instance, Withings’ ScanWatch is going to be used in a research project at the Department of Cardiology at the Medical Center of the University of Munich to monitor COVID-19 patients. The ScanWatch can measure both heart rate and blood-oxygen levels.
Letombe said the new division has had strong interest from the start, but saw demand increase quickly this year as the pandemic spread. With a growing desire to monitor the health of patients and employees from a distance, Withings sought to raise a new round to increase its resources.
In addition to more marketing and sales, the company will continue its product development. Letombe said there is a lot of overlap for core monitoring capabilities, but sometimes devices need to be adapted for long-distance patient monitoring by adding cellular capabilities.
In general, the company’s dual focus on companies and consumers has benefited product development by uncovering news types of health monitoring that may be useful, as well as new designs and form factors that make connected health devices more practical to wear, Letombe said.
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