A new industry is emerging and Owyang’s Kaleido Insights has studied more than 500 startups aiming to help us be healthier, happier, and more centered.
The following transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for ease of reading.
David Kirkpatrick: So, Jeremiah Owyang, who is coming up next, is a friend of Techonomy who wrote an article in our piece, in our magazine, which he will maybe mention. He was one of the first analysts in the technology analyst community to really identify the importance of social media back when. He’s got his own firm now called Kaleido Insights and he is focusing on a number of innovative business models and new industries that are emerging, but one of them is the wellness industry which he’s going to tell us about. So, Jeremiah.
Jeremiah Owyang: Thanks, David. Hey, everybody. I’ve got really good news, we should rejoice that the tech industry is moving to the wellness space and we should also be really, really scared. Warning, the tech industry is moving to the wellness space.
I got interested in wellness—you know, people do different things in their mid-life crisis, sometimes they buy fancy cars or they buy clothes that are too young for them, I chose to get fit and fix myself and lose weight and get my medical conditions solved. And it took some time but I did that. And then I noticed that the tech industry was in every single turn that I started to move in this industry. So what I’m going to tell you about is the internet of bodies. We’ve heard of the internet of things, internet of cars, and now Silicon Valley is moving into where they are inside of us.
There’s already some clear winners. There’s a number of unicorns in this space. You can see these companies are worth about a billion dollars or more and they’re heavily getting funded. Tim Cook from Apple said the legacy of Apple will be health. So you can see they’re coming into this space. If you’ve seen the Apple health kit, they’re ready for every single field of data from your activity to what you eat, even to sexual activity. They’re ready for you to give all that information to them. But the question is, are we willing to as humans? So, that is you. That is me. That is we. We’re in the center of this Vitruvian person. And what’s happening is we’re being surrounded by this ring of technologies, AI, big data, social media, all these technologies are now surrounding who we are.
And it’s impacting us in four different ways. I’ll walk you through each of these four. By the way, if you have the Techonomy book, page 22, this diagram is in there so you can grab that right now and take some notes. And I’m going to be your tour guide today in this quick, quick tour on what is happening in this space and who the winners are going to be and I’m going to make some predictions.
So, it’s invading our minds. It’s helping our minds. It’s impacting mindfulness. We’re seeing this for psychology, we’re seeing this for therapy, we’re seeing this for just screen time management, where we heard the last speaker, that’s not a thing she agrees with. It’s now integrating, augmenting our bodies. The latest is microbiomes, what’s inside of our gut, what’s the bacteria in our ear, but also weight management and the diet and the things that we’re doing as well. Next, it’s in our communities. If you’ve seen the reports, the people that live the longest in the world are not those that just drink red wine or happen to exercise every day or do CrossFit or yoga. It’s those that have their loved ones around them. And then the physical space around us. Google has been trying to give me Google Home for free because I’m a subscriber to the other things, can you imagine that? “Hey, take this listening device for free,” so we can see that it’s emerging not just in our homes but around our bodies.
Now, let’s be really clear, there’s a difference in my mind, you can convince me otherwise, between health and wellness. My father is a physician, my wife works at Kaiser, but I see this as different and so do many other people in this space. The health industry is often focused on solving existing woes, where the wellness space is trying to prevent. Now, that’s a whole other panel and discussion but on the wellness space, the key thing I want to just drive here is this choice for these tools are done by the consumer/patient, by the person. They make the choice and these choices are not that expensive and they’re relying on tech often first. Specifically, tech is always on and it’s digitally enabled, low up-front costs but there’s some significant long-term costs when anything’s free. We heard that from the first speaker. And it’s embedded everywhere.
So this is where we’re seeing this happening. And this example of this digital mirror, when you go to a hotel in the future, that gym will be embedded in the mirror, it’s going to analyze your body and tell you exactly what you’re going to do. It’s going to look at your facial recognition and know if you’re tired, what is your circadian rhythm, and what type of exercise should you do. Get to work!
We’re tracking the funding in this space. So, I’m an industry analyst, I was one of the first analysts to track social media. I also identified the collaborative sharing gig economy which, when I did that move, people were like, “Why are you covering that?” Now that’s the biggest industry that’s ever IPOed. So, I’ve hit two straight markets, I’ve nailed them. I believe this is the next one.
I’m seeing the exact same patterns, the same tech-hippies who are having the same set of discussions in Silicon Valley where I live. So I’m seeing the same patterns. I am pretty confident this is the next market that’s going to boom. Just as we’re all talking about Uber and Airbnb this week, in 5–10 years, this will be the next market.
Now, the impacts here are specifically that I believe that—and these are the three markets that we see. And, by the way, in each of those markets, this was coincidental, they all bloomed during the recession. So when people lose their healthcare coverage and the COBRA, who do they turn to? Who do they trust? What’s already in their pocket? Apple. Google. But it’s not just them, we’re tracking 500 startups, this is the diagram on page 22. This is 100 of the leading startups that we see right now and I’m going to quickly show you a few examples of these tech companies.
So let’s focus in on the mind space. One is Calm, and I’ve interviewed most of these companies for my research and helping clients. Their use case is for helping people to become calm and to relax. Their core demographic is women 25–40 years old, busy moms, busy women with their careers or just unable to disconnect. So they’re turning on these devices, they may use the Calm aroma therapy spray and even the coloring book activity book which helps you to calm your mind. They’ve even invested in spas. So, they’re going multimodal.
Another example is Woebot, if you can’t afford a therapist which could be $100/hour or more, now you could use this device, Woebot. And we’re finding that teens, teen girls in particular, are more likely to tell Alexa things and these digital therapists things that they would never tell a human. First of all, it’s always there in the middle of the night, it’s free or cheap, and there’s no judgement. So, the Woebot has a conversation with you, “How are you doing, David? How are you feeling? What are the different things,” and there’s multiple choice, it’s a scripted bot. It’s actually done very well. You can download it and try it tonight. I think it’s very well done.
Now, it’s not just limited to the consumer side, we’re also seeing this in the HR side. This is TRIPP, this is a VR headset that you can put on your head and it helps employees take around a 10-minute break. Fifty years ago, that would be a smoke break and now we can take VR breaks and you experience the sensation of flying and collecting rings and then it asks you about your mood towards the end and you feel more relaxed and calm, yet productive. So, this is a way that HR and employees can help solve the mind’s tensions.
Next, is the body space. You’ve all heard of MyFitnessPal which has a tremendous amount of data on diets, although they’re not really activating it, they can turn this into an AI bot and this is purchased by Under Armour. But the one that really captures my interest is Lumen, if you haven’t heard of this, this is a device that has promised you can blow into it, it’s an Israeli company, and have you heard of the term called breath tech? That’s a whole category in this space, breath tech, where you can find there are 17 diseases within your biome but in this case, that’s not important. The number one thing people care about in America is weight loss.
So, Lumen actually measures the ketones coming out of your breath and it will tell you, you can see that gauge on the left, are you actually in fat burning mode or are you actually burning sugars in your blood? So intermittent fasting is all the rage, I do some of it. And now you can actually know without using pee strips or a blood test or a glucose monitor, are you really burning fat? Now, this device is expensive for them to actually create and they’re not going to make a lot of profit off the actual device like most hardware companies. Their business model brilliantly is going to be a food service, that’s really incredible. So you can imagine some food companies wanting to snap that up.
Next is Oura, this is a ring that tracks your sleep and activity, it’s looking for your heart rate variability and it’s also looking for the quality of your sleep and you can wear it up to five days. Many athletes are using this device as well as people that like fashion. It is a high-end device. So, we’re seeing these biometric devices, the form factors are starting to be efficient now and not be so clunky and some silliness.
Next is the community space, this is the most funded category. Essentially, this is the on-demand space. I’m not seeing as much peer-to-peer interaction community as I would expect to but as the market matures, you’ll see that emerge. For example, Mindbody enables you to quickly access any gym or spa or anything around the world, in order to just quickly join a community of wellness and you’re paying services.
We’re also seeing the rise of digital rewards such as crypto fitness. There’s a train station in Russia where if you actually do some squats, you can get a free train ticket. And there’s also a startup called Lympo that give you cryptocurrencies and they’re partnering with a company I advise called OliveX. So when you’re working out, you can actually show to people around you, “I’m earning health coins,” or whatever coin you want to call it. So, it’s a form of loyalty and encouraging wellness in a community setting. That’s great.
We’re seeing some business models being disrupted, this is the Uber of physical therapy called Luna, started by Kris Duggan in Silicon Valley. And apparently the physical therapy industry, I haven’t used their services, it’s—they’re old buildings, their services are not great, it’s overpriced. So, Luna brings the physical therapist to your house and they are seeing lots of benefits and the therapists are happy. So, the companies that were managing those retail locations are being disrupted. So, we’re seeing everything that’s inefficient is being digitized.
And then lastly on the physical space, the space around us, in our homes, for example. Molekule out of Silicon Valley is trying to clean our air and they’re using—it’s a very expensive device, $700–$800 dollars plus a subscription fee for the filters. And it is basically the Apple of air cleaning. And so I’m seeing this in every single category, from light to air to the food to the everything that you could imagine is going to become digitized for our wellness. And that means personalization, as well.
And then it’s also in our physical offices, the group that does the LEED certification, they also have a WELL certification and they use their company Delos to see what’s the rating quality of wellness in your actual office. How much natural light do you have? How many cafeterias do you have? And do you have places to celebrate all the human things?
So putting this all together, you can see the 100 top startups that I’m tracking and VCs are following me what I’m making the call on because they’re going to place bets where I’m tracking these companies. This is where this industry is headed.
So, I’ll close out with some predictions. I said we should be excited about and we should also be scared that tech is moving into this next frontier. And here’s what I think is going to happen, this is the next frontier, I’ve seen this happen and the media industry be completely changed, especially here in New York and the power shifted to Silicon Valley. Next, we saw the sharing economy just run over, literally, the taxi industry and change hotels forever and other industries. This is the next phase. It also means that these powerful tech companies are going to know more about us than our actual doctors.