Startup Nation never ceases to amaze, and after we praised the evolving food tech industry here last week, this week caught our eye an equally lucrative and attractive startup industry, concerning a term that many of us mistakenly misinterpret. It’s called Wellnes, and it turns out to be much more than lifestyle and yoga.
Let’s start with the dry data: The global wellness market rolls in about $ 4.5 trillion, and includes the worlds of fitness, mental health, nutrition and food, preventive medicine and personalized medicine, spa and personal care (beauty and anti-aging) and the work environment, real Real estate and sustainability. In Israel, there are about 500 tech companies that operate directly in the field, and do not include companies that are engaged in other fields and from time to time also wink at the wellness industry.
Two years ago, Amir Elroy and Galit Horowitz founded Welltech Ventures, a local investment fund that aims to cultivate the field in Israel. The two invest in start-ups in the field, especially in the early stages of development, or in the professional jargon “Phase A”, in the range of half a million to 3 million dollars. “We have other investors by our side,” says Horowitz, “and to date we have invested in 11 companies in very diverse fields of wellness, and this is a field that we look at in the broadest sense of the word.”
How is wellness defined?
Elroy: “This is a relatively new industry with ancient roots in the East, India and China as well as in western Greece and Rome. In the past it was mostly self-care and natural medicine, and today it is much more than that. It is not a delusional industry, but a real $ 4.5 trillion industry. Different interpretations, and my favorite interpretation is the transition from the sick world to the world of health, or how to keep the person healthy. In terms of wellness one can look at both the person and the community and the environment, thus keeping all vectors healthy. Beyond body and mind, this field is developed At the membership level, the so-called: corporate wellness or wellness real estate.
Elroy has known the wellness industry for nearly 20 years, and has dedicated his master’s degree in sports systems management and a personal trainer course and wellness coaching in the United States. He then entered the startup world, founding a network of gyms. Horowitz, who has a master’s degree in finance from the Hebrew University, comes with extensive experience – not from entrepreneurship but from the other side of the barricade, with a background of many years in high-tech business development and acquisitions and mergers of start-ups and technology companies.
“In the family, we have been investing in start-ups for many years, and my motivation was to combine the two worlds, the investment world and Galit and mine’s passion for wellness, and that’s how the fund was set up,” says Elroy. You mentioned spa, real estate, tourism, body and soul, and I do not remember ever thinking that such areas are related to the world of start-ups.
Horowitz: “Everything we thought didn’t have a lot of technology, it turns out it has a lot, and it keeps evolving, and we can see that on a daily basis. I remember when we founded Welltech Ventures, we did not know how much technology there was in the field. We saw the global trend and wanted to see if Here at our startup Nation there is enough entrepreneurship in the field. After mapping we did we discovered 500 startups that deal with it directly and beyond. Because we look at the field in the broadest sense of the word, any startup that deals with digital health for that matter is Wellness for us. “Between what is digital health, what is medicine and what is wellness has become very blurred in recent times.”
Elroy: “We are experiencing a renaissance in the area of blurring the boundaries between health and wellness, and today it also has a name: self care and preventive medicine. Wellness and the health industry and the medical community have struggled over the years, and may have underestimated each other. “Wellness has deepened, and today you can see doctors becoming a bit of coaches and a bit of health managers. I guess there will come a stage, and not far off, the day when hospitals will take ideas from five-star hotels when it comes to clients, and different gyms will measure health metrics.”
The inhaler who aspires to more
Calamigo is a start-up that the two have invested in, and perhaps the classic product that combines conventional health and wellness. It is a smart device that looks like a standard inhaler of asthma patients, which is used as a first aid in situations of stress and anxiety, without medication and without side effects. The product is currently undergoing a clinical trial in Ichilov, and is not the only development that combines health with a “cold self” and preventive medicine. Horowitz: “Start-ups in preventive medicine and telehealth raised $ 4.2 billion in the first quarter of 2021. Of these companies, six start-ups have become Unicorn (a company valued at more than $ 1 billion).”
Another interesting statistic is the acceleration that the use of the digital platform has made to the healthcare field in all its nuances in the past year. According to a Mackenzie report, in the past year there has been a 35-year increase in the use of telemedicine in the U.S., and although this tends to be attributed to the Corona period, 76% of users said they would continue to use the digital platform regardless of the epidemic. Horowitz, “and we are seeing it increasingly applied in the health funds in the country, as well as in the hospitals. Doctors often recommend prevention apps. “
The corona has accelerated developments in the field?
Elroy: “There is no doubt that it has accelerated the field from a trend that has developed in recent years to a way of life. Today, as Galit said, the use of the function of calling a doctor, which is something basic, until recently did not exist. And from phone to doctor to more sophisticated apps and coaching companies. Ying remotely and psychology remotely, and today you can send a photo of your skin to a dermatologist who looks at you remotely.These are things that were not.Also, entrepreneurs in the country, who to this day have turned mainly to fintech and cyber, are suddenly interested in these areas. And I guess Corona has a hand in that. “
Horowitz: “There are start-ups that until recently did not look at any field other than the medical field, and today those start-ups have created a product that is also tangent to the field of wellness. For example, we invested in such a company called X-trodes and developed innovative technology for monitoring and analysis of “Physiological and neurological signals that can also be used in sleep monitoring. That is, both at the clinical level and in athletes, which can indicate muscle fatigue.” Elroy: “One in three people in the United States does not sleep well, and sleep is a very hot topic in the development of wellness.”
To what extent is Israel a power in the field? Perhaps the very fact that the Global Wellness Summit, the largest gathering of international leaders in the wellness economy, is about to arrive in Israel for the first time in 15 years, is a good sign of this. The Israeli investment fund Welltech Ventures will sponsor the conference.
Horowitz: “Israel has become a wellness powerhouse in all respects. We see many investors from abroad who invest in this field and come to Israel especially to look for Israeli start-ups. Apart from that, note that Israelis are known to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Look at how many people are doing fitness at sea. Apart from being the world vegan capital, there are the most vegan restaurants in the world. “
How careful are you to preserve the industry here, which will be blue and white?
Elroy: “Our advantage is first of all in the very deep familiarity with the Israeli ecosystem. We are always connected to Israeli entrepreneurs or those who are connected in one way or another to Israel. We do talk to Israelis and other entrepreneurs in the US, but we feel we have enough here, and that Makes us very happy. “When we come to invest, we can also add investors from abroad, but it’s more on the investment side. Overall, overseas relationships are a tool for us to help local start-ups open the big markets to Israeli portfolio companies.”
In an age where almost every week I discover a new trend in start-up Nation, what’s the next step?
Horowitz: “There is no doubt that the entire field of preventive medicine and the blurring of the boundaries between wellness and medicine will continue. We are only at the beginning. The FDA is beginning to recognize wellness companies with products in the field.”
Elroy: “At Yale University, a new virtual course in wellness science opened last year, enrolling more than 3 million people during the Corona period. Another interesting trend that will continue to develop is wellness and sustainability. Today, when someone comes up with a product and presents it to investors, The first will be some components in it, with an orientation to sustainability. This is something that is becoming more important among investors, companies that consider the environment. With Generation Z, it is a growing phenomenon. And another trend is the world of longevity – we live longer, and the next task will be Make us live as well as possible over time.There is currently a lot of research and initiatives emerging around the world, and it will fully develop in the country, and not far today.We are currently experiencing a revolution, and in a few years we will understand its power.And we have the right to do business “It affects people’s health. It’s a special field, and you feel you are making your small contribution to humanity.”
Horowitz: “There is the side of wellness that does good for mental health as well. It’s not just technology itself, but what makes us feel good that helps us in our healthy lifestyle to be happier. It is absolutely a supreme value, which is becoming more and more important.”