Sligo start-up KudosHealth is aiming to provide nurses and frontline healthcare workers with more than €1m worth of free employee health and wellbeing benefits.

KudosHealth has built an online engagement tool allows companies to reward staff for their healthy activity and engages employees of all fitness levels. 

The aim of the digital health platform, which is accessed through the KudosHealth app, is to incentivise and motivate employees to track, manage and improve their own health in the areas of physical activity, nutrition, mindfulness and sleep.

“Each year across the globe companies spend $40bn trying to help improve the lives and the health of their employees”

By using common wearable devices such as Fitbits or health apps, employees earn points which can be redeemed for discounts in local stores. Participating employees receive perks and discounts worth between €500 and €1,000 every year for tracking and improving their health.

KudosHealth, which was established in Sligo in 2017, is an Enterprise Ireland client and has four employees. It normally licences the platform to large corporate employers, so they can provide health and wellbeing benefits to their employees.

The company recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money to fund the project to boost the wellbeing nurses and frontline healthcare workers. It estimates it could cost €100,000 to provide the service at cost price for around 100,000 health care workers.

Any extra funds raised would be used to tailor the programme more specifically for healthcare professionals and/or to provide it in other settings such as nursing homes.

The importance of worker wellbeing

“KudosHealth is increasing the number of employees that a company has actively engaged in maintaining and improving their own health,” said CEO and co-founder Declan Trumble. “Each year across the globe companies spend $40bn trying to help improve the lives and the health of their employees, as this leads to healthier, happier more productive employees.

“In some cases, employee participation in their company’s own health and wellness programme can be as low as 5pc to 10pc. Low employee participation, which is generally caused by a couple of things means no return on the company’s investment.

“One of the reasons for low participation is that activities tend to be scheduled by the company or the wellness programme provider, and the timing might not suit everyone. The employee might also just not interested in that particular aspect of their health at that particular time and might be happy just doing their own thing and tracking their healthy activities on the many consumer health apps available today, as this gives them freedom to choose the app that suits them, and use it how, where and when they want.”

Trumble said that  employers want to see their employee participate in their wellness programme because it helps build an employer employee relationship, it boosts employee engagement and morale, and can improve employee retention.

“It also gives them some valuable insights into the overall health of the workforce as a whole, and, if areas of health risks are identified they can make additional interventions or make additional health services available.”

Supporting health-conscious corporates

KudosHealth has developed a SaaS business solution for large employers, which comprises software and end-user apps for the employees.

“The corporate wellness solution is quite simple really; we allow the employer to tap in to the  huge rise in people tracking their health on consumer health apps and enable the employer to motivate and incentivise their employees for using these apps.

“Today, large companies already use employee incentives and rewards to incentivise their employees for the work performance, annual reviews and tenure, but the one thing they don’t incentivise the employee for doing is looking after their own health, and that’s where we come in.

“Employees can connect their existing heath app to our app, and then when they use their existing health app to track their physical activity, their steps, or their nutrition or weight loss, or even their sleep they receive points for their usage, and then these points can be used to redeem a reward or incentive. The reward could be directly from their employer or a discount at a local business or store.

“The advantage for the employee is that they can now participate in a programme provided by their employer, but still have the freedom to look after their health how, where and when they want.

“For employers it means they are directly impacting improvements in their employee’s health. And with aggerated anonymous data, it now has insights to help them understand the health concerns of their employees in real time.  It can tell if employees in a certain department are inactive, it can tell which areas of the business gets the better quality of sleep, and it also identify which areas are interested in nutrition and weight loss, meaning they can implement further health initiatives to provide support where needed.”

Making an idea real

Three men with a cloudy sky behind them.

From left: Dr Kenneth Monaghan, CEO Declan Trumble and Dr Daniel Simpson

KudosHealth was founded by Declan Trumble and a co-founder who has since exited the business due to other business commitments, along with collaborations with Dr Kenneth Monaghan and Dr Daniel Simpson at IT Sligo Health Science Department.

The business idea was formulated when they discovered while working with a car insurance start-up for young drivers, how the driving behaviour of the young driver improved when they were incentivised at regular intervals throughout the drivers 12 month policy.

The founders researched and investigated how this process would work for incentivising an individual to improve their health. After considering business solutions for health insurance market they decided to address the corporate wellness solution after assessing the solutions that were already available on the market and what employees were doing.

Out of the west

“Based in the west of Ireland or some businesses might mean a slight disadvantage, but for an online business it does not really matter where you’re based, although there are regular tips to Dublin attending events and meeting potential customers,” Trumble said.

“We are lucky enough to be based in the Business Innovation Centre on the IT Sligo campus, which gives us great access to young talent coming through IT Sligo.”

Trumble said that the start-up ecosystem in Sligo is very strong with a lot of events and networking opportunities and heavily supported by the large number of tech firms which have located there over the last few years through the work done by the IDA’s regional development manager John Nugent and other organisations.

“Companies such as FireFly, LiveTiles and Overstock employee large numbers of software developers and are always active in running events for the local start-up community and promoting the North West as a great place to live, work and relocate your business to. These activities, along with support from our Local Enterprise Office and Enterprise Ireland, make Sligo a good place to start a business.”

Trumble said that KudosHealth, like most start-ups has felt the impact of Covid-19. “And, for a start-up, it can be very challenging as you’re still only trying to get a foothold in the market and are managing a very tight budget. No business plan or financial projections would have ever foreseen the disruption we have witnessed in the last 3-4 months but we do have plans to raise €500,000 investment before the end of the year.

“However, right now we have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise €100,000 so we can provide our health perks and benefits solution to our nurses and healthcare staff for free. Our team is currently more on the medical rather than the tech side so in order to provide it for free we would need to hire around three more people on the tech side to implement and support our service for so many potential users in a short space of time.

“All through the lockdown, we wanted to do something for the healthcare staff, it was then we decided to give them access to extra health benefits. As a start-up, we simply couldn’t afford financing this ourselves, so we’ve turned to GoFundMe to help finance a large proportion of the cost we will have to incur,” Trumble explained.

Building a product is never easy and hard lessons had to be learned. “Our probably biggest mistake was choosing in the early day to have some of our software developed by a software development house rather than our own in-house developers.

“Software development houses won’t necessarily be any more cost effect and they will never be as passionate about your project as you or a direct employee will be.

“On the start-up journey, regardless of your background, there will be always be mistakes made but as long as they are small ones, you’ll be alright and everyday you’ll learn something new. Having a business mentor advising you keeps those mistakes to a minimum.

“You often hear business owners say it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. But my reply to that is that it is better to learn from someone else’s mistakes. It is cheaper that way as, no matter how small the mistake, there’s always a knock-on effect, and a cost involved.”

His advice to fellow entrepreneurs is to be flexible and share the successes and responsibilities.

“Although you’re the one who developed the business and know it inside out, there will always be people you can bring into your team that will be better than you at different things and these different skills will benefit the business.

“As the business grows, you will have to delegate and be prepared to trust your team and relinquish those roles and tasks to them.”

In terms of responding to the Covid-19 lockdown, KudosHealth was already a remote-first business. “As all of our part-time in-house developers work remotely, we use a lot of tools such as Zoom, Slack and GitHub, and using these before the arrival of Covid-19 gave us a slight advantage as we were already used to working apart from one and other.”

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 3 July, 2020

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