Our Start-up of the Week is Wind of Change, a service that helps employers and employees to improve their health and save money by using individualised wellbeing programmes.
Based in Dublin’s Dogpatch Labs, Wind of Change was founded by nutritional therapist Sohini De with the aim of creating a service that would help companies look after the health of their staff.
Before she launched her own business, De earned an MBA and spent many years working as an international fund manager. It was here that she recognised the opportunities arising in the global wellness industry, and decided to pursue a qualification in nutritional therapy to embark on a new path.
“For 10 years before Wind of Change was founded, I specialised in environmental strategies and food and agriculture investments covering the entire food value chain, from farm to fork,” she told Siliconrepublic.com.
“Learning more about nutrition and lifestyle choices made me take a four-year course in functional medicine-based nutritional therapy. This led directly to the formation of Wind of Change.”
Wind of Change builds individualised wellbeing programmes for organisations, with consideration of each participants’ medical, nutritional, lifestyle and behavioural data. De said that because Wind of Change is a global platform, the start-up’s services are perfect for multi-location companies, or companies with mobile or remote employees.
“Wind of Change has identified niche markets within larger organisations where employees have high burnout rates, as well as in companies where key skill retention is important,” she explained.
Aside from the wellbeing of each employee, De believes it’s important to look after each staff member from a business point of view.
“Independent research shows that for every $1 spent on wellness, a company gets $2.71 in return,” she said.
“Wind of Change seeks companies where senior management know that the benefits of increased productivity, staff retention and employee engagement can be had simply by improving their health and wellbeing.
“Wind of Change’s immediate market focus is estimated to be worth €200m. The company hopes to hit annual revenues of €18m by 2025. The platform is globally scalable, so as we secure further investment, our revenue can grow exponentially.”
The company’s services are already available in India and Ireland, with plans to go live in the United Arab Emirates in the near future.
The start-up’s team consists of medical doctors, health coaches and experts in the fields of nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress management and behavioural change. But although the focus is on wellness, they are creating a tech product.
“Our product is WaaS or, Wellbeing as a Service. This is a B2B productivity and health risk management tool for global organisations,” De explained.
“Wind of Change gathers medical nutrition and lifestyle data from users through integrated technologies and interactive questionnaires and converts it into personalised wellbeing protocols using our unique algorithms and predictive analytics to prevent and manage chronic conditions.
“It is a cloud-based multi-device SaaS and analytics platform that allows health coaches and users to interact. It also has a user reward system and gives real time reports for organisations and users.”
The start-up is currently in the process of building the next version of this platform, with the help of Irish third-level technology institutions, which are assisting the start-up in using AI and machine learning for further scaling and predictive analytics.
“The next version of Wind of Change has more integration capability for automatic activity as well as rest and sleep tracking. We are also introducing image recognition technology for food,” De said. The updates will also include voice activation and voice recognition technology to reduce data-entry requirement.
Over the next 18 months, Wind of Change has plans to onboard 30,000 users in India and Ireland – a massive expansion from it existing 200 users. The start-up’s pilot began here in January of this year, before launching in India in March.
“We have already received renewals from our pilot clients, with these companies adding more users, which means it obviously works, and those initial clients have given us referrals for other businesses,” De said.
“In Q3 and Q4 of 2019, our focus is on developing the Irish and UK markets further and converting the pipeline in India. We have a new strategic investor in the UAE who has identified a large market there, where we will expand as soon as resources allow.”
‘Know your customer, their needs and what bugs them most’
– SOHINI DE
While the company was self-funded to begin with, Wind of Change received LEO funding in recent months, as well as grants from the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programmes. De said that the company also received equity funding from the Bolton Trust Angel Fund.
She added that the resources in the Irish start-up scene have helped her get the business off the ground. “In my opinion, Irish start-up infrastructure is very strong with state agencies like the LEOs, Enterprise Ireland, NDRC and Dublin BIC helping start-ups by providing not just financial support, but also giving us valuable guidance around business strategy and entrepreneur development programmes.
“We received CSF approval from Enterprise Ireland and an NDRC accelerator programme with equity finance. We are an EI client now, and will be going for EI’s HPSU programme, which will help develop the business for a further 18 months,” she added.
“We are currently open to further investments, particularly from ‘smart money’ – investors who bring more than cash to the table. We hope to close another funding round by Q1 of 2020. We are using the current funds to increase our deployment team.”
On top of financial support, De said the start-up has benefitted immensely from advice, tips and lessons shared by other self-starters in Ireland. In particular, working in Dogpatch Labs has been vital for the “cross-pollination of ideas”, and gaining guidance that she has used in her own business.
“Be humble…and nosy. Know your customer, their needs and what bugs them most,” she added. “Never lead with your solution, but instead built it around what your customer wants and is willing to pay for.”
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