Tens of thousands of people in Europe and the USA are now getting support to build healthier habits and prevent lifestyle diseases. SidekickHealth continues to show that a small, Swedish company can succeed in solving major health challenges, with valuable help from Sahlgrenska Science Park and our Nordic healthtech program. The company is now looking towards significant international growth.
TEXT: ANNIKA ÅKERVALL
Value is key. Doctor Saemundur Oddson and research colleague Tryggvi Thorgeirsson started the company in 2013, with the insight that patients at risk for cardiovascular disease rarely managed to change their habits. The company entered the Accelerator @Sahlgrenska SP the following year and attracted great interest from the outside world, as SidekickHealth presented its first “gamification concept” at the Sahlgrenska Science Park event, Park Annual, in the autumn of 2014.
Innovation that motivates
The secret to success for the interactive mobile solution is that it looks like a game, but beneath the surface it is coded for important behavior changes, such as increasing exercise, maintaining weight and eating healthy. For example, a study conducted with Harvard researchers showed that people were three times more likely to reach their 5% weight loss goal, and nine out of 10 reduced their intake of sweets.
In Sweden, organizations increasingly want to help people manage their health.
“A high sugar intake, for example, is directly linked to stress and leads to costly but, in many cases, preventable lifestyle illnesses. So we know our focus should be on supporting employers. It is high time to try to slow down the development, otherwise there will be a tsunami of life style diseases” says Saemundur Oddsson.
The company currently operates in Gothenburg, in Iceland, the UK and the USA.
Financial advice important
Strategic support from Sahlgrenska Science Park initially focused on SidekickHealth’s business model and contract discussions. Today, the focus is more on financing strategy and investor relations as the company adds capital and talent to position itself for further growth. SidekickHealth secured additional funding in Q4 2018 and will be preparing to raise a Series A round towards the end of 2019.
The system has been developed by an interdisciplinary team (including physicians, psychologists, engineers and gaming specialists), in collaboration with advisors from Harvard University, MIT Media Lab and others. After presenting results from a randomised controlled trial at the American Diabetes Association’s 77th Scientific Sessions in 2017, SidekickHealth has continued to combine clinical and gaming expertise to develop evidence-based programs for lifestyle change with global pharmaceutical and insurance companies. The SidekickHealth team is also evolving the breadth and depth of platform capabilities for new therapeutic areas.
Encouraged to change habits
“Global health trends are pointing to a tsunami of lifestyle diseases, but we have an opportunity to slow them down,” said Oddsson.
“Through behavioral research, we know how to trigger healthy lifestyle changes. The more we can use those triggers to empower people to adopt new habits, the more we can guide them towards a healthier future.”
One example of motivating triggers is altruism; as SidekickHealth users earn points and rewards for improving their health, the company donates clean water to children in need through its charitable partners. In that sense, users are doing well for themselves and doing good for others.
Saemundur Oddsson, SidekickHealth, is featured in the Picture. Photo: Anna Hult
Photo: Wesley Overklift