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Russian Health Advice Site VitaPortal Merges With Local Medical Platform ZdorovieOnline, Gets $1.35M Funding Injection

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A spot of consolidation in the Russian online health services space today. Health advice portal VitaPortal, which raised a $2 million Series A last October from Prostor Capital and Esther Dyson, has merged with ZdorovieOnline.ru, a smaller medical platform and electronic medical records portal, backed by Runa Capital.

The pair said they are hoping to create the single largest entity in Russian’s online health services space. Currently VitaPortal has more than 700,000 registered users of its health services but they said investor forecasts factoring in the merger suggest they can increase this figure to 5 million users next year.

Azamat Ulbashev, VitaPortal’s CEO and CoFounder, told TechCrunch the two main reasons for the merger are “technology acquisitions and acqui-hire”.

“After the merger, only VitaPortal.ru will remain; ZdorovieOnline.ru will be closed,” he said via email. “Their great technology for storing medical data will be implemented into VitaPortal platform. All our services (weight loss management, diabetes control, fitness and Q&A) will use their technology.”

According to Ulbashev, VitaPortal’s main competitors are now: “health.mail.ru (10M unique users per month, Mail.ru Group), medkrug.ru (2M unique users, Q&A platform) medportal.ru and others.”

The merger also brings new money to the table, from ZdorovieOnline investors  —  in order to “maintain the balance of shares” in the new entity, and to fund the development of “a number of additional services”, the pair said.

A total of $1.35 million is being invested as Series B funding into VitaPortal, with $1 million coming from Runa Capital and $350,000 from Aleksey Kandikov, founder of Zdorovie Online.

Ulbashev would not confirm the total funding to-date that VitaPortal — which also counts Fastlane Ventures as a founder investor — now commands, but he said that even only factoring in its previously announced Series A and the new Series B round, it is now the “most funded digital health startup in Russia”

To date, VitaPortal has provided online and mobile tools designed to help its users make healthier life choices — offering articles and tips on health issues, forums and Q&A sections, health measurement tools and more.

Regarding the development of new services, which the merger is intended to expedite, Ulbashev said VitaPortal plans to release an Open API to connect to health tracker services — such as FitBit, MyFitnessPal, BodyMedia and RunKeeper — so that the personalised content it offers users becomes “more precise”.

New services in its pipeline also include a weight loss management system called SlimSmile; a service for people with type II diabetes called DiabetesControl (due for release in November); a home fitness online video service called FitnessMaster (due in December); a Q&A platform for users to ask doctors questions called VitaDoctor; and an electronic medical records service called VitaClinic.

All these new services will be ported to mobile, as well as being incorporated into the VitaPortal website.

Commenting on the merger and new funding in a statement, Gaidar Magdanurov, investment director of Runa Capital, said: “The deal with VitaPortal and merger with Zdorovie Online will form the largest online medical information portal and provide quality technology solutions for users.”

“The need for ‘digital medicine’ among users is growing rapidly. The global investment in IT startups in the sphere of health totalled approximately $1.5 billion,” Magdanurov added.

While Ulbashev said VitaPortal will exclusively focus on its home market of Russia (and CIS countries/former Soviet Republics) next year, it does have plans to look slightly further afield for expansion opportunities in future. “At the end of 2014 we will test the Eastern European countries, as they are very close to Russia,” he added.