Health gadget company Withings will announce in a few minutes a new funding round from Bpifrance, Idinvest Partners, 360 Capital Partners and existing investor Ventech. Out of the $30 million, $15 million comes from Bpifrance, the newly created public entity — BPI means Public Investment Bank in French. It is one of its first traditional VC deal.
Withings is perhaps best known for its series of smart scales and body analyzers (along with curious one-off devices like a baby monitor), but the company has recently decided to take a stab at creating yet another sort of fitness gadget: a wearable activity tracker. Calling that particular market crowded is putting it awfully mildly. Devices from the likes of Nike, Jawbone, and Fitbit have put an approachable face on the quantified self movement and have garnered plenty of attention from press and health-conscious consumers.
That’s not to say that Withings’ own fitness tracker, the Pulse, is entering the fight unarmed — it’s capable of measuring its user’s heart rate with a single touch in addition to tracking steps taken and hours slept. The Pulse’s big value though is that it provides even more data for existing Withings device owners to tap into, which helps users piece together a more fully-realized image of their health. That street runs both ways too — the $99 Pulse may wind up acting as a sort of Trojan Horse to introduce its users to the rest of Withings’ health-centric gadgets.
While Withings prepares to face off against some highly popular rivals, it plans to use that fresh infusion of capital to strengthen its foundation. In addition to expanding to new markets, and fleshing out its R&D efforts with new hires, Withings hopes to improve its retail distribution deals to more prominently show off its health-conscious wares to consumers. The Paris-based company was founded in 2008 and previously raised $3.85 million (€3 million) in 2010.
When it comes to the investment, the most surprising part is that Bpifrance is leading the round. Bpifrance is the new venture with teams from OSEO, CDC Entreprises, and the FSI (France’s sovereign wealth fund). In its past iterations, it has invested in France’s biggest startups, such as Dailymotion, or even well-established companies, such as Orange.
Many startup enthusiasts thought that the public institutions weren’t supporting France’s startup economy by putting money into those companies. Dailymotion was already a “success” when the FSI invested. Withings may indicate a new trend at Bpifrance. The institution could make many smaller and riskier deals to support startups at an early stage.