Kurbo Health, a mobile subscription service focused on fighting childhood obesity through the use of simple food diaries and live coaching, is today opening its doors to all families who want to sign up and try its weight loss program, initially available as an iOS application. The company also just closed on $5.8 million in Series A funding from Signia Venture Partners, Data Collective, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Promus Ventures, as well as Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, and Greg Badros, former VP Engineering and Product at Facebook.
The startup first made its debut at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York, where co-founder and CEO Joanna Strober explained how the idea for this kind of system – the first mobile weight loss program for kids – grew out of her own experiences trying to help her son find a program that worked for him. The one that did the trick was Stanford’s Pediatric Weight Loss Program, which, though effective, Strober described as being “1970’s tech” with “paper and pencil and in-person visits.”
So Strober, along with Kurbo co-founder Thea Runyon, licensed the behavior modification techniques and tools from Stanford’s program and combined them with the best practices from mobile adult weight loss programs. The end result is Kurbo, a smartphone app that offers a food-tracking system that uses “red,” “yellow,” and “green” to simplify food categories, while also providing both virtual feedback and live coaching.
More importantly, the program brings the parents into the process, not as strict disciplinarians who have to play the role of “food police,” but as supporters. The children instead independently use the application, and parents can’t see the details of what they ate, only that they’re using the program and making progress. This has the side benefit of making the family dynamic less stressful, with fewer fights over food and eating habits – which can also help increase a child’s potential for success.
In early tests, Kurbo Health worked with children ages 8-18 around the U.S., who reported at 85% success in reducing their Body Mass Index (BMI) over the course of 10 weeks. Those who tracked their food on Kurbo lost more weight, and many lost 10 pounds ore more during the 10-week beta period. 90% continued with the program when the 10-week trial ended.
“It’s extremely rare for me to invest in any startup, but with Kurbo there was an opportunity to help solve one of the world’s biggest problems – childhood obesity – using mobile technology, says investor Wojcicki, in a statement. “Kurbo has taken the best of the proven programs out there and adapted them the digital era in ways that appeal to kids, with games, videos and text coaching. As a mom with four kids, I’ve experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to get kids to understand and adopt healthy eating habits, but Kurbo actually makes the process fun,” she added.
The mobile app out now for iOS is a free download with plans that range from $10 to $75 per month, depending on the levels of virtual or live coaching the parents decide to sign up for. At the high-end, Kurbo is meant to rival the coaching a child would receive in an offline program.
In September, an Android version of Kurbo will also be available. In the meantime, the company is working on partnerships with several major healthcare organizations, including insurance companies and pediatrician groups. “We are excited about the interest from corporations to include this in their benefit plans for their employees and the interest from pediatrician groups to recommend this to their patients,” says Strober.
In addition, the now 10-person company will use the funding to hire in marketing and bring in more coaches.