A health technology startup with massive plans for downtown Chapel Hill just received a huge shot in the arm from investors.
Well Dot Inc. said this week that it’s raised $40 million from investors — an amount that will be used to fuel its ambitious hiring goal of 400 employees in the next four years.
Well will bring 400 jobs, $3.1 million investment to Chapel Hill’s West Franklin Street business district over eight years. In return, Chapel Hill, Orange County and the state will provide over $5 million in property tax and other incentives. BY TAMMY GRUBB
The year-old company has around 30 employees in Chapel Hill at the moment. But in the next year the company’s health care platform will add several large customers, making the ramp up necessary, Well co-founder David Werry told The News & Observer in an interview.
Werry declined to say who the company’s clients are, but Well has deep connections in the health insurance space.
Founded by former Aetna executives, it has created an artificially intelligent platform that acts like an on-demand health care expert for a company’s employees.
For many people, Werry said, health care is incredibly opaque and confusing. “The vast majority of people don’t even know where to start,” he said.
“We want to be that trusted guide helping nudge you to the right decision and answer questions,” he added, whether that is finding the right doctor, scheduling a telemedicine appointment or getting behavioral health support.
It can also give proactive recommendations tailored to each user. If you haven’t been to a primary-care doctor in five years, Werry said, it might send you a push notification suggesting it.
“Each user is going to see different things,” he said.
Additionally, the app provides rewards and feedback for company-initiated health goals. It uses techniques from gaming to increase engagement.
Gaming is something the company knows very well. Its CEO, Gary Loveman, previously led the casino company Caesars Entertainment.
The $40 million raise is one of the largest by a startup in North Carolina this year. It comes on top of a $25 million seed round raised last year and incentives from the state worth nearly $4.4 million. (Well had also considered Boston for its expansion.)
Its investors include General Catalyst, John Doerr, Mosaic Health Solutions and partners of Hellman & Friedman.
Werry, a UNC alumnus, said the company has been able to raise a significant amount of money because of its experienced team and the increased importance of digital health going forward.
“Especially in this new (post-COVID) world, digital health care is even more import than before,” he said. “And we thought it was really important before the pandemic.”
FRANKLIN STREET OFFICE
Well’s primary office is at 419 W. Franklin St., the home of the former Carolina Ale House and Yates Motor Co. It’s also set to expand into a nearby building that currently houses the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau and Skills Development Center, The N&O previously reported.
Werry said the company is in negotiation with another location on Franklin Street but declined to name it. The company has an office in Newton, Mass., too.
The Town of Chapel Hill, which also gave incentives to land the company’s expansion, is hopeful that the increase in workers will help support its struggling restaurant and retail base on Franklin Street.
The downtown area has several office redevelopments planned at the moment, with the hopes that it will diversify the town’s reliance on UNC’s student population.
The office remains a priority for Well despite the fact that it has handled remote work well.
“Having an office environment that helps us build our culture is still really important to us,” Werry said. “But I think we will build flexibility into that.”
This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work. Learn more; go to bit.ly/newsinnovate