Noom, a developer of Android health management apps, raised $2.6 million in its first venture round to expand its flagship product, the Noom Weight Loss Coach, into Korea. The round was led by m8 Capital, a UK-based firm that invests exclusively in mobile technologies. Its portfolio includes memory-enhancement app Evernote. Also contributing to Noom's latest round were Qualcomm Ventures, Harbor Pacific Capital, and former Nexon executives.
Noom co-founder Artem Petakov told MobiHealthNews that the team is excited to be working with specialized investors like m8 Capital.
"[m8] really impressed us with their focus on mobile," he said. "There are special things going on in mobile, and it's not always the most transferable thing. Plus, they bring a lot of expertise with European carriers and that was really important to us."
Noom was founded in 2007 as WorkSmart Labs (the company changed its name in December 2011 to match its flagship product). In that time they have had two high-profile seed investments of undisclosed amounts: one from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (through their iFund) and one from Qualcomm Ventures' Qualcomm Life Fund. Petakov said that this funding launch is not significantly larger than the previous, undisclosed funding raise.
The New York-based company has a number of ties to Korea already: Co-founder Saeju Jeong began his entrepreneurial career founding a music label in his native Korea, and the company received two rounds of angel funding from investors based in the country, according to the company's website. Last year Korean food giant Daesang licensed the company's Calorific app for a year.
Petakov said that a move to Korea - and into other Asian markets from there - was the company's plan from the start. He said Noom is famous in Korea, and the country is Noom's third-largest market, after the US and the UK.
"Korea is an amazing ecosystem right now," he said. "It's something like 90 percent Android and the people are very health-conscience. So it makes a lot of sense that they would be our third-largest market."
With the new funds, the company will open a Korean office and fully localize and translate the Noom Weight Loss coach. All the development will continue to be done in the company's New York office, while the Korean presence will focus on marketing and technical support.
"It's an integral part of our operations," Petakov said. "There's a huge time difference, so you really need people there on the ground."
Noom has made a name for itself as a weight loss offering for Android, topping 15 million organic downloads, according to Petakov. Noom Weight Loss Coach is a $10 per month app that gives users personalized weight loss instructions and allows them to easily track activity and food intake. In addition, the company offers two free apps: CardioTrainer, a "mobile fitness training partner," and Calorific, an app for food logging. They also offer a paid fitness aid called Race Against Yourself.
Petakov said being Android-exclusive isn't an endgame for Noom, and in fact the company has been working to develop iOS versions of its apps for some time. Currently, the company has one app in the iOS App Store, a version of Calorific, although it hasn't been updated since August of 2011.
"We're always allocating priorities in iOS as well," he said. "We've had more internal versions than I can count, but to really be committed to a launch is quite a different matter. ... We're definitely preparing. It was a very close call not going for it this time around."