IBM’s Watson Fund invests in health social network Welltok

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 12, 2014        

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Watson CafeWellEarlier this year IBM announced that it would invest $100 million into startups that integrate with Watson, its super computing platform, through a new investment fund called Watson Fund. IBM announced that it had helped contribute to health social network company WellTok’s $22 million third round of funding, which was led by New Enterprise Associates and included participation from another new investor — Qualcomm Ventures. Existing investors Emergence Capital Partners, InterWest Partners, Miramar Venture Partners and Okapi Venture Capital also participated.

Last November IBM announced that Welltok would be one of the first companies to integrate Watson. Welltok incorporated Watson into its app CafeWell Concierge, for users of its existing CafeWell health social network. CafeWell is offered to consumers via population managers that include employers, health plans, and providers. CafeWell Concierge will be a premium offering for these population manager customers. By linking to existing CafeWell apps, Watson can answer users based not only on their question but also on specific information like their location, health status, health benefits, health improvement programs and incentives available from their insurer, physician or local pharmacy.

The other initial integration IBM made with Watson was in MD Buyline, which makes it another likely investment target for the new Watson Fund.

“This use case was almost ideal,” Steve Gold, vice president of IBM’s Watson Group unit, told Fortune’s Dan Primack in an interview. “For example, Watson has the ability to navigate natural language, letting individuals interact and ask questions. It also has a unique ability to understand, in context, vast amounts of disparate data. In the case of Welltok, the company is collecting lots of unstructured data from various third party health and wellness providers. Plus, Watson learns. Both about healthcare and wellness broadly as Welltok adds members, but also about individual members, which makes it the ultimate concierge. “