Michael Serbinis, the entrepreneur that created the Kobo e-books business, is turning his attention to the healthcare sector with a new startup being unveiled today – League Inc.
League is a personal wellness portal designed to be accessed by individuals and their healthcare practitioners via a web portal and mobile apps on iOS and Android platforms. The digital platform will log information provided by wearable technology – such as the number of steps taken in a day as provided by a FitBit – and other details controlled by the user, with the intent of keeping your team of healthcare providers in the loop about your health.
While League is gearing up towards an early 2015 launch, it has already landed a $4 million seed fundraising round led by OMERS Ventures and Infinite Potential Technologies LP (the venture capital firm of BlackBerry’s Mike Lazaridis), Foundation Capital, and Real Ventures. The symptomatic approach to healthcare in the Western world is unsustainable, Serbinis says, and League’s approach to harness data for a preventative approach is the next big thing.
“What’s crazy about it… is how much is chronic or preventable,” he says. “We need a digital platform that we can use as consumers every day to stay connected to health professionals and stay connected to our health every day.”
The startup’s moniker, League, has a double-entendre in that it refers to helping consumers assemble a league of healthcare practitioners, but it also refers to an ancient Roman term used to represent the amount of distance a person could walk in one hour. Romans were encouraged to walk a league every day to maintain their personal health, Serbinis says.
In modern society, he estimates between 15 and 20 per cent of the North American population will be interested in using League. A demographic of people that want to be healthy – often triggered by a life event such as a parent’s death, or having children – and tends to skew towards females.
Plus, with healthcare costs expected to double in the next decade as the population ages, Serbinis is banking that whoever is footing the bill will be pushing people towards taking more responsibility for their health.
“I don’t know how the system continues to operate,” he says. “There will be an ongoing effort to get people to use preventative health services instead of getting to the point where you get into the hospital system.”
Few details are known about how League works or what it looks like. The digital platform isn’t without competition, though. For example, Telus Corp. launched its health space service in 2010, using Microsoft’s HealthVault software to offer Canadians a personalized healthcare portal.
Serbinis scoffs at the mention of the offering.
“Do you know anyone that uses Microsoft [Health]Vault?” he asks. “I don’t.”
The serial entrepreneur is no stranger to competition. He launched Kobo into a market dominated by giants like Amazon and Sony in 2009. What began as a business division of Indigo Books and Music would eventually spin off to become its own business, and then be acquired in a $315 million deal in November 2011.
“At Kobo when we launched, we were one of 200,” Serbinis says. “When I left, we were one of three.”
League is calling for applications from healthcare practitioners that want to participate in its beta program. It’s expected to launch early next year.