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Inside the Provata Health office. Photo via Provata.

Dozens of employee wellness startups have emerged in the past decade as companies become more enlightened about the value of preventative care.

Portland-based Provata Health is among that group of new companies, but CEO Alex Goldberg said his startup sets itself apart by focusing on results rather than engagement.

“Despite the recent surge in corporate wellness programs, health care premiums have risen 80 percent over the past decade,” Goldberg said. “Unfortunately, most workplace wellness programs in the market are not proven to make employees healthier.”

Provata says its program gets results others don’t by focusing on health goals achieved, rather than participation. The platform also uses peer counseling and review, whereas others bring in outside experts.

Since it launched in 2013, the company has steadily grown to 21 employees at its Portland headquarters.

“Participants love our program and recommend it,” aid Goldberg said. “For those reasons, everyone at Provata Health takes great pride in what we do.”

We caught up with Provata Health’s CEO for this startup spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We work with employers and health plans to implement our team-based wellness platform, Healthy Team Healthy U, to create a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce.”

Inspiration hit us when: “A number of dynamics really converged about the same time in 2013. Many experts were becoming skeptical of the booming wellness industry for lacking evidence. The RAND report (a joint report from the Department of Labor and Department of Health & Human Services) published a seminal piece on wellness programs scrutinizing their efficacy and durability.

alex goldberg
Provata Health CEO Alex Goldberg

We realized that the industry is saturated with marketing white papers instead of evidence. This really hit home with our founding physicians because employee loyalty programs dressed up as ‘workplace wellness’ undercut the potential to truly impact the health of individuals and families. Unlike the drug market, which answers to the FDA, there’s no formal oversight body for programs like this.

Our physicians had been getting a lot of attention for the effectiveness of their innovative approach to health promotion and behavior change science, winning accolades from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, the U.S. Department of Human Services, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Cancer Institute.

That’s when we took our scientifically-validated paradigm and combined it with innovative digital technologies to create a total health solution that is cost-effective and proven to significantly improve the health and happiness of participants.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap. We are not a traditional startup in that we have $46 million in NIH and CDC-funded clinical trials validating the effectiveness of our wellness strategy across diverse populations. We didn’t need investment to test and confirm the value of our product. We’ve been fortunate enough to launch, grow, and remain profitable without the need for VC funding.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “The positive power of teams. Our proprietary, team-based approach to wellness is key to our success.

Provata-Logo-stacked-1Just about every company in the wellness market is using some combination of the same tactics: Physical health screenings, user-created challenges, and personal health coaching. We have decades of science showing there is a much better way.

Healthy Team Healthy U harnesses the unique benefits of peer influence to achieve remarkable results. Team members are accountable not just to themselves, but to their colleagues. Instead of fragmenting workers based on their health conditions and risks, we unite workers with a total health solution proven to work for all lifestyles and life stages. Why should employers rely on people outside of their organization when we can empower workers to cultivate a culture of wellness from within? Our groundbreaking approach is scientifically proven to achieve better health outcomes at a fraction of the cost of programs based on health coaching and counseling.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Keeping our creative and development team in house. We know some may think it’s cheaper to outsource some of those tasks. But we’ve found its both cost and quality-effective to build and design our tech internally. Our digital platform is key to our success and we’re innovating all the time. The integrations and features we’re implementing are thanks to the collaboration and dedication of our all-star staff.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Not locking down the office space next door when we had a chance! We’ve moved three times over the last year as our team continues to grow. Unfortunately, some folks just moved into the office space next to us so it looks like we need to ditch our plans to break down the connecting wall for our next expansion.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Musk. He’s such an innovator and he’s up against crazy odds. Automotive, oil, and policy are against him and he seems to continually stay 10 steps ahead. He’s a huge thinker and he continues to come up with breakthrough, non-linear solutions that have the potential to change the world for the better. Just like he is revolutionizing the car industry, we want to revolutionize healthcare.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Our own program of course! But other team activities we really enjoy are Demo Days and game night. Every other Thursday the team stays after work to socialize, have fun, and play games. In fact, we invented a new sport called Running Pong that can get pretty intense.

For Demo Day, everyone from each department shares their latest and greatest products, ideas, and progress. It always erupts in cheering. A culture of teamwork is critical at a startup. The hours can be long and intense. There’s nothing like the camaraderie that comes from getting that well-deserved recognition and support from your fellow workers.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Three things: Critical thinking, a passion for teamwork, and adaptability.

Critical thinking: We’re a healthcare company first, so we intentionally look for people who put rigor behind decision-making.

Teamwork: Our science continues to prove that teams can do amazing things. We want people who intentionally seek the added value and victory that comes with collaboration.

Adaptability: We learn new things everyday. Technology is changing everyday and we need to continually work to make ourselves better. We love people who continue to bring learning from the outside to make us more effective.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Resilience is everything. You’re simultaneously training and competing in sprints and marathons. But how you spend your time-off will contribute to your success as much as those long hours.

Sleep, nutrition, stress-management, teamwork and physical activity will contribute to your effectiveness. But don’t take my word for it. That’s what the science taught me.”

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