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Digital health’s rapid growth spurt comes home to roost

With fears of a recession and inflation running high, the boom period for digital health apps looks to
The post Digital health’s rapid growth spurt comes…

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With fears of a recession and inflation running high, the boom period for digital health apps looks to be waning. In this article, Ben Hargreaves looks at how companies have reacted to an unfavourable economic climate and what that could mean for the long-term growth of the industry.

The idea 12 months ago that the health and wellness app space could soon be facing a crisis would have seemed highly pessimistic. The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a rapid increase in the uptake and demand for digital health solutions. During the height of the pandemic in UK, research found that five million health apps were downloaded every day. The explosion in the use of such apps was a literal lifesaver.

The technology provided remote doctor’s appointments and access to information regarding COVID-19 or broader health issues that would otherwise have been limited due to the pandemic restrictions experienced worldwide. The reduced levels of access to traditional healthcare also encouraged people of all ages to increase smart device usage and studies found positivity towards such technology also increased, compared to prior to the pandemic. One area that saw particular growth was the health coaching app space, with a 46% increase in downloads of health and fitness apps, due to the access it provided to professionals who could help with health, fitness, nutrition, or general wellbeing.

The challenge facing the companies working in digital health was how to build on the growth experienced during the height of the pandemic. Being able to continue such momentum as a normal economic environment re-emerged would have been difficult, as people began to resume their usual routines. However, as fears over broader inflation and a potential recession have struck, there is suddenly less appetite to finance fledgling health and wellness apps that cannot provide an immediate financial return. Accordingly, companies in the space have been forced to re-evaluate the sustainability of their current modes of operations within this differing economic climate. The result has been many companies cutting staff numbers.

Counting the cost

The decision to reduce company headcounts is not specific to those that have fallen foul of expanding too quickly but is broadly symptomatic of a tighter economic situation.  This trend extends even to the tech giants, such as Amazon and Alphabet, with the former cutting 100,000 positions globally and the latter stating that it will slow down hiring for the rest of 2022. Health and wellness app companies have had a more difficult time than most due to the explosive growth experienced during the early parts of the pandemic, along with enthusiastic financial support, followed very quickly by a different climate.

Marina Borukhovich, CEO at YourCoach, a platform for health and wellness coaches to deliver their services, explained to pharmaphorum why there had been recent job losses across the industry: “Tremendous capital has flowed into the digital health industry and with that came overstaffing in hopes of increased demand for particular services/products, many of which utilised health coaching in order to improve health consumer engagement, adherence, and outcomes.”

Once the economic situation took a turn for the worse, this led to the job cuts that were seen across a number of digital health companies, as well as those apps and businesses that offered a platform for health and wellness coaches.

In terms of why this has occurred, Borukhovich stated, “Perhaps what wasn’t taken into consideration is the cyclical nature of client demand and not leveraging coaches for what we call ‘real coaching’, but instead as text-based reminder service, unfortunately resulting in mass layoffs.”

One company that was forced to dismiss a number of staff was Carbon Health when it cut away 8% of its global workforce at the beginning of June. The company offers in-person clinics alongside virtual services rather than specifically being app-based, but did provide reasons outside of the economic downturn for its decision.

The company’s CEO, Eren Bali, explained, “While our core business grew 4x in 2021 and will double again in 2022, we – like most healthcare providers – had significant revenue from COVID-specific lines of business. As COVID is entering a new phase, we are winding down some of those COVID-specific lines of business and that, unfortunately, means parting ways with some colleagues.”

“Tremendous capital has flowed into the digital health industry and with that came overstaffing in hopes of increased demand for particular services/products, many of which utilised health coaching in order to improve health consumer engagement, adherence, and outcomes.”

 

Focus on ‘sustainability’

Bali’s suggestion that companies had hired to meet demand for COVID services but that the plans could not be sustained in the long-term is reflected in similar statements. The companies in the health and wellness space that chose to lay off staff often referenced the sustainability of the business as one reason behind such actions.

Noom is one such company, after it was revealed by Business Insider that it would reduce its coaching staff by approximately 25%. The digital health tech company is focused on a weight-loss program delivered by app, which is based on a coaching model. At one point last year, the company was reported to be eyeing an IPO early this year that would value the company at approximately $7.5bn.

Instead, Business Insider reported that an email was sent to staff prior to the job cuts, which stated: “We are in a moment of change and it is important that we evolve our coaching model to be more viable for the sake of the Noom mission, the long-term health of our business, and for the coaching team.” pharmaphorum reached out to Noom to comment on the reduction in staff numbers, but no response was forthcoming.

Another company that took similar action was Calibrate, a weight loss digital health startup that reduced staff numbers by 24%. Similarly, the company’s CEO, Isabelle Kenyone, was reported as explaining to staff that the actions were necessary to make the company sustainable in the long-term.

Health of the sector

The question now is how the digital health space will recover from the current situation, where investment is not as freely available and people no longer have the same necessity for app-based solutions compared to the early stages of the pandemic.

When asked about the long-term health of the area, Borukhovich replied, “Digital health and wellness apps are here to stay and like with everything else, it’s the ‘survival of the fittest’ – those who are grounded in science will, for sure, continue leading the way.”

There will be an impact for those companies that have cut positions broadly from their companies; it is impossible to negate the impact on the service. For those specifically working with health coaches to deliver a product, Borukhovich said, the question of whether job losses will impact the quality of service depends on whether the health coaching is ‘core’ to the product or not. “If yes and health consumers expect a certain quality and level of service, then it will absolutely impact their faith in and engagement with the product,” she concluded.

This is the short-term risk to the digital health space that could pose a long-term problem: where a drop in quality could dissuade people from using the solutions and the uptake seen during the pandemic could slip away. As broad swathes of the population became quickly used to managing health and wellness issues through apps, they could just as easily let those habits drop and return to relying on traditional healthcare. However, as Borukhovich identified, this is where the idea of the ‘survival of the fittest’ will come into play, as those companies that maintain the same quality and continue to engage users may well establish a strong position once the economy turns back around.

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EasyJet share price has collapsed by 53% in 2022. Is it a buy?

The EasyJet (LON: EZJ) share price has hit turbulence as concerns about demand and soaring costs remain. It dropped to a low of 293p, which was the lowest…

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The EasyJet (LON: EZJ) share price has hit turbulence as concerns about demand and soaring costs remain. It dropped to a low of 293p, which was the lowest level since November 2011. It has plummeted by more than 82% from its all-time high, giving it a market cap of more than 2.5 billion pounds.

Is EasyJet a good buy?

EasyJet is a leading regional airline that operates mostly in Europe. It has hundreds of aircraft and thousands of employees. In 2021, the firm’s revenue jumped to more than 1.49 billion pounds, which was a strong recovery from what it made in the previous year.

EasyJet’s business is doing well as demand for flights rises. In the most recent results, the firm said that forward bookings for Q3 were 76% sold and 36% sold for Q4. For some destinations, bookings have been much higher than before the pandemic.

EasyJet’s business made more than 1.75 billion in revenue in the first half of the year. This happened as passenger revenue rose to 1.15 billion while ancillary revenue jumped to 603 million pounds. The firm managed to make a loss before tax of more than 114 million pounds. It attributed that loss to higher costs and forex conversions.

As I wrote on this article on IAG, EasyJet share price has collapsed as investors worry about the soaring cost of doing business. Besides, jet fuel and wages have jumped sharply in the past few months. Also, analysts and investors are concerned about flight cancellations in its key markets.

Still, there is are two key catalysts for EasyJet. For one, as the stock collapses, it could become a viable acquisition target. In 2021, the management rejected a relatively attractive bid from Wizz Air. Another bid could happen if the stock continues tumbling.

Further, the company could do well as the aviation industry stabilizes in the coming months. A key challenge is that confidence in Europe and the UK.

EasyJet share price forecast

EasyJet share price

The daily chart shows that the EasyJet stock price has been in a strong bearish trend in the past few months. During this time, the stock has tumbled below all moving averages. It has also formed what looks like a falling wedge pattern, which is usually a bullish sign.

The Relative Strength Index (RSI) has dropped below the oversold level while the Awesome Oscillator has moved below the neutral point.

Therefore, in the near term, the stock will likely continue falling as sellers target the support at 270p. In the long-term, however, the shares will likely rebound as the falling wedge reaches its confluence level.

The post EasyJet share price has collapsed by 53% in 2022. Is it a buy? appeared first on Invezz.

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August data shows UK automotive sector heading for a “cliff-edge” in 2023

With an all-out macroeconomic storm brewing in the UK, the Bank of England (BoE) has been forced to intervene in the tumultuous gilt markets, particularly…

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With an all-out macroeconomic storm brewing in the UK, the Bank of England (BoE) has been forced to intervene in the tumultuous gilt markets, particularly towards the tail end of the yield curve (details of which were reported on Invezz here).

Car manufacturing is a key industry in the UK. Recently, it registered a turnover of roughly £67 billion, provided direct employment to 182,000 people, and a total of nearly 800,000 jobs across the entire automotive supply chain, while contributing to 10% of exports.

Just after midnight GMT, data on fresh car production for the month of August was released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited (SMMT).

Strong annual growth but monthly decline

Car production in the UK surged 34% year-over-year settling at just under 50,000 units. This marked the fourth consecutive month of positive growth on an annual basis.

However, twelve months ago, production was heavily dampened by a plethora of supply chain bottlenecks, work stoppages on account of the pandemic, and a worldwide shortage of microchips. The August 2021 output of 37,246 units was the lowest recorded August volume since way back in 1956.

Although the improvement in output is a good sign, equally it is on the back of a heavily depressed performance.

Source: SMMT

To place the latest data in its proper context, production is still 45.9% below August 2019 levels of 92,158 units, showing just how far adrift the industry is from the pre-pandemic period.

Since July, production in the sector fell 14%.

The fact that the UK is facing a deep economic malaise becomes even more evident when we look at full-year numbers for 2020 and 2021.

In 2020, total output came in at 920,928 units, while 2021 was even lower at 859,575. The last time that the UK automotive sector produced less than one million cars in a calendar year was 1986.  

Unfortunately, 2022 has seen only 511,106 units produced thus far, a 13.3% decline compared to January to August 2021.

In contrast, the 5-year pre-pandemic average for January to August output from 2014 – 2019 stands well above this mark at 1,030,527 units.

With car manufacturers tending to pass price rises on to consumers, demand was dampened by surging costs of semiconductors, logistics and raw materials.

The SMMT noted,

The sector is now on course to produce fewer than a million cars for the third consecutive year.

Ian Henry, managing director of AutoAnalysis concurred with the SMMT’s analysis,

It is expected that by the end of this year car production will reach 825,000, compared to 850,000 a year ago, but that’s 35% down on 2019 and a whopping 50% on the high figure of 2017.

Sector challenges

Other than the obvious fact that the UK’s economic atmosphere is in hot water, the automotive industry (including component manufacturers) has been struggling to stave off the high energy costs of doing business.

In a survey, 69% of respondents flagged energy costs as a key concern. Estimates suggest that the sector’s collective energy expenditure has gone up by 33% in the last 12 months reaching over £300 million, forcing several operations to become unviable.

Although the government enacted measures to cap the price of energy and ease obstacles to additional production, Mike Hawes, the CEO of SMMT, said,

This is a short-term fix, however, and to avoid a cliff-edge in six months’ time, it must be backed by a full package of measures that will sustain the sector.

Due to the meteoric rise in costs across the automotive supply chain, 13% of respondents were cutting shifts, 9% chose to downsize their workforce and 41% postponed further investments.

Bleak outlook

Uncertainties around Brexit and the EU trade deal are yet to be resolved.

Moreover, the energy crisis is poised to get even more acute unless Russia withdraws from the conflict, or international leaders ease restrictions on Moscow. Last week, I discussed the evolving energy crisis here

With global central banks expected to tighten till at least the end of the year, demand is likely to be squeezed further pressurizing British car manufacturers.

Electric vehicles made up 71% of car exports from the UK in August, but robust growth in the sector looks challenging in the near term, in the absence of widespread charging infrastructure, high electricity prices and globally low consumer confidence.

Although energy subsidies could provide some relief in the immediate future, the industry will remain in dire straits while investments stay low and the shortage in human capital persists, particularly amid the push for EVs.

Given the prevailing macroeconomic environment, and severe market backlash to Truss’s mini-budget (which I discussed in an earlier article), the sector is unlikely to turn the corner any time soon.

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BRV China Holds Singapore Explorer Day at SMU

BRV China Holds Singapore Explorer Day at SMU
PR Newswire
SINGAPORE, Sept. 29, 2022

Brings Together Leading Entrepreneurial Minds Across China, Southeast Asia, North America
SINGAPORE, Sept. 29, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — BlueRun Ventures China (BRV Chin…

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BRV China Holds Singapore Explorer Day at SMU

PR Newswire

Brings Together Leading Entrepreneurial Minds Across China, Southeast Asia, North America

SINGAPORE, Sept. 29, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- BlueRun Ventures China (BRV China), a leading early-stage technology-focused venture firm, yesterday hosted Explorer Day in Singapore in collaboration with the Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship of Singapore Management University and SGInnovate, a government-owned innovation platform in Singapore to support deep technology entrepreneurship. The event brought together more than 80 founders and pioneers – local entrepreneurs, government associations, academics and venture capitalists – who discussed the company's global investment strategy and emerging trends in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI), enterprise services, Web3, robotics and the global expansion plans of start-ups.

BRV China sees significant opportunity for technology investment globally and shared the following insights during the event:

  • Despite market volatility, BRV China remains confident in the fundamental value of many portfolio companies as high-quality start-ups capable of developing disruptive innovations have continued to demonstrate an ability to secure third-party capital.
  • BRV China remains bullish on the long-term prospects of key frontier areas such as AI, robotics, new energy solutions and biotechnology (powered by innovative algorithms).
  • Unlike internet services like mobile apps and e-commerce services that are specifically designed for a geographical region, deep technologies possess substantial business development potential with increasing demand in the global market that will lead to an expected rise in demand for deep technology talent.
  • BRV China believes there's significant long-term potential in the global market with investment flows into the region expected to bounce back following global economic recovery in the coming years.
  • With great changes unseen in a generation will come greater opportunities. Venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and startups were called on to re-evaluate the economic cycle and establish long-term plans so they are ready to "surf the wave" upon eventual recovery in the near-term.

Having first-mover advantages in deep technology and a strong track record across market cycles, BRV China shared its experiences on the opportunities and challenges faced by early-stage startups in areas such as accessing financing solutions and commercialization of technologies ultimately helping promising companies be fully prepared for the many hurdles they face on their growth journey.

"We continue to witness a rapid transition towards a digitalized economy that was accelerated by the pandemic leading to a gamut of opportunities for start-ups that continues to contribute to the growth of the technology sector," said Jui Tan, Managing Partner of BRV China. "To help Chinese start-ups survive a crisis of such unprecedented magnitude, BRV China has been providing continuous support helping many companies adapt and reconfigure their business models while speeding up their R&D and commercialization processes."

The event also featured guest speakers from startups such as Gaussian Robotics and HPC-AI, two fast growing portfolio companies, who shared their journey to success.

"China has leading competitive advantages in deep technologies such as robotics, new energy, AI infrastructure and applications, consumer technology and semiconductors which are in hot demand across the world," said Terry Zhu, Managing Partner at BRV China. "To go global, it is necessary for startups and entrepreneurs to leverage the country's competitive edge and weigh between political influence from different markets while formulating their plan of development. BRV China will help China start-ups to achieve their goal, seizing development opportunities as they arise due to the digital transformation of supply chains, growth in market size and globally distributed Chinese talents."

"Singapore has a flourishing ecosystem as it has a fertile ground for start-ups which are supported by a forward-looking government, a strong research base and a skilled talent pool. BRV China will leverage its experience and help connect researchers, entrepreneurs and investors in order to build a robust ecosystem for innovation," said Jui Tan.

About BRV China

BlueRun Ventures China (BRV China) is a leading early-stage venture firm in China with offices in Beijing and Shanghai. Having its heritage in Silicon Valley since 1998 and entered China in 2005, BRV China has managed over $2 billion through multiple USD and RMB funds, with over $1 billion cash distributions. BRV China focuses on investing in entrepreneurs who create a sustainable impact through technological innovations across enterprise services, transportation and smart machine, digital healthcare, and consumer technology sectors in China. The firm has invested in more than 150 portfolio companies, including Li Auto (NASDAQ: LI), QingCloud (688316.SH), WaterDrop (NYSE: WDH), Energy Monster (NASDAQ: EM), Mogujie/Meilishuo (NYSE: MOGU), Qudian (NYSE: QD), Ganji/58.com, PPTV, Guazi, Meishubao, Nanyan, Shanzhen, Gaussian Robotics, Yi Auto, Pinecone, etc. The firm has been recognized as the "No.1 Early-Stage Investment Firm" in China by Zero2IPO and ChinaVenture, and "Consistent Performing Venture Capital Fund Manager" by Preqin. For further information, please visit https://www.brv.com.cn/en/.

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SOURCE BRV China

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