Kaido founder Richard Westman says pivoting the fast-growing firm into a subscription business was crucial for the health of the wellbeing app.
The Birmingham-based business, which claims to be the fastest-growing workplace wellness programme in the NHS, specialises in providing tech-driven solutions to promote wellness in employees.
Our readers and independent judges ranked Kaido third among the Midlands’ most innovative tech businesses in the Midlands Tech 50 last year.
Westman is a former professional tennis player and left a role in paediatric sports science at the Lawn Tennis Association to start Kaido, having also worked behind the scenes at top rugby union clubs Leicester Tigers and Worcester Warriors.
The Loughborough University graduate says elite sport is “very glamorous to the outside world, but it is long days and not fantastic pay”.
He admits he knew nothing about tech when he took the plunge after meeting Innovation Birmingham Managing Director David Hardman.
Kaido would spend three and a half years in various accelerator programmes and met with NHS University Hospital of Birmingham, not-for-profit Creative England and Dublin-based EIT health in the first year, securing funding through a combination of a grant and loan.
“In the first 12 months, it was fantastic,” he says. “We raised £150k off those connections in public sector money to get us off the ground.”
Kaido’s seven-strong team recently outgrew the available space at Innovation Birmingham and moved to headquarters in Solihull, where Westman was born.
He says the firm has “gone back to its start-up roots” after finding it difficult to generate revenue.
“We bootstrapped stuff and revenue started to come in. Thankfully we’ve been self-sustaining ever since,” he says. Kaido projects it will have 100 clients by the second half of 2020 and is considering investment to expand its team as it refines its focus on smaller customers.
Westman says Kaido’s competitors are focused on corporate businesses because of their size. While the firm has HSBC, KPMG and 36 NHS Trusts on its books, it is now doing more work with SMEs.
“Workplace wellbeing tended to be a luxury for these bigger companies. But over the last 12 months, that has massively shifted. We noticed a market opportunity with SMEs,” he says.
“We’ve done a partnership deal with a UK bank whereby our product is given to select business customers when they open up their bank account.”
The bespoke solutions which Kaido was creating for its large corporate clients slowed down the firm’s scale, he said, often taking 12 months to complete.
The UK bank partnership has shifted his focus to integration with smaller businesses as a Software-as-a-Service platform.
“We’re having much more success in charging as little as £10 a month to a small business which can cancel at any time,” Westman explains.
The platform has three modules. The first is ‘gamified’ health and wellbeing challenges which last for six weeks and are available for all employees to join on their own or as part of a team.
“The competitors earn what we call Kaido points, which is a currency for improvement they make to their lifestyle, and that covers activity, mental health, nutrition and sleep.
“From an employee perspective, we want them to take part in a change and take one or two things away that they found interesting and want to investigate further.
“From a business perspective, it starts a really positive health-related conversation inside the workplace.”
At the end of these challenges the business receives an engagement report as part of their dashboard – the second module – which shows employee participation. It allows the employer to see what types of health and wellbeing content motivate their workers.
The third module is for employees interested in exploring a topic further outside of the workplace challenges for one or two weeks.
“It might be an introduction to veganism and how they can create long-term and sustainable healthy habits,” says Westman.
For someone who has spent a lifetime in sport, and now the head of a wellness firm, Westman said the grind of start-up entrepreneurship had been typically rocky.
“I was noticing the impact on my own health and as someone who’s been pretty fit for most their life, it was a problem,” he says. But, practising what the firm preaches, he still has a foot on the tennis court.
“I quite like being able to shut the laptop down and go do coaching with an athlete,” he says of his work with tennis players including Felix Gill, ranked 22nd in the world in the under-18s category.
“It’s lovely to be able to support him with his journey. It’s a nice relief.”