Saagara Planning New Health Apps, Getting Advice from Ted Dacko, Former HealthMedia Chief
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offer its apps to employers and health plans to support wellness initiatives, Peddi says. Dacko is well known in the Michigan business community for leading Ann Arbor’s HealthMedia, a provider of Web-based technology designed to improve people’s health behaviors, to a successful sale to New Brunswick, NJ-based healthcare products giant Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) in 2008.
Dacko resigned form HealthMedia in March of this year and now operates his own consulting company in Ann Arbor called Arbor Dakota, according to his LinkedIn account.
Peddi, 37, graduated from medical school at the Edinburgh University in Scotland, and received training as a surgeon in the U.K. before he moved to the United States and decided that medicine wasn’t his calling. He spent about five years searching for that calling, doing all the things like reading books, writing, and traveling that he couldn’t during his surgical training. “It took me a while to find my direction, and when I found my direction it was entrepreneurial,” he says.
Peddi read one business book that suggested that entrepreneurs find a partner to help them start their new ventures. In 2008, he and Noelting, who received her bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, went into business together. They initially thought that their company would be a firm that fusing Eastern and Western designs into fashion. Peddi was born in India and has been practicing yoga daily since he was 11 years old. Noelting is from Germany and has design skills. But they later found their niche in digital health, he says, which has benefited from background in medicine.
Peddi and Noelting, who is the president of Saagara, now have ambitious plans to expand the reach of their apps into new areas of healthcare and wellness. The firm is now developing apps that help people exercise, emphasize nutrition, and control their high blood pressure and migraines. The firm also wants to develop an app that can people can download onto their Nintendo Wii gaming systems.
“We are trying to make our applications available on any platform people possess,” Peddi says.
Yet there are numerous competitors that offer mobile apps for wellness and healthcare. For example, Boston, MA-based Healthrageous has launched a mobile app for employer-sponsored wellness programs designed to help people become more active, control their diabetes, or keep their blood pressure in check. Its apps can also provide the user feedback and incorporate data from mobile devices such as wireless blood pressure cuffs and accelerometers. And this is the type of functionality Saagara will have to compete with to gain business from employers and health plans.
While there are also a number of other breathing and yoga apps available, Peddi says that Saagara’s has been a best-seller in those categories because it takes users through multiple steps and is designed as a course of training. (Having tried it, it was also pretty intuitive how a dial rotated and musical tones changed to guide my breathing.) The firm has also found that the iPad, for which it offers a high-definition version of its app, has become a popular mobile platform for its breathing exercises.
Still, Saagara has accomplished a lot so far as a bootstrapped operation funded by Peddi himself and a small team of five full-time workers. The CEO says that the firm is on track to reach profitability early next year. We’ll see whether Dacko’s assistance and the Saagara team’s entrepreneurial drive will be enough to make the digital health firm a long-term success.