Withings cofounder buys back digital health business from Nokia

By Laura Lovett
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It's official — Eric Carreel, cofounder of French health tech company Withings, has bought back Nokia’s digital health division two years after it was sold to the Finnish tech giant. Carreel plans to relaunch the Withings brand by the end of 2018, according to a statement.

“I am delighted to start working again with the brilliant teams that made the brand such a great success,” Carreel said in a statement. “We have an exciting challenge ahead of us as we continue to push the boundaries of connected health.”

Withings was orginally founded in 2008 and became popular for its smartphone-connected weight scales, blood pressure cuffs, activity trackers, and thermometers.

According to a statement, the Withing team plans to continue to sell Nokia Health's current products, as well as new Withings innovations by the years end. 

“We are still only just starting to discover what connected health can really bring to people,” Carreel said. “From now on we must concentrate our efforts on developing tools capable of advanced measurements and the associated services that can help prevent chronic health conditions. Today’s technologies allow us to imagine solutions that have the potential to benefit the lives of millions of people, and our ambition is to ensure that we, as Withings, lead the way with technological advances and intuitive designs.”

The Withings headquarters will be located in Paris, with teams in the US and Asia. Currently, the company has a large team of more than 200 engineers, developers, mangers, and technicians based in its home country.

During the sales rumors earlier this month, Wearable reported that the French government was pushing for Nokia to sell to a French company and noted that the government had recently revealed a plan to boost its tech and artificial intelligence efforts. However, Les Echos wrote that Nokia’s relationship with the French government has been dicey since the Finnish company announced it would be cutting close to 600 jobs.

But this sale is no surprise as the company confirmed that it was in negotiations with Carreel earlier this month. 

It’s no secret Nokia’s digital health division has struggled since it acquired Withings in 2016 for $191 million. In February the company announced that it would be conducting a strategic review of its digital health division as well as an update to the company-wide cost savings plans, which included reductions. 

Shortly after strategic review was announced, a leaked memo shed light on the state of the division. 

“[R]ather than only falling in love with our technology, we must be honest with ourselves,” Kathrin Buvac, Nokia’s chief strategy officer, wrote in the memo. “In its entirety, our Digital Health business has struggled to scale and meet its growth expectations. Currently, we don’t see a path for it to become a meaningful part of a company as large as Nokia. Thus, we are conducting a strategic review to determine the best next steps for the business.”

Selling off its Device and Service Business to Microsoft for $7 billion in 2013 left Nokia to reinvent itself. Eventually, the Finnish company turned to the digital health space. 

It purchased Withings in what it called a “reverse takeover,” putting former Withings' CEO Cedric Hutchings in charge of Nokia’s digital health. Since then, Hutchings has moved into an advisory position.