Nutrition-based platform Zipongo just announced that it received $18 million in a Series B funding round led by Seventure Partners and Zaffre Investment with involvement from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
“This is the first time we’ve had a health plan invested in the company and the reason they are doing it is because they are really excited about food is medicine,” Dr. Jason Langheier, CEO and founder of Zipongo, told MobiHealthNews. “We are going to scale that out and [bring] our new product line FoodScripts to life to enable doctors to write a prescription for food in really specific ways.”
Although there are no formal agreements about Zipongo being integrated into the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Langheier said food is a key part of keeping people healthy, and the app could one day help payers engage with their customers.
FoodScripts will add specific modules to Zipongo’s platform to address conditions like hypertension, diabetes, obesity through prescriptive, personalized, evidence-based nutrition programs. The company plans to roll out an early version of FoodScripts to pilot customers in the early spring.
Currently Zipongo’s platform consists of a number of different apps, which are designed to change people’s behavior around food. The app learns the users preferences and lifestyle and can suggest recipes, shopping lists and restaurant recommendations. The suggestions are generated by an algorithm based on data the app has collected about the user.
Langheier said people often jump to medications before going to food—which he said in many instances is the first line of defense against certain illnesses. Using a platform to help change a user's diet is also a lot cheaper than group therapy or medications, he said.
Part of Zipongo’s model means not advertising any food products. In fact, Langheier claims the platform is the first marketplace without food advertisers. He said that not advertisers are bad but it has gotten out of hand.
“We’re at an interesting time we live in a democracy in a place where there are more [food] choices than anywhere else in the world,” Langheier said. “The irony is there is no where in America where you can select and buy food without being advertised to.”
Zipongo also announced that Jason Robart, chief strategy officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and president and CEO of Zaffre Investments, has joined the Zipongo board of directors.
The last big funding announcement from Zipongo came in 2016 when it landed $18 million with a lead investment from Mayfield. So far the company has raised over $35 million in Series B funding. This latest announcement brings the total funding to over $50 million.