June 28, 2021

With gyms closing temporarily and work from home being the default mode since the pandemic began, people have piled on the pounds. The pandemic-induced stress isn’t helping either. Noom, a smart health app, which incorporates psychology may offer a panacea to your weight problems. From helping you to log down your daily consumption to sending you small motivational messages, Noom keeps track of your weight loss goals by giving you an interactive framework to make healthier choices. Recently, the Silicon Valley platform raised US$540 million in its latest funding led by private equity firm Silver Lake, together with other investors including Oak HC/FT, Novo Holdings and Temasek. With a valuation of US$3.7 billion, Noom is carving its name in the health and wellness space. Here’s what you need to know about the popular weight-loss app.

Humble Beginnings

This digital weight-loss and wellness platform isn’t new. In fact, founders Saeju Jeong and Artem Petakov struggled for almost 13 years before achieving a breakthrough. After his father’s death in 2008, Jeong desired to create a comprehensive health management solution. That year, he launched fitness activity tracker CardioTrainer followed by Calorific in 2010. However, both apps failed to fulfil his goal of building a scalable yet affordable healthcare solution. After much deliberation, Jeong pivoted to focus on weight management. The new version, powered by artificial intelligence, launched in 2011, but Jeong realised it lacked a human touch. Six years later, Noom relaunched, replacing robots with certified human coaches. According to Jeong, “people loved it.” When the pandemic hit last year, user sign-ups increased resulting in sales doubling from US$200 million in 2019 to US$400 million in 2020.

A Game Changer

Helping people to lose weight permanently is a lucrative endeavour. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of the adults in the U.S. are overweight and about 43 per cent are obese. Fad diets are useless because they fail to address the underlying psychological factors related to weight gain. That’s where Noom stands out from the rest. They have a framework that focuses on behaviour modification for sustainable results. Their trick is to teach users how to spot and change old habits that keep them stuck. First, you get weekly, individual one-on-one goal setting and support from a Goal Specialist, who is trained in cognitive behaviour therapy. After your initial 14-day trial, you will have access to a support group, where you can all share your struggles and successes. A group coach is also available to help you work through any challenges you face. Since everyone is different, Noom prides itself on customisation, using AI to monitor every user session, so that the programme is personalised to an individual’s eating, lifestyle and thinking patterns.

Harnessing the Power of Psychology 

Noom hires professionals who are specially trained in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to identify the behaviour chain behind your unhealthy habits in order to produce long-lasting positive changes. Currently, they have 3,000 full-time credentialed coaches who all hold advanced degrees in health and wellness-related disciplines. Plus their content is developed by psychologists, nutritionists and behavioural health specialists with a focus on mindfulness. 

In the first week of the programme, these Goal Specialists help you identify your ‘Ultimate Why.’ It may be more than just about shedding the pounds, like wanting to feel more confident and healthy in your own body. After these motivations have been discussed, the Goal Specialist will work with you on a weekly basis to formulate a personalised action plan based on this ‘Ultimate Why’ and your individual needs. 

According to some users, the biggest plus point with Noom is how much better they feel after starting on the programme. Many reported an increase in their energy levels and have gained immense inspiration from their group as well as their coaches. 

The Effectiveness of Noom

For one, Noom is accredited by the National Consortium for Credentialing Health & Wellness Coaches (NCCHWC) and several scientific journals have attested to the efficacy of their custom programmes. In 2016, 78 per cent (out of 36,000 Noom users) successfully lost weight while using the app. At least one-quarter of these users lost more than 10 per cent of their body weight. Since many Noom users also suffer from weight-related health conditions like diabetes and hypertension, the company is currently exploring avenues on how to treat such diseases. This might involve retooling their product and investing more in research and development. Andrew Adams, Oak HC/FT’s co-founder and managing partner thinks that while it is a risky venture, he is confident that they are a step in the right direction. 

How to Join

Simply complete a quick survey on their website and you will be given a personalised package. After a 14-day trial, everyone gets a Goal Specialist to help them stay on track. Users can opt to get a monthly subscription plan at US$59 per month, or an annual subscription for US$199 upfront. First-time users do not get any discount, and it does not include meals, exercise classes, or in-person support.

What Lies Ahead 

At the moment, Noom is looking to expand beyond weight loss to other areas such as stress management, sleep health, diabetes and even hypertension. Men are another growth target, as many face more health issues than women like gout, aortic aneurysms and kidney stones. While it remains as a platform for individuals, the company is looking to partner with companies and health insurers. Which is a smart move considering how organisations are looking for technological solutions to help their staff improve or maintain their overall health. With the digital health space rapidly picking up steam, Noom could go public within the next year. Already, Noom is in discussion with a few potential advisors and there has been talk about a public offering with a valuation of US$10 billion. There has been no further comment on their listing plans yet, but investors are watching the company with keen interest.