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How We’re Building a World Where Everyone Can Afford to Be Healthy

Written by Derek Flanzraich

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Ness is a fintech company building credit cards to reduce the cost of wellcare. Today, we’re announcing that we’ve raised a $15.5M seed round, launched our first product, and acquired WellSet’s provider network.

Will Ventures led the round with participation from Core Innovation Capital, Accomplice, Digitalis, GFC, Portage, and others. Other investors include founders and senior leaders from many of the greatest health and wellness brands like Sweetgreen, Mirror, Thrive Market, Whole30, Oura, Noom, Everly, Headspace, Ginger, Hungryroot, One Medical, and more.

The First Sighting

Our first product, Ness Rewards, allows you to earn points for healthy spending you’re already doing. Eventually, all healthy actions, from fitness activity to physician visits, will be rewarded. Today, consumers can redeem these points on curated products and services from brands like Sweetgreen, Thrive Market, Barry’s Bootcamp, Zeel, and more.

We’ve also acquired WellSet’s 4,000-person nationwide network of best-in-class practitioners. Soon, consumers will also be able to use the points they earn to see experts like health coaches, dietitians, therapists, and doulas.

All this is just the beginning of our vision to build a world where everyone can afford to be healthy. For more, read on.

The Biggest Kid In the Class

When I was 8, I had a bad accident that resulted in three surgeries and having my right arm in a cast for four years. A few doctor’s notes excusing me from gym class and a million or so Dr. Peppers later, suddenly I was the biggest kid in the class in Miami, Florida. (Of all places.)

I wanted to be healthy, but every time I tried to figure it out, it felt like every piece of advice I found was for people who already had six-pack abs and Gwyneth Paltrow. Everything else seemed like it was trying to take advantage of those who didn’t and weren’t. I eventually figured a thing or two out by reading scientific journals on nutrition (instantly making me super popular at parties) and started to eat better and move more. 

I became convinced that the internet needed an outlet that talked about health in a healthier way. I started that brand after graduating from college with Greatist. My vision was a site that published fact-checked, expert-approved content… all in the voice of a friend that was a little further along than whoever was reading it. An amazing team and I ended up building the largest health and wellness site on the internet for millennials. Eventually, it was acquired by Healthline/Red Ventures in 2019.

Though I was proud of the role Greatist played in shaping the narrative of health and wellness in a better, more constructive way (just as the concept was becoming more and more mainstream), I still wasn’t satisfied. Because no matter how accessible the idea of health and wellness may be, most things in health and wellness simply aren’t affordable.

For me, this hit hardest at the beginning of COVID when health insurance wouldn’t pay for me to see my therapist. I was struggling with an identity crisis after selling my first startup, moving to a new state, and had a pregnant wife, a sick mother, and an uncertain pandemic world all at once. It was obvious seeing a therapist I trusted would be the healthy thing to do, yet he was out of network, which made it impossible for me to reasonably afford seeing him.

We know (and experts agree) eating well, exercising, taking vitamin D, and working on mental health are all important to build a healthier society, yet we’ve never been less healthy… and this whole world of “wellcare” has never been more expensive.

That’s why we’re building Ness.

Why Healthcare Doesn’t Care

The more our early founding team and I explored why wellcare is so darn expensive, the more frustrated we got. It turns out essentially no one is financially incentivized to help us pay for it. In fact, health insurance companies (the most obvious solution since government itself is off the table) today are effectively dis-incentivized to help.

Unlike almost any other country in the world, the majority of Americans get insurance from their employer. And because people switch jobs so much more than before, the average person is on a health insurance plan for just three to four years. From the plan’s perspective, then, any dollar spent on your long-term health simply doesn’t help the bottom line (or, worse, is gifted to the competitor plan you get on when you get a new job). In short: Your insurance will probably help if you have a sudden, catastrophic health incident—not so much if you want to take steps to become healthier over time.

We realized if we could one day offer health insurance that you’d stick with for 30 to 40 years (not just three to four), we could justify investing in your long-term health right now. The healthier you are later on in life, the more we’d save—totally aligning incentives in this space for the first time. To get there, we needed to build long-term products (and an epic brand) you’d love that could reduce your cost of wellcare stat.

In other words, the Ness Rewards App is just the very beginning of our journey. Here’s the grand plan, if you’re curious…

How We’re Going to Make Wellcare More Affordable

Chapter 1: Rewarding You (Ness Rewards + Marketplace)

First, we’ve launched an app with a powerful health rewards program. 

Connect your existing credit cards, spend on healthy things, and earn points you can redeem in our curated marketplace of wellcare products, services, experiences, and practitioners.

The app is currently invite-only, though you can request an invite here.

Chapter 2: Rewarding You More (Ness Cards + Benefits)

Next, we’re launching credit cards to accelerate those rewards and give access to exclusive health and wellness benefits.

Our first offering is a premium charge card for people who actively spend a lot on wellcare already. The card will multiply the value of the points earned in the Ness Rewards App big time, letting users redeem way more in our marketplace and network. Imagine spending with our card and getting rewarded with healthy food every week, a health coaching session every month, and a massage every quarter. Card members can also access premium, always-on benefits from top health and wellness brands like Sweetgreen, Thrive Market, Headspace, Barry’s, and more.

Along the way, we’ve strategically built a best-in-class credit card platform and extraordinary user experience to more easily launch additional cards at different price points and value propositions. Soon, we’ll have a Ness card for everyone.

Chapter 3: Rewarding You Best (Ness Healthcare)

Of course, the really big idea is adding medical benefits, supplemental insurance, and eventually comprehensive health insurance on top of our cards. Today, more people than ever have a choice when it comes to where they get their health insurance—and we believe this trend will only continue. (This is thanks in no small part to skyrocketing healthcare costs borne by employers and the generic, expensive, and confusing plans for consumers on open exchanges).

With the brand experience, trust, and community we’re building, we believe many will choose Ness, allowing us to offer innovative healthcare programs based on unique needs… and increasingly cover more of the cost of wellcare along the way.

A plan is just a plan. Now watch us execute.

What’s Your Ness?

We believe everyone has the potential to be healthy. There are just so many obstacles in the way. Like trying to find the Loch Ness Monster, wellness goals can seem impossible to achieve… yet something still compels us to keep trying, optimistic one day we’ll finally hit a breakthrough.

To get there, we believe people need inspiration, guidance, and rewards along the way. This helps people find that Loch Ness Monster within them, which we call their ness. Your “ness” could be finding a new workout you’ll actually stick with, understanding your emotional triggers better, or eating healthier to reduce your chance of Alzheimer’s.

Whatever your ness is today, we believe the potential to achieve that goal is within you and we want to help remove those obstacles. That’s why we think of the Nessie like the North Star, a symbol for what that success looks like. (And why we call our team members Nessies, too.)

Ultimately, we’re building innovative financial products to give people the inspiration, guidance, and rewards they need along the way to find their ness.

Okay, I Read This Far and I’m In!

Love it! Well, you can request an invite for the Ness Rewards App here.

While you wait for an invite, join The Nessie, our newsletter discovering wellness finds to live better (not perfectly), and follow along at The Ness Well, our publication sharing in-depth reviews of the best products and services in health and wellness. Also, we’re ramping up on Instagram and TikTok, too.

Want to partner with us? Fill out this form here.

Want to work with us? Visit our Callings page. We’re 25+ people strong, with a diverse team of hungry and creative folks all across the country. We’re actively hiring extraordinary people who can help us, no matter whether there’s a job description written or not. Let’s build something special together.

Join us!
Derek Flanzraich avatar

Derek Flanzraich

Founder and CEO

Derek Flanzraich is the Founder and CEO of Ness. Prior to Ness, he was the Founder and CEO of Greatist, the largest health and wellness site on the Internet for millennials. It was acquired by Healthline/Red Ventures in 2019. After the Greatist acquisition and prior to starting Ness, Derek consulted for some of the most well-known consumer health and wellness brands, like Galileo Health, GoodRx, Particle Health, Levels Health, 305 Fitness, Undivided, Elektra Health, NOCD, and Peloton. Read More.