Exercise

Health IQ aims to incentivize exercise through life insurance.

A San Diego startup aims to use big data-driven life insurance to encourage exercise and proper nutrition.

His own lifestyle changes prompted ex-Googler Munjal Shah to found Health IQ, which landed a round of funding this month from some of Silicon Valley’s top Venture Capital firms. The San Diego Union Tribune reports that Shah also encourages his Health IQ employees to stay fit.

The newspaper reports:

The firm, which has applied data science to craft life insurance plans that reward fitness freaks and diet do-gooders, also encourages its 140 employees to stay active and avoid sugar; there’s a gym smack dab in the middle of the office and a no-candy policy, for instance.

It’s this philosophy of incentivizing better choices that co-founder and CEO Munjal Shah, 44, applies inside and out of the company in the hopes that Health IQ can actually affect changes in lifestyle.

His startup, founded in 2013, seeks to make the world a healthier place one life insurance policy at time. Runners, weight-lifters and even vegans are offered life insurance plans at discounted rates, anywhere between 4 percent and 33 percent off standard monthly fees. Rates are based on scoring well on a randomized 30-question health quiz (out of 3,000 possible questions) and submitting additional data, such as weekly running mileage as verified by an approved smartphone app.

The logic behind Shah’s approach is simple. The company gathered data to show that 41 percent fewer “health conscious” people died within three years than the general population. Health IQ rewards those people with lower rates.

CNBC reports that the genesis of Shah’s idea came when he was 37 and had just sold a previous company to Google. While on a run, he experienced chest pains and went to the emergency room worried about a heart attack (his father had had heart trouble).

Though the chest pain turned out to be a false alarm, it prompted Shah to change his lifestyle. He took health and nutrition classes at Stanford, changed his diet, and lost 40 pounds. Eventually, he and some like-minded friends decided to form a company based on healthy choices.

That decision has been validated with a $35 million investment from VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, which also backed Facebook among other companies.

Whether it succeeds or not, Shah’s approach is interesting.

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