LAVCA met with with Daniel Wjuniski, Founder and CEO of Minha Vida, to discuss how harnessing the internet to develop an extensive library and network of health professionals has helped to create the most successful e-health platform in Brazil.
LAVCA: Please summarize your business. How did you come up with the idea for Minha Vida? How does your background help you to succeed in managing this venture?
Wjuniski: I’ve started working with the internet in 1999 when I left Johnson&Johnson to join Webmotors, a new startup at the time. Webmotors was later sold to ABN Amro Bank and we decide to leave the company to start an internet health business. The motivation to start a health business was very personal. I was kind of chubby as a kid and I still can remember my first Weight Watchers meeting in Brazil when I was thirteen. Then in my 20’s I was diagnosed with a chronic disease and, looking online for more information about my condition, I couldn’t find any in Portuguese. That was when I found my mission: to help fight obesity and improve health in Brazil through technology.
Groupo Minha Vida is now the largest e-health group in Brazil, with more than 18 million visits per month. Our mission is using technology to empower people to make better health decisions and live a better life, through Dieta e Saúde and Minha Vida.
Dieta e Saúde is the largest weight loss program in Brazil with more than 350,000 active users, 2.5 million app downloads, and 5 million pounds lost. We gather all technology and science resources (proprietary diet methodology, mobile, online education, big data, and devices) to deliver a new way of dieting. Minha Vidais the leading health website in Brazil with more than 10 million unique users per month and 8,000 doctors registered in its database.
LAVCA: Describe how the various Grupo Minha Vida properties complement each other. Which came first? Which is the most profitable? What are the plans for the future?
Wjuniski: Dieta e Saúde was founded in 2004 and Minha Vida was founded in 2006. Dieta e Saúde accounts for more than 60% of our revenues and we believe there is a lot of room for growth in the business, which is subscription- based. We are now focused on scalling Dieta e Saúde, so probably there will be no new brands under Grupo Minha Vida in the near future. Minha Vida is a healthy ad-based business that has become more relevant in recent years.
LAVCA: What is the revenue model for Minha Vida? How does Minha Vida capture new unique users?
Wjuniski: Minha Vida has the largest health and wellness library in Brazil with a very unique crowd sourced content production model that leverages our health professional network. Its audience has been growing through SEO and we capture new unique users by being relevant and having not only the best health library, but also the right content for the right person at the right time. We are the health channel of the main portals in Brazil, such as UOL, Terra, Yahoo, and MSN. More important, 50% of the Google searches in Brazil about health and wellbeing end in Minha Vida. Being that relevant, we offer our
LAVCA: What financing have you received so far? From whom? How have you/do you plan to use the financing?
Wjuniski: We have raised a series A from Intel Capital and Endeavor Catalyst in March 2012 and have fully executed our plan, positioning ourselves as leaders in mobile, hiring the best team and developing the best health content and database of health professionals in Brazil. With the investment we have built the foundation and prove the assumptions that are the basis for the growth we are projecting in the next years.
As entrepreneurs, we have launched two other businesses leaders in their category, so we definitely leverage our network and know-how of just being experienced internet entrepreneurs in our search for financing. Endeavor has also been a great resource in many ways and helped us a lot with the investment process.
LAVCA: Do you envision that the Minha Vida model could work in markets outside of Brazil? What are your plans to expand and where would you start?
Wjuniski: The health challenges faced in Brazil are very similar to the ones also faced in Latin America. Obesity has been rapidly spreading in the region and Mexico heads the list of the world’s most overweight industrialized nations, topping even the United States. Other drivers for growth in Latin America are similar to the ones found in Brazil, such as internet and smartphone penetration and a steady economic growth. Starting from Latin America seems like a reasonable plan, but Dieta e Saúde’s innovative weight loss solution can be globally expanded, since there is no one else offering the same proposition.
LAVCA: What challenges do you anticipate when growing across Latin America?
Wjuniski: We have just launched our innovative online meeting platform in which people can meet weekly with a dietitian, so the main challenge we anticipate when growing across Latin America is to develop that network of professionals. Besides that, the logistics for launching Dieta e Saúde and Minha Vida in Latin America are not extremely complex, but there are challenges such as adapting our database to each one of the countries we are expanding to or finding the best local team to help us grow in each location.
LAVCA: Who do you view as your biggest competition? As you expand, who else might you start to consider a competitor? Why?
Popik: Dieting is a unique market of very high interest, but lower engagement. In that sense, our biggest competition continues to be the do-it-yourself dieters, which can represent more than 80% of the people on a diet in some regions. In that sense, we’ve developed a weight loss solution in which people can trust, so they come back every time they feel they need to lose weight again. In Brazil we still are navigating a blue ocean, but as we expand internationally there are two main types of competitors: well-established companies selling methodologies and weight loss products and free calorie trackers. We believe we have the competitive advantages required to assume the leading position.
LAVCA: What is your most pressing challenge right now?
Wjuniski: 2013 was the year in which we proved each one of our growth assumptions in Dieta e Saúde so our most pressing challenge right now is to roll out our model and significantly scale the business in the next years. We believe we have the team and the strength to do so.
LAVCA: Where do you see your company in five years?
Wjuniski: The internet has created an opportunity for disruptive companies to promote a revolution in their markets. People used to drive to Best Buy and now they are shopping online at Amazon. They used to pay for cable TV and watch HBO and now they are subscribing to Netflix. They used to frequent a language school and now they are learning through Englishtown or OpenEnglish. This is what we are doing for weight loss, replacing the established market. In the next five years we will transform even more lives and help more and more people to lose weight and gain happiness – contributing to fight obesity in the world. Dieta e Saúde will be the number one choice for dieting in Latin America.