Providence Ventures invests $2.3 million in wearable technology startup
LAWNDALE – Using an investment in 21st Century technology to continue a 160-year-old mission of outreach to the under-served, Providence Health & Services is teaming with a startup called Sqord to encourage kids to get out and exercise.
As children returned to three Lawndale Elementary School District campuses this week after winter break, Providence equipped some 300 fifth-graders at three campuses with Sqord’s kid-proof wrist gear that provides an activity tracker, online games and a kid-safe social media app designed to encourage kids to spend more time in active, physical play.
In October and November, 325 children at the other three district campuses received Sqords and initial data show an increase in activity.
Providence Ventures led the seed-round funding with a $2.3 million investment in the startup. Sqord relocated to Seattle earlier this year. Providence is headquartered in nearby Renton, Wash., and piloted the school fitness program in Washington, before expanding to Oregon, Alaska and now Southern California.
The partnership joins Sqord’s unique platform with Providence’s community relationships across five states to create healthier communities.
Sqord, one of the first wearables designed specifically with kids in mind, is worn and the wrist and provides an activity tracker to a socially-connected online world where kids can play games and safely and positively encourage and challenge each other to become more active.
The goal is to make active play more fun so children will play more, and as a result increase their fitness, improve overall health and begin to build lifelong habits to help prevent serious health problems, such as obesity and diabetes.
Results from the pilot program in several northwest Washington communities showed that over the course of a school year fifth-graders who wore the Sqord PowerPod increased their activity by 12 to 13 percent, while national statistics would predict a decrease in activity beginning at that age. Activity is measured as sedentary, moderate or vigorous.
A study presented to the American Heart Association earlier this year showed that getting kids inspired to stay active was influenced heavily by the encouragement and participation they receive from their peers.
“It’s great to see a startup focused on a mobile technology that improves the health of our kids receive the funding it needs to grow,” said John Fein, managing director, Techstars. “Sqord is the perfect example of a company that has been able to leverage the long-term value of the Techstars ecosystem of mentors, investors, alumni and corporate partners.”
Anyone can purchase a Sqord at www.sqord.com for $34.95. A purchase includes a Sqord kid-proof PowerPod and a lifetime membership to Sqord’s kid-safe website where kids can join groups and encourage peers to become more active. Large school systems to small community groups across the U.S. have used Sqord to encourage children to become more active.
“To create healthier communities, Providence must support innovative companies that can have a positive impact beyond and outside of clinics and hospitals. Sqord is another example of Providence Venture’smodel of finding promising technologies, piloting them to demonstrate their value, and supporting what works,” said Aaron Martin, Providence senior vice president of strategy and innovation.
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Providence Health & Services is the third largest not-for-profit health system in the United States and its services include 34 hospitals, 475 physician clinics, senior services, supportive housing, and many other health and educational services. The health system and its affiliates employ more than 76,000 people across five states – Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon and Washington – with its system office located in Renton, Washington. Providence Ventures is the health system’s investment fund, aimed at creating healthier communities through the best technology innovation. Providence Health & Services continues a tradition of caring that the Sisters of Providence began nearly 160 years ago.
Sqord is redefining active play for today’s connected generation of kids and families. Its interactive hardware-software platform, provides kids with a fun and easy way to track and share all of their activity throughout the day. Kids can then use that activity to compete with friends, earn points, achieve big wins, find new activities to do, and collect limitless virtual rewards – just for getting up and playing. Sqord has gotten tens of thousands of kids and families moving through schools, youth organizations and direct sales across the country. The company has offices in downtown Seattle, Wash. and Durham, N.C.