Virgin Pulse’s Biggest Announcement Yet!

VirginPulse1We can’t possibly be more excited to share the biggest news to ever break at Virgin Pulse: today, we’ve announced our additional funding of $92 million!

This latest round of investment will be used to further accelerate our impressive growth and customer success. The round was led by Insight Venture Partners and included participation from existing investor, Virgin Group. As part of the transaction, Nikitas Koutoupes, managing director, and Anika Agarwal, vice president at Insight Venture Partners, will join our Board of Directors.

The investment follows the recent launch of our next generation workforce well-being platform that enables enterprise clients to increase employee engagement and productivity, build culture, and decrease healthcare costs by providing employees with tools that help them form habits that matter. For nearly a decade, we’ve built on our consumer-focused roots to create products that drive hundreds of millions of habit-building interactions that encourage behavioral changes. We’re proud of the way Virgin Pulse has revolutionized how businesses create healthier, more productive workforces while also building great places to work.

“Virgin has long held the belief that if you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your business. Virgin Pulse is the perfect example of an organization that’s helping companies do precisely that,” said Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder. “We invested in this business as a start-up and see huge opportunities for continued global growth. With this new partnership with Insight Venture Partners, experts in investing in innovative technology companies, we look forward to seeing the Virgin Pulse team deliver even more game-changing solutions that make workforces across the world healthier, happier, and more productive.”

“Virgin Pulse has created a best-in-class business that improves employee well-being and productivity, which drives top-line results for companies,” said Insight Venture Partners’ managing director Nikitas Koutoupes. “This is an exciting and rapidly expanding area of workforce productivity and human capital management, and we look forward to working closely with the Virgin Pulse team to further scale the business, expand its client base, and deliver great value to the market.”

“Insight Venture Partners has a strong track record of building successful software companies, and we’re pleased to partner with them as we embark on the next stage of our growth,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse. “With this investment, Virgin Pulse will accelerate our creation of market-leading products that change lives and create sustainable and satisfying results for companies and their employees. We plan to delve further into the scientific research that backs our habit-forming platform, hire new team members, and potentially make some acquisitions.”

The employee well-being industry has experienced rapid growth and attention from investors, enterprises and consumers. Several major events have focused on the industry’s evolution including the recent Virgin Disruptors series, at which Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Gallup’s Jim Clifton, The Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington, Yahoo!’s Jackie Reses, and Zappos’ Tony Hsieh debated the future of well-being at work; and Thrive Summit, the premier conference on employee well-being which brought together keynote speakers – Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, JetBlue’s Former EVP of People and current board member, Ann Rhoades, and Stanford University professor Dr. BJ Fogg – along with industry experts and leading HR professionals for three days of education, networking, and inspiration.

True to our work-hard, play-hard mentality, we’re taking some time this week to celebrate our big news. Our employees enjoyed a well-deserved mid-day break yesterday, complete with catered lunch and drinks via area food trucks, karaoke, and a major dance party. And we’re not the only ones applauding the announcement. Sir Richard Branson himself took to the camera this morning to highlight the news, congratulate the Virgin Pulse team, and share his enthusiasm for our mission of helping employees cultivate habits that matter and changing their lives for good.

ONE STEP AT A TIME: Don Holliday’s Road to the London Marathon

DH WCR5[9]An agonizing pain shoots up Don Holliday’s leg. It’s indescribable, but he immediately knows it’s the hamstring. He struggles to walk, let alone run. He knew this might happen, but it’s mile 21, and he has many more to go.

What makes it worse is that he missed the one chance to see his wife and daughter back at the 16-mile mark. They weren’t there. The pain, coupled with a case of bronchitis that has severely strained his breathing since landing in London two days ago, would leave most people struggling to complete their first marathon.

But those people aren’t Don Holliday.

Don, Fulfillment Operations Manager and a nine-year veteran of Virgin Pulse, recently entered a Virgin Group-wide contest for a shot at a free entry into the 2015 London Marathon. To secure his spot, Don had to submit a 15-word description of why he deserved the spot. Never expecting to win, Don submitted a referential decree of “Running is freedom. Pain heals. Glory lasts forever. Virgin rocks!”

The 35th annual London Marathon, sponsored in major part by Virgin Money, celebrated its largest field of 38,000 runners this year. Each participant runs for a charitable organization, securing funding through donors. Don ran for Worldwide Cancer Research, and found many of his donors at Virgin Pulse.

It was this strong tie to charity, along with his family and his own determination, which Don says motivated him most. “Runners had the name of their charity on their shirt,” said Don. “It really helped motivate you to see who everyone was helping.”

* * *

Don’s personal health journey is one built on small wins. He’s lost 50 pounds in the last year and a half. And that’s not by coincidence. Don says it has everything to do with Virgin Pulse’s company culture.

“Three years ago, I was at a place I’d never been,” Don says regarding his personal health. He tore his achilles tendon, needed major surgery, and knew it was time to make serious changes if he wanted to be around for his daughter down the line.

So Don took advantage of the company’s on-site gyms, free fitness classes, and the Max activity tracking device to get started. He began to really notice his transformation after changing his diet. “It wasn’t Paleo, but it was pretty close,” he says.

Don felt confident enough in his newfound fitness to complete a marathon. “I’d never run a half-marathon. I’d never even ran 10 miles,” Don notes. “But I was as fit as I’d ever been and thought, ‘This could be my chance.’”

Except Boston’s 2015 winter wasn’t the kindest of conditions to be running in. But Don was undeterred, running outdoors through as much snow as Mother Nature could throw at him.

Injuries did arise during training, including a nasty iliotibial band issue in February that Don recalls felt “like someone stabbing me in the leg.” He found many of his solutions in the office, speaking with others who have run marathons and been tasked with overcoming the same injuries.

* * *

A locked hamstring at mile 21 was nothing new at this point for Don. He’d faced difficulty at every turn in his training, but he was hurt again – this time alone – and in desperate need of some inspiration.

That all changed two miles later.

DonHollidayVP“As I came up a small hill and around a corner, I saw them,” Don vividly remembers. His family had found their way to the course, at an almost improbable chance. London Marathon crowds can grow up to ten rows in depth at times, and the course is congested with runners throughout. “It was a slim chance,” Don explains. “But fate had it.”

A reinvigorated runner, Don was able to push through his injury and finish. Of course, he could have walked the rest of the race if needed, but as he says, “I didn’t go there to walk. I went there to run.”

So what’s next? Don’s already biked Virgin Pulse and Virgin Atlantic’s annual 270-mile Cycle USA bike trip and run his first marathon, both of which he says “I never would have thought possible years ago.” Now, he’s waiting for the next challenge, welcoming any and all suggestions. So give him your best shot in the comments section below. I have a feeling he can’t be stopped.

 M. R. Brown writes content for the marketing team at Virgin Pulse. He looks to dispense his know-how on well-being to help get employees and employers alike engaged in healthy workplaces. You can find him running trails on weekends, endlessly motivated by the thought of being chased by a wolf. Follow him on Twitter @writermrbrown.


How Meditation Saved Don Draper (& Can Save Your Employees Too)

÷ÒôޟúµÿÙWarning: Spoilers abound regarding the Mad Men series finale. But you need to read this, so the choice is yours.

Last weekend, AMC wrapped its blockbuster drama Mad Men after seven seasons. After leaving his high-powered New York City career, the show’s infamous lead Don Draper arrives at a West Coast-based well-being retreat. In the final scenes, Draper snaps out of a guided meditation and calmly smiles. The scene then cuts to the fuzzy, pre-HD television spot for “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.”

Thanks to his meditation, Draper crafts one of the greatest ads in history. Not convinced meditation alone can get that level of creative juices flowing in your employees? Hear me out.

An Employee at His Wits’ End

Let’s look at the recent events that lead Mr. Draper to this impromptu well-being retreat: his wife is diagnosed with terminal cancer. His daughter lays down the law that Draper’s sons will live with their step-father (not Draper) once their mother passes. Draper leaves his dream advertising gig to go full Kerouac across the country – only to be swindled at every turn.

I’m stressed out just writing all that.

While we may not all share Draper’s vices and troubles, no one’s immune to stress. As Mad Men uses meditation to guide Draper in landing his proverbial catch, the show highlights the stress management and cognitive solution as a resource to consider for employees too.

With up to 90 percent of all doctor visits being stress related, according to a study featured in the Harvard Business Review, it’s no surprise that 39 percent of employees say reducing stress is the area of well-being they want to improve most.

The seeds of meditation are deeply rooted, dating back thousands of years. But what do we know about this sadly oft-perceived hippie-dippie approach to well-being?

The Science Behind Meditation

A 2011 Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program conducted at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness used magnetic resonance images of the brain to document 16 participants two weeks before and after an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program. And the results were staggering:

  • Lowered stress and anxiety through decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for anxiety and stress)
  • Improved learning and memory through increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for memory and spatial navigation)
  • Improved self-awareness, compassion and introspection through increased structures in the hippocampus grey-matter

“It is fascinating … that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” said Britta Holzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany

×ì÷,FìßgÿÙTo what degree might your employees benefit from all this zen-talk? Well, its been documented that there’s a 70 percent reduction in anxiety witnessed among study participants who trained in meditation. This newfound calmness and insight are essential to unleashing creativity and performance.

Employees may not be as lucky as Draper in finding the benefits of meditation all on their own. Instead, they could use help from you. Get proactive and support your people by offering meditation classes or recommending apps that help guide employees through deep breathing techniques. Once employees are calm, cool, and collected, they’ll come to work with the brainpower you hired them for.

Redemption Song

The final two scenes of Mad Men highlight nothing short of redemption. By better managing his stress, Don Draper returns to his career a renewed, refocused man who delivers quite possibly the greatest pitch of his life.

Wouldn’t you like to see that kind of creativity and performance from your own employees?

Looking for ways to help employees manage stress through meditation, but don’t know where to start? Watch this guided meditation by Thrive Summit 2015 featured speaker Agapi Stassinopoulos.

M. R. Brown writes content for the marketing team at Virgin Pulse. He looks to dispense his know-how on well-being to help get employees and employers alike engaged in healthy workplaces. You can find him running trails on weekends, endlessly motivated by the thought of being chased by a wolf. Follow him on Twitter @writermrbrown.


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Virgin Pulse clients and members discuss how we change lives for good!

Virgin Pulse clients and members discuss how we change lives for good!