Wellest Inc. founder Dave Sekowski partners with HSC faculty through Techstars program

Wellest TeamFor Dave Sekowski, founder and CEO of Wellest Inc., the road to wellness has not been easy. Growing up with limited access to healthy food and education about health and nutrition, he struggled with childhood obesity.

“I had to take it upon myself to figure it out,” Sekowski said. “I joined the wrestling team, spent a lot of time reading and learning to try and turn things around to improve my health.”

With a knack for figuring things out, Sekowski went on to a successful career in tech, working for Intel and Apple. As his career evolved, he noticed that in the ecosystem of products and programs that surrounded him and consumers in health data collection and insights, there was a missing piece: personalized and actionable directions on how to actually improve health.

That realization was the motivating factor to leave his job and start Wellest Inc.

“The initial goal was to make it easier for people to be healthy than it is to be unhealthy,” Sekowski said. “This means automating the entire experience of improving your health in a really personalized way. While we were working on that, we developed an expert artificial intelligence that optimizes and automates health coaching.”

During this time, Sekowski’s mother passed away from complications from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a preventable disease.

“At that time, my sister and I were acting as her caregivers and it became obvious to me that I had been thinking about things from a preventative standpoint, but I had missed the clinical care component,” Sekowski said.

“I realized we needed to make the AI reprogrammable,” Sekowski said. “Health coaches and clinicians need the same sorts of solutions but with even with more comprehensive data about their patients to make even more sensitive and fine-tuned treatment plans.”

True to his figure-it-out nature, Sekowski worked with Wellest’s development team, led by Chris Skowera, head of product engineering, to adapt their proprietary AI to include even more patient variables with their demographic information, lab results, diet and daily exercise and supplement routines to automatically generate a personalized protocol, customized to the user.

“Chris and I reached a point where we felt like we finally built this amazing thing and we were looking for our first opportunity to do good with it and see how it can grow,” he said.

Sekowski connected with a friend from college who had taken his company through another Techstars cohort with incredible success. His friend had heard that a new Techstars program was coming to Fort Worth with a focus on physical health and could be a great fit for Wellest.

At the final-round interview for the program, Sekowski got the opportunity to pitch his vision for Wellest to a few faculty and staff from HSC.

“I shared that I would love to be there because of HSC’s whole-person approach to health in the training of DO students, patient care and the new master’s program in lifestyle science and health coaching,” Sekowski said. “There’s an amazing opportunity to work together on pilots and clinical trials that would be incredibly unique.”

Upon being accepted to the program and moving to Fort Worth, Sekowski and Skowera were able to almost immediately forge new connections with Dante Paredes, DO, assistant professor in Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and HSC Health clinician and Misti Zablosky, Ph.D., LAT, DipACLM, CHWC, chair and assistant professor in the Department of Lifestyle Health Sciences within HSC School of Health Professions.

Paredes leads the team at HSC Health’s Metabolic and Longevity Center, where clinicians tailor unique plans to patients suffering from chronic ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and obesity. In his conversations with Paredes, Sekowski said, he realized that everyone’s medical history is unique, and their care should reflect that.

“I want my patients to be as independent as possible,” Paredes said. “Part of that is learning how to make decisions that keep them from getting ill. The majority of what I do in the clinic teaches patients how to eat, train, or think in a way that supports their performance and well-being. I imagine that an AI-based digital coach, if well-calibrated, would be able to do the same.”

These conversations have led to a place of intersection among tech, health coaching and clinical services that are shaping the future of Wellest and impacting HSC.

“With Dr. Zablosky, we’re looking to work on curriculum around optimization and automation in health coaching and wellness technology for health coaches as well as possibly supporting Master of Science in Lifestyle Health Sciences and Coaching students earning coaching hours for their certification,” Sekowski said.

Zablosky said she is supportive of Techstars and is grateful for the connection she’s made with Sekowski.

“I think that’s one of the purposes of Techstars is to get them connected with people like us and others that can help drive what they’re doing forward,” he said. “And that’s exactly what’s happened in this case.”

Today marks Demo Day, where the 10 Techstars companies will present their formal pitches as the pinnacle of this 13-week program.

“These past three months have been a short time to come to a new place and try to make a huge impact,” Sekowski said. “But Techstars is forever. It sets you up with a network you wouldn’t have otherwise. As much we have been able to do in this time, we haven’t been able to scratch the surface of what’s possible within our new network and what we’ll be able to learn through the connections we’ve made.”

As the Wellest team completes their initial mentoring, he has experienced a bit of a perspective shift.

“What’s different now is that we thought initially that the right approach was to go to consumers first and use their power to affect change,” said Sekowski. “I think what we’ve found out through this program and in conversation with Dr. Paredes and Dr. Zablosky, is that it gave us the confidence to shift our initial outreach to clinicians who focus on metabolic health.

“We can go out and talk with physicians, nurse practitioners, health coaches, and others, and see how we can help them scale their therapies for the conditions they treat to help make clinical care better and more accessible. We’ve seen that there is a receptivity to new stuff like us and we’ve gotten an overwhelming response. We can’t wait to help these clinicians help their patients, and one day, to help everyone look, feel and live their Wellest.”

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