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IBM Finally Put Its Money Where Watson Is

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- IBM (IBM - Get Report) is serious about growing out its Watson supercomputer business and making it a huge revenue driver. Now, the Armonk, N.Y.-based firm is putting its money where its mouth is.

Welltok, which develops the CafeWell Health Optimization Platform, raised $22.1 million in Series C funding, with New Enterprise Associates leading the funding. IBM is also part of the investment round via its Watson Group. Qualcomm (QCOM) also participated via its venture capital unit, Qualcomm Ventures.

Over the last nine months, Welltok has raised more than $40 million.

Not only is this IBM's first investment from the Watson Group, it actually helps promote the ecosystem around Watson, the Jeopardy-winning supercomputer. Welltok is going to build CafeWell Concierge, a new application that uses Watson's cognitive computing capabilities. The app will use Watson's ability to uncover insights from big data, which can understand human speech, and is able to read millions of pages of data in seconds. 

Welltok allows the the Watson Group to enter the enormous consumer health market, helping push consumers towards healthier behavior, as well as drive value for the healthcare system itself.

"We must transform beyond the current 'sickcare' system built for patients to one that optimizes each consumer's health status. To do so, the industry needs a practical, but radically different approach to engage the 85 percent of the nation's population who are making daily choices that impact their health," said Jeff Margolis, chairman and CEO of Welltok in the press release. "Our Platform as a Service solution meets this need by revolutionizing the way population managers partner with consumers and connecting them to the right resources and incentives. We have the vision, industry expertise and financial strength to lead the charge in optimizing consumers' health and maximizing rewards."

IBM has set aside $100 million for the Watson Group to invest in ventures, which according to the release, range "from start-ups and VC-backed companies to established players - who, like Welltok, will collectively bring forward a new generation of applications and solutions infused with Watson's cognitive computing intelligence."

Also participating in the round are existing investors, including Emergence Capital Partners, InterWest Partners, Miramar Venture Partners and Okapi Venture Capital. This brings Welltok's funding in the last nine months to more than $40 million.

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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