‘Move fast and break things’ is a bad idea for health tech startups

It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the reasons some entrepreneurs are drawn to healthcare are the regulations. No industry outside of defense is as heavily scrutinized, and for good reason: When you deal with people additional caution is essential.

Rules, requirements and regulatory complexity may be barriers to entry in the world of digital health startups, but they also present opportunities.

Founders often find creative ways to reconcile the additional oversight, like saying that their launch is merely a proof of concept, or that they can’t justify the cost of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on advertising to attract new users.

When venture funding was scarce, there was a compelling need to prioritize speed and maximize the runway provided by smaller seed rounds. The environment, however, has changed — burgeoning investor interest and ample available capital have meant that there’s an even greater need to allocate significant budget to compliance.

Speed and efficiency may be essential for startups, but regulatory compliance need not be a bottleneck or a financial drain.

If compliance isn’t a consideration from the start, founders will sooner or later end up in a situation where they have to scramble to fix things behind the scenes, spending huge amounts of money on legal fees — and that’s the best case scenario. In the worst case, a deal can blow up.

It is understandable how these concerns can be overlooked at the beginning. There’s a certain amount of creativity and dissatisfaction with the status quo necessary for founders to conceive of building something that doesn’t already exist.

But when you’re building a digital health company, the ultimate end user is a person in need of medical care. The stakes are higher than creating the next puzzle game or food delivery app.

Nue Life Health raises $23M Series A Led by Obvious Ventures for psychedelics platform

Last year we covered the $3.3 million seed round for NUE Life Health, a US-based telemedicine startup in the US, which was building out a mental wellness platform that combined psychedelic-assisted therapies and a graph database-driven app. This at-home ketamine therapy – considered a radically new way to treat depression – also combines music therapies and a data-led, ‘quantified self’ approach.

It’s now raised a $23 million Series A equity financing led by Obvious Ventures (co-founded by Ev Williams, Co-founder of Twitter), which also includes additional venture debt financing from Western Technology Investment. TechCrunch understands the lion share for the round was in equity.

The financing follows Nue Life’s November 2021 Nue.App and Nue.Portal launch, the company’s proprietary technologies serving patients and providers.

New Life competes with Mindbloom, which raised a total of $3.2M and was later acquired by Welltok. Another is Field Trip Health which also has actual treatment centers.

The new round of funding will support its new services in service in New York, as well as the existing locations of Florida, Texas, California, Colorado, and Washington State. In April, the service will expand to Georgia and Massachusetts, and twenty additional states are planned by the end of the year.

Juan Pablo Cappello, Nue Life co-founder and CEO said in a statement: “650 million people struggle with mental health worldwide, and there is a vital need for helping women, veterans, and other folks experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD that have not been helped by traditional treatments.”

“We’re thrilled to be a part of Nue Life’s efforts to create a new paradigm for mental health— one focused on healing the root cause of suffering,” added James Joaquin, co-founder and Managing Director of Obvious Ventures.

The equity financing also included a number of existing and new investors including Magic Venture Capital, Myelin VC, Palm Drive Capital, some Getty family investors, Jon Oringer, founder and executive chairman of Shutterstock, Brent L. Saunders, chairman of Vesper Healthcare and former chairman and president of Allergan, and Andrey Ostrovsky, MD, who also joins Nue Life’s advisory board.

Phil Wolfson, MD, has also joined the company’s advisory board to develop its care programme. Dr. Wolfson is the CEO of the non-profit Ketamine Research Foundation and the author of The Ketamine Papers, and the the principal investigator of the MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) study on MDMA treatment for patients with life-threatening illnesses.

Uganda’s Rocket Health raises $5M in round led by Creadev to scale telemedicine across Africa

The world over, the popularity of telemedicine spiked during the Covid pandemic, growing 78 times in April 2020, a few months after the disease struck, according to a McKinsey study. In some parts of Africa, it was a great opportunity for telemedicine to make new inroads. But in Uganda, the industry had already taken off, albeit slowly, through Rocket Health, a startup working to transform the delivery of medical care using technology.

Launched in 2012, Rocket Health’s offers online medical consultation, collection of samples and the delivery of medicines. They also have a USSD service for those without internet connection too. After nearly a decade of operation in Uganda, the startup is now set to scale its integrated digital health solution to more regions across the country and within East Africa over the next two years, following a $5 million Series A funding. In the long-term it will pursue growth opportunities in West Africa.

Rocket Health’s co-founder and CEO Dr. Davis Musingizi told TechCrunch that the greater plan remains making healthcare easily accessible across Africa, a region with the highest disease burden in the world and the lowest patient-to-doctor ratio. Currently, countries across sub-Saharan Africa have 0.23 doctors for every 10,000 people, against the best ratio of 84.2 doctors in the most developed countries, according to the World Health Organization.

“I think tech is what helps us cover that gap, create more efficiencies, and broaden our reach beyond. There’s no way we’re going to build enough hospitals to be able to reach everybody with the health care that they need. I think telemedicine really helps breach the gap of availability,” said Musingizi.

“A lot of healthcare facilities and professionals are still centralized within the urban areas or the capital cities. So very many people across the country don’t get the benefits of these highly skilled individuals. And I think technology complemented with existing infrastructure is how we can bridge that gap.”

Rocket Health call center. Image Credits: Rocket Health

The startup’s latest funding round was led by Creadev; an evergreen investment firm backed by Mulliez family, with participation of early-stage African investors Grenfell Holdings and LoftyInc Capital Management, and brings the total funding raised by Rocket Health to $6.2 million.

Creadev Africa in a statement said, “We are delighted to partner with Rocket Health on its mission to make Healthcare accessible to many people in Sub-Saharan Africa. We have been highly impressed by the creativity, tenacity and vibrant culture of the Rocket Health team, who hold an ambitious vision for the future of African primary care. The opportunities are countless, from data analytics to innovative distribution channels.”

Other telehealth startups in the telemedicine space across Africa include Ghanaian health tech startup mPharma which revealed plans to set-up 100 virtual centers in its markets by the first quarter of the year and Quro Medical, a South Africa startup, which offers home care complemented by telemedicine service.

Rocket Health runs its own lab and pharmacy delivery services, which Musingizi says helps them remain in control of the delivery of products and services. They charge a $3 consultation fee and $1.5 for drug delivery.

The company has grown from a few thousand virtual consultations a year to about 400,000, propelled by the demand for remote healthcare during the Covid pandemic.

“Covid has been a great boost to introducing people to telemedicine. Once somebody has had that magical experience with last mile telemedicine, they almost never go back to queuing up in hospitals waiting to see the doctor. We now do tests like PCR testing in addition to home-based care,” said Musingizi.

Musingizi co-founded Rocket Health with Dr. John Mark Bwanika (COO), Ms Fiona Nuwamanya (CFO), Dr. Hope Achiro (chief pharmacist) and Dr. William Lubea (chief medical officer).

Rocket Health offers end-to-end medical services including delivery of medicine. Image Credits: Rocket Health

Its clientele base ranges from those calling in to have their children vaccinated to patients managing chronic illnesses. Also, 12 insurance companies have signed up, giving it access to a pool of customers within Uganda and across East Africa since most of them have a regional presence.

“We have different categories of clients; a lot of our clients are in urban areas, and they love the convenience of our services. We have also seen companies start buying subscriptions for casual workers, who don’t qualify for corporate medical covers,” said Musingizi.

As Rocket Health expands and embarks on its next phase of growth, they have partnered with Ada, a Berlin based end-user self-assessment platform, to integrate artificial intelligence into its tele-consultations.

Inside the pitch deck that won Heartbeat Health’s first investment check

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., but the healthcare industry spends more money helping patients after they get sick, instead of keeping them healthy.

To fill this gap, Heartbeat Health, founded by Dr. Jeff Wessler, has raised more than $30 million, developing a digital data layer that uses telemedicine, remote diagnostics and digital heart health programs to give patients and clinicians a more proactive way to stay healthy.

On our last episode of TechCrunch Live, we spoke with Wessler and Kindred Ventures’ Kanyi Maqubela to learn how its first fundraising deal came together and how Heartbeat’s pitch deck helped convince Kindred to invest.

Insight versus experience

“We look for founders who have a combination of domain insight and domain experience,” said Maqubela. “A lot of people who are very experienced in a domain are not totally insightful about it. They know all the reasons why you can never do something in that area. It takes a beginner’s mind, almost a little naivety, to have real insight in some areas.”

Though it’s often seen as an advantage to have experience in the industry you’re trying to solve for, or sell to, that experience must be paired with the insight to see a solution.

Maqubela said Wessler’s optimism about addressing cardiovascular health in a new way, paired with his deep understanding of the existing landscape, was attractive: “What I liked about Jeff was that he was from that world, but he was not of that world,” said Maqubela.

He added that Kindred is more than willing to invest in founders before they have a product or even a prototype, but that there is certain criteria involved. Alongside domain insight, Kindred also looks for personality that people want to partner with. As part of the firm’s investment due diligence in Wessler, Kindred helped recruit technical co-founding partners.

“The theory was that if one of them was ready to quit their ‘insert great job X’ to go work with this cardiologist, that’s actually a really important input that he is CEO material as well as a clinician,” said Maqubela.


As we dove into the pitch deck, Wessler and Maqubela both highlighted an early slide (pictured below).

We often hear that heart disease is the number-one killer, but the extra context around the problem of heart disease itself was critical in telling the Heartbeat Health story. The slide described cardiovascular disease as a bigger threat than all cancers combined, but is 80% preventable.

“It’s the biggest health issue facing America and has humongous impact,” said Maqubela. “Everyone I’ve spoken to since day one of Heartbeat Health, either in a pitch capacity or a recruitment capacity or from our team, has experience with heart disease, with friends or family or loved ones in one way or another. It’s a problem that gripped you.”

Daily Crunch: Salesforce, AWS collaborate to offer bundled services for streaming content providers

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Thursday, February 17, 2022! Heading into a long weekend here in the United States, you might think that the news is slowing down but, nope. It’s not. So we have major crypto-football news, European startup analysis, and even some notes on platform dynamics. It’s a busy day, so let’s dive in! – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Free money is popular: Alternatively, advertising works. TechCrunch reports that data indicates that the crypto trading ad push during the big American football game led to a spike in downloads for the pertinent companies. Surprised? We’re not, as some of the ads had giveaways attached. Still, a bunch of new folks just got into the crypto game – we’ll be able to see more in Q1 earnings.
  • Europe’s deep tech boom: Diving more deeply into the 2021 startup boom is proving to be good fun, especially as we dial in our focus on key cohorts. Today TechCrunch dug into Europe and the deep tech market, a particular segment of the tech landscape that is often pitched as a U.S.-versus-China battle but could have a third hub, or series of hubs, in the mix.
  • See, not all SPACs are falling apart: The deal to take crypto-focused startup Circle public via a SPAC has dissolved. But wait! It has also been reforged at a far higher price. It’s rare these days to hear positive SPAC news, so the Circle update caught our attention. Read on for more, but stablecoins are proving to be a lucrative way to accrete reserves, it appears.


Before we dive into the day’s startup news digest, a bunch of academics wrote an op-ed for TechCrunch about Spotify, platform dynamics and clarity. It’s worth your time if you are building something that will depend on third-party content, and doubly so if you plan on blending first- and third-party material.

Now, the news:

  • TechCrunch Live is back! Our own Matt Burns chatted with Emmalyn Shaw of Flourish Ventures and Itai Damti, a co-founder at Unit. TechCrunch covered Unit in the middle of last year when it raised more than $50 million in a single round.
  • Today in good headlines: Haje Jan Kamps is back with his usual wordplay today, this time during a look at Metriport, which “aggregates all of your quantified-self data in one place, and adds clever features like mood tracking, medicine tracking and journaling,” he writes. The headline? Metriport helps you take your quantified self to the next increment. Even more, the URL of the story ended with the following string: ​​metriport merrily measures your me verse. All right, Haje, we get it, you’re clever!
  • $110M to commercialize Apache Arrow: That’s the news from Voltron Data, which just raised one of the largest Series A rounds that we can recall. How was Voltron able to raise so much money, so quickly? It was founded by “employees from NVidia, Ursa Computing, BlazingSQL and the co-founder of Apache Arrow,” which we are sure helped. And the company is working to commercialize an open source tool. Which, as we know, can really scale well.
  • Deel wants to pay you in crypto: The story of Deel, a young startup that got started on the issue of paying far-flung employees just before the pandemic, has been one of rapid growth and huge fundraises. And, lately, a little crypto as well. The startup is now offering a way for employees to get paid in stablecoins, which could cut down on currency-related fees, we reckon?
  • Beam me up, Beem: We are all very tired of Zoom calls and other flat-video services because we’ve been chained to them for years now. Beem, however, reckons that we’re not done with all video products, so it built a way to “livestream yourself in AR,” as TechCrunch puts it. It just raised $4 million; let’s see if it catches on.
  • Havenly buys The Inside: Here’s an acquisition for you, with Havenly, an “online interior design startup” buying “direct-to-consumer home furnishing brand The Inside,” as we put it. The price wasn’t disclosed, but Havenly last raised a $32 million Series C, so we reckon it had the cash on hand for the transaction.
  • Telemedicine for pets: The boom in remote-doctoring services continues, with Dutch bringing the model to the world of pets. And it just scored $20 million for its efforts. Anyone who has had to drag a pet to the vet IRL knows just how helpful this might be.

Still want more? How about Dealshare’s $45 million round led by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, or the fact that Thrive Capital just closed an eighth fund worth $3 billion?

3 keys that unlock data-driven fundraising

Three antique silver and gold-plated keys

Image Credits: Mario Marco (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

It’s an opportune moment to launch a new company, but rising interest rates, inflation and any other number of unknown factors could lead investors to become more judicious when it comes to placing bets.

Data-driven founders who can tell a sweet story with the right metrics are much more likely to get an investor’s attention, according to Blair Silverberg, co-founder and CEO of Hum Capital.

“Unfortunately, many companies lack an efficient way to gather, synthesize and interpret data into real-time insights, resulting in the default reliance on static, Excel-based samplings that may not capture the full picture of your company’s potential,” he says.

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • This will save Peloton: The at-home exercise company is getting into games. No, you can’t play Doom on your bike – not officially, though we suspect that someone, somewhere has done this already – but the bike shop has built an interactive title to spice up your cycling. I am already in tears in anticipation of it kicking my butt.
  • Ford and Volvo sign up for Redwood’s battery recycling tech: Electric cars are very cool and mostly good but not entirely. Making them requires mining all sorts of yucky stuff from the planet, and when that material is used, it needs to be disposed of safely. That’s what Redwood wants to work on, and it just landed some key partners.
  • And to close, you can now change your name on Snapchat.

TechCrunch Experts

dc experts

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

TechCrunch is recruiting recruiters for TechCrunch Experts, an ongoing project where we ask top professionals about problems and challenges that are common in early-stage startups. If that’s you or someone you know, you can let us know here.

Getlabs will build out its at-home blood testing network with $20M Series A

The next time your doorbell rings, it might be a DoorDash delivery, or one of a handful of startups all vying for grocery delivery supremacy. Or it might be a phlebotomist, ready to do your blood work in the comfort of your living room.

That roving phlebotomist is the heart of Getlabs, a startup which just closed a $20 million Series A on Thursday, following a seed round announced less than a year ago in April 2021.

Founded in 2018, Getlabs aims to become the boots-on-the-ground accompaniment to telehealth. For example: Imagine you’ve just had a telehealth visit, and your healthcare provider thinks it might be time for a blood test. Instead of trekking to a clinic, Getlabs will come to your home and get the draw done, for an out of pocket “convenience fee” (to use company parlance) starting at $25.

At the moment, the company collects samples and works with Labcorp, Quest Diagnostics, and Sonora Quest to process those tests.

We covered GetLab’s origin story in detail here. But in short, the company is informed by founder Kyle Michelson’s own experience. While working on streamup (a music video streaming app) at Y Combinator 2016, he found himself struggling to fit in his medical appointments. At the time, he says, he was struggling with a health condition that required regular lab work.

Although telehealth platforms had proliferated, there wasn’t a company that actually offered the in-person services he required.
GetLab’s thesis is that the next iteration of direct-to-consumer healthcare will tackle more clinically complex conditions – the kind that might regular blood work, or lab tests to confirm diagnoses.

Getlabs time selection screen.

“Some of the existing telehealth companies are more focused on these conditions that don’t require hands-on care,” Michelson told TechCrunch. “There’s a new breed of telehealth companies that are built from the ground up looking for a way to reach patients physically.”

“My thinking at the time was, if you had a way to get labs at a patient’s home, you would suddenly unlock the ability for telehealth to go far beyond what it does today,” he said.

Lab work is an important part of clinical decision-making. One commonly cited statistic is that some 70 percent of clinical decisions are based on lab work. Some scientists have pointed out that no one can really find the origin of that number, but it’s been echoed from the Mayo Clinic to CDC website.

In the US, there are about 14 billion lab tests ordered every year, per the CDC. And there’s evidence that more lab tests are being ordered each year. Between 2013 and 2018, spending on US laboratory tests has increased more than 15 percent, per a 2020 paper in Implementation Science – a trend largely driven by healthcare providers ordering more tests. The same trend exists elsewhere, like the UK. In the early 2000s, the average UK citizen got between one and two lab tests done per year, in 2018, the average citizen got five.

Importantly, more lab testing doesn’t always mean better lab testing, but the point is that these tests are becoming more commonplace. But with the increasing use of lab tests, and the expansion of telehealth services happening in tandem, there could be a gap for Getlabs to fill.

Telehealth use has stabilized around 38 times its pre-pandemic level, but in general, telehealth visits tend to result in fewer test orders than in-person visits. This, however, could change as telehealth’s purview expands from urgent care and teletherapy into other areas that rely more heavily on testing.

Some telehealth companies, like Amwell, are beginning to realize that hybrid care models will facilitate telehealth’s bleed into areas like chronic care management, for example. It’s not just Amwell. There has also been investor speculation that the future telehealth isn’t virtual only, but a hybrid model that combines virtual appointments with in-home remote patient monitoring, or visits from trained specialists.

Since their seed round, Getlabs has invested in building out its phlebotomist workforce to act as the in-person part of a hybrid care model. So far, the company has employed over 100 phlebotomists as W-2 employees. The company has a turnover rate of less than .5 percent, Michelson noted.

Getlabs’ first patient in Philadelphia.

With that workforce, Michelson says the company has phlebotomists ready to serve about 45 percent of the US population, up from about 6 percent just four months ago. The company aims to reach 60 percent coverage by the end of this year.
One thing to note, though, is that this concentration of phlebotomists tends to be relatively urban-centric. (I typed in a few rural addresses in upstate New York as a test case, and Getlabs hadn’t reached the area. But there were a plethora of appointments available if I wanted a lab done in Brooklyn).

Michelson says the workforce largely caters to a suburban audience, rather than a rural or a truly urban one. “Where we think we actually have the most value is in situations where it’s a patient who lives in the suburbs. You know, they’ve got kids that they have to raise, they’ve got other other situations that make it less convenient for them to go [to a clinic],” he said.

Depending on the telehealth company, that focus might dictate whether the two company’s goals truly align. Telehealth is an especially powerful intervention for rural areas that lack access to specialists or clinics in the first place. So getting boots on the ground in those areas too, will prove especially important to help serve those communities.

Ultimately, Getlabs falls into the category of companies that are treating healthcare more and more like a consumer product, rather than a piece of bureaucratic drudgery. If they’re in your area, it’s pretty easy to book an appointment using the front-end of their platform. But they’re also interested in the back-end of consumer facing healthcare as well.

Rather than having patients book lab visits themselves, Getlabs is aiming to become fully integrated into a telehealth platform by launching its API. That API, he says, would allow for companies to schedule lab tests directly after patients’ virtual sessions.

“All you have to do is get a verbal response, yes or no. And everything else is done seamlessly,” he said.

The round was led by Emerson Collective and the Minderoo Foundation. It includes participation from Tusk Venture Partners, Labcorp, Healthworx, Byers Capital, Anne Wojcicki (co-founder and CEO of 23andMe), Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube), Eric Kinariwala (founder and CEO of Capsule), and Mattieu Gamache-Asselin (founder of Alto Pharmacy).

The major goal of this round, says Michelson, is to increase the amount of healthcare workers hired by the platform. This funding will allow the company to bring on more phlebotomists to expand coverage, and pursue more partnerships with emerging telehealth companies looking for an in-person component.

Telemedicine startups can survive and thrive under renewed regulation

As the pandemic shifts from an acute phase to one in which we learn to live with COVID-19 as an endemic presence, some entrepreneurs and investors may fear what comes next for virtual medicine.

Nearly half the U.S. states have ended emergency legal waivers introduced during the pandemic that allowed patients to be seen by doctors who practiced elsewhere. To some, the end of these waivers might portend daunting headwinds for telemedicine: a return to old regulations that snuff out the promise of new technology.

Yet there’s another thesis – one driven not by fear but by strategic insight – where the return of regulations could mean something much more beneficial for telemedicine startups and those invested in their success: a moat.

Telemedicine companies that research and understand the varied patchwork of state and federal regulations, analyzing them to identify patterns and build scalable business models, will survive and thrive in the coming environment. Those that do not prioritize this work and shoot from the hip will not fare as well, because patients and enforcement authorities alike will step in. It might mean a classic shakeout.

Even with the return of regulation, the opportunity in digital health will expand. While state laws might change, the macroeconomic rule of supply and demand remains, and patient demand for healthcare far outstrips the supply of available clinicians. That imbalance only accelerated during the pandemic, as physicians and nurses downshifted productivity, moved into less stressful roles or quit the field entirely.

On the demand side of the equation, there are more patients in need of care. Due to the aging Baby Boomers, the Affordable Care Act’s insurance plans, and a proliferation of affordable retail health care options, more people have access to care today than a decade ago.

On the supply side, telemedicine builds efficiency and access. While the increase in telemedicine may benefit doctors and nurses struggling with burnout — a reduced need for in-person visits may lead to less stress, goes the thinking — it does nothing to change the denominator in the equation. Surging inbound demand has, and will continue to, overwhelm the number of new clinicians graduating each year.

Telemedicine companies that research and understand the varied patchwork of state and federal regulations, analyzing them to identify patterns and build scalable business models, will survive and thrive in the coming environment.

This dynamic all but guarantees that telemedicine startups offering a quality user experience, more medically nuanced/specialized services, and a wider variety of virtual-first access points will remain in high demand.

Telemedicine was previously reserved for academic medicine or Medicare beneficiaries living in rural areas, with broad restrictions on who could receive the services and which providers could be paid to deliver them. While less than 1% of medical services were provided via telemedicine in January 2020, that figure is now estimated to be 38 times higher than the pre-pandemic baseline. Indeed, some startups have been conceived, launched and funded entirely during the era of COVID-19 waivers.

Startups that gained traction at a time when the rules were relaxed are now going to have to raise their game. Regulators expect it and patients deserve it.

The pressure for some form of regulatory clarity is only likely to increase. Along with the number of digital health startups transitioning to virtual provider groups and online clinics, there are giant players accelerating their digital transformation, reducing the footprint of brick-and-mortar locations, and increasing virtual care, including virtual primary care alternatives.

No market participant should be lulled into inaction by temporary extensions of crisis waivers. The smart founders (and their investors) will waste no time in launching or modifying a business that can flourish in an environment where regulations revert to the pre-COVID standards.

It’s a development that will allow telemedicine to mature, moving from a convenient replacement in a crisis to earning its own seat at the table in the healthcare industry as an essential participant in the continuum of care.

Pandemic prompts launch of new $75M US telemedicine fund from Swiftarc Ventures

New York-based Venture fund Swiftarc Ventures is launching a new fund dubbed Swiftarc Telehealth to take advantage of the boom in Telehealth-focused startups which have emerged, partly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $75 million fund will focus on three initial areas: Obesity, Mental & Behavioral Health, and Pediatrics. It will also look at startups in Remote Patient Monitoring, Chronic Care Management, and In-Home Evaluations.

The timing is good. It’s estimated that over 10 years’ worth of Telehealth legislation was pushed forward in the US in less than 3 months, and more than three-fourths of the US population has now utilized some form of telemedicine. The continued reimbursement support of virtual visits in the field of psychiatry and mental health is also looking like an area of expansion. In Obesity Care, Swiftcare says dietitians, clinicians and primary care physicians being able to communicate with each other on a platform is likely to be an opportunity for tech startups.

Swiftarc will also draw on the expertise of medical experts including Sloan Saunders, Co-founder, and CEO of Intellihealth, and Dr. Paul Bedocs, a leading dermatologist, as members of the Swiftarc Medical Advisory board.

Sid Jawahar, founder and managing partner of Swiftarc Ventures.

Sid Jawahar, Founder and Managing Partner at Swiftarc Ventures said: “We feel good about
participating in areas of healthcare that have been historically underserved. Being curious, impactful, and deliberate are the three core tenets with which we began. Our goal is to fundamentally disrupt standard, antiquated healthcare delivery models and to find innovative solutions to improve access to high-quality care, ultimately reshaping the patient healthcare experience forever.”

Swiftarc believes that this platform-based telemedicine approach may well help control other related and serious health conditions like diabetes and hypertension at pre-onset stage.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Jawahar added: “We had not really been participating directly in healthcare deals, which all changed when we saw telehealth becoming the next frontier. That led to a really a deep, exhaustive 14-month study of the industry. We really wanted to roll up our sleeves and talk to the folks that had been in it for a long time. There’s a lot of really interesting fragmented activity in telehealth. We looked at 15 health centers, everything from cardiology to neurology to dermatology to see how virtual care would fundamentally augment how healthcare was being performed. And where we landed was on these three use cases we thought were the most efficacious today: Mental Health, obesity, and pediatrics.”

Kiddo picks up $16Mfor a kids’ wearable aimed at four chronic conditions

Kiddo, formally known as GoodParents Inc., announced a $16 million Series A round on Tuesday. Through a combination of wearables, parental coaching, and telehealth, the company has its sights firmly set on managing care for kids with chronic health conditions. 

Kiddo has been working on developing a wearable and software combo for children’s health for several years. The company was founded in 2016 by Jaganath “CJ” Swamy, who was initially interested in developing a health and wellness device that would be fun for kids to use, and offer parents the ability to monitor health. However, the company has now revamped to focus fully on managing chronic health conditions. 

That focus, Swamy tells TechCrunch, is partially inspired by his own experience. He was in the midst of transitioning away from working as an early-stage investor when one of his sons began to have asthma-like breathing problems. 

“We were struggling to manage and monitor what was happening with him on a daily basis, and with passing that information back to his physician, so that she could modify the treatment protocol appropriately,” Swamy tells TechCrunch. “As we were kind of going through this struggle, it started making me think about how we could try and make this a better experience for parents, who essentially have to kind of manage kids with a chronic condition.” 

The result was Kiddo, a care coordination platform aimed at kids aged two to 15. The child receives a proprietary wristband (it looks something like a FitBit), the parents download an app that collects data from that wearable, and relays that information to the child’s doctor. The platform is specifically designed to monitor children with asthma, heart disease, autism, and diabetes. 

The round was led by Clearlake-Capital backed Vive Collective and brings Kiddo’s total funding to $25 million. Other investors include Wavemaker 360, Wavemaker Asia Pacific, Mojo Partners, along with Techstars and affiliated funds. 

Broadly, Kiddo falls into the “Remote Patient Monitoring” category. It’s designed to help patients obtain the same basic care they might receive in a primary care office from home. 

The wearable transmits signals like heart rate, temperature, SpO2 (a blood oxygen measure), motion and perspiration. Meanwhile, the app integrates that data with local air quality conditions (a key metric for asthma patients). Over time, Kiddo develops a profile for each child based on these characteristics. Should those metrics significantly deviate from the norm, a parent would receive a notification, as well as a list of tips that might help them control the situation at home. 

For example, if a child was having an asthma attack, a parent might receive an alert suggesting that breathing rates and heart rates were out of regular ranges. Then, the app might give some general suggestions as to how to manage the situation. “We might say, ‘hey, let the child rest for an hour, give them a glass of cold water or put them in an air conditioned environment or, based on the advice of a physician take albuterol,” says Swamy. 

If symptoms persist, the app allows parents to schedule a doctor’s appointment. 

The idea of remote patient monitoring itself isn’t new, but there have been more studies published on the idea in recent years. One 2020 systematic review in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health, for example, found that 43 percent of 272 reviewed articles were published between 2015 and 2018. In about 77 percent of those studies, remote patient monitoring had a positive impact on patient care. 

Kiddo is investing in clinical validation of its services, though Swamy notes that no data has yet been published publicly (“The data is confidential and only to be shared with customers,” he said via followup email).  But he did say that research from academic and partners and private parties has “validated many aspects of the Kiddo platform.” That process will include a new study under development at Thompson Autism Center at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, he said. 

The company’s own data, says Swamy, suggests the platform improves treatment adherence more than 50 percent and led to a “2x reduction” in unnecessary ER visits. But again, this data is unpublished. 

Kiddo currently hasn’t received FDA marketing clearance, but is aiming for Class I certification (this is a class reserved for low risk devices). 

So far, the company also has partnered with seven health systems, benefits providers and foundations, including UHC Optum, PC Health, and “several children’s hospitals” per a press release (other partners were not disclosed). 

Critically, Swamy says the company sees itself solely as a B2B provider. It has no plans to go direct to consumer – but rather will focus on partnering with hospitals and health systems. 

Kiddo’s most recent round of funding comes after a big year for the company when it comes to users. So far, the company is working with 70,000 children, with plans to expand to about 200,000 in the next few years. That traction, he notes, is one of the drivers of investor interest, but it’s not the only trend working in Kiddo’s favor. 

There is also regulatory movement that could favor remote patient monitoring. Historically, there have been limited numbers of CPT codes (reimbursement codes) for remote monitoring technology. Beginning in 2018, some codes have been repurposed and others added to make it easier for providers to charge for remote patient monitoring. 

That trend is continuing. In 2022, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has expanded the amount of reimbursement codes that apply to remote patient monitoring – allowing payers to bill for even more types of remote patient monitoring these services. 

The regulatory landscape for remote patient monitoring is still very much in flux – though these regulations are moving in a direction that probably helps companies like Kiddo. According to Swamy, Kiddo’s technology is reimbursable thanks to these CPT codes. “So there’s a financial kind of outcome for the health systems that we work with,” he adds. 

With this current round, Swamy hopes to increase the size of Kiddo’s sales and product development teams. He also has ambitions to expand the amount of chronic conditions Kiddo can treat. Right now, the company has an eye on pediatric oncology and orthopedics services, and hopes to move in that direction in the next 2 years. 


The growing power of digital healthcare: 6 trends to watch in 2022

The digital healthcare revolution has already begun, and it will gain further momentum in 2022 as providers and patients look for new and better ways to improve care. Companies with strong offerings, management teams and balance sheets are poised to capture tremendous value.

Healthcare deals were hot in the first nine months in 2021. They brought in a total of $21.3 billion in venture funding across 541 deals, dwarfing the previous record of $14.6 billion set in 2020, according to Rock Health.

But startups will continue to lead the way in innovation with the use of AI, IoT and data analytics, especially with data becoming the central currency of healthcare.

Given this environment, here are six emerging trends that we’re watching closely in 2022.

Telemedicine will change how chronic conditions are treated

The pandemic showed how telemedicine could change how we think about care interactions, with virtual visits increasing almost 40 times, according to data from McKinsey. Most of these interactions were centered around acute care. But for telemedicine to achieve its full potential, it will need to engage patients more frequently, especially for certain chronic conditions.

The companies that succeed will be the ones that change the way patients interact with the healthcare system by building their entire operation around the patient experience.

Costs around chronic care are poised to rise as baby boomers age and put greater strain on the healthcare system. One chronic condition where telemedicine will play a larger role is diabetes. That’s why Teladoc Health, a leader in the space, acquired Livongo last year for $18.5 billion.

In 2022, entrepreneurs and investors are likely to expand telemedicine into more chronic care spaces like cardiology. Today, someone in the U.S. suffers a heart attack every 40 seconds, and heart disease costs the country about $219 billion a year. Telehealth offers a convenient, cost-effective way to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease. For instance, with telehealth, even patients in remote or rural areas can gain access to cardiologists to get treatment without traveling far.

Overall, expect telehealth players to build their offerings across the chronic care landscape in a meaningful way in 2022.

Digital therapeutics will rewrite the future of healthcare

Digital therapeutics is perhaps the most innovative development in healthcare today and has the potential to dramatically change how care is delivered. More than any other area, this is the space where I believe we’ll see the most entrepreneurial and investment activity in the coming year.