Apr
08
2021
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EHR startup Canvas Medical raises $17M and partners with insurance heavyweight Anthem

Canvas Medical, an electronic health records (EHR) startup, today announced their $17 million Series A and a new partnership with Anthem, one of the biggest health insurance companies in the country.

The round was co-led by Inspired Capital and IA Ventures, with participation from Upfront Ventures. This round brings the company’s total funding to date to $20 million. 

The San Francisco-based company, which launched in 2015, aims to help doctors experience a more efficient — and painless — approach to delivering value-based care by offering an EHR platform that promises “80% fewer clicks, 3x faster workflows, and the ability to truly work on one screen,” said Andrew Hines, the company’s CEO and founder.

Andrew Hines

Andrew Hines. Image Credits: Canvas Medical

Value-based care is a delivery model where providers are paid based on patient health outcomes as opposed to the traditional pay-per-service model where doctors are reimbursed per visit.

We’ve seen a transition in the U.S. toward value-based care over the last several years, and that shift is also being reflected in how doctors are getting reimbursed. As a result, existing EHR companies find themselves having to add bells and whistles to their platforms, which in turn has compromised the doctor’s workflow experience.

“What has happened over time is we have asked our clinicians to become sophisticated coders. They are clicking through screens that are cluttered, that are not designed with human factors in mind,” said Steve Strongwater in Catalyst, a journal on innovation in care delivery published by the New England Journal of Medicine. Strongwater is a physician and the CEO of Atrius Health in Boston.

“Current EHRs are a workplace hazard from an ergonomics perspective,” said Hines. “It’s like if you sit in the wrong chair day in and day out, your back is going to hurt.” 

While technology has made many people’s jobs easier, that’s not the case for doctors. Studies have shown that EHRs are actually a source of physician burnout in the U.S., which is in and of itself a problem of national concern. 

The EHR market is extremely fragmented (there are several hundred EHR companies in the U.S.) which makes sharing medical records between physicians a challenge. Because health insurance claims contain significant medical information, insurance companies are a reliable alternative source for a lot of the important data about their members. But if a doctor needs to access that information for treatment purposes – which they have to do regularly – they have to log into a different portal or access a different report depending on each patient’s insurance. That’s one of the problems Canvas aims to solve, and their partnership with Anthem is just the beginning.

While there’s often a major amount of inertia — and associated cost — with changing EHRs, Hines, a data scientist-turned-entrepreneur, says the company assuages these concerns by leading its sale efforts with its numbers.

“Doctors who use Canvas experience 30% more productivity in the first month and are able to save 1-2 hours a day charting — which allows them to see more patients or go home early,” he added.

 

Mar
17
2021
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Amazon will expand its Amazon Care on-demand healthcare offering U.S.-wide this summer

Amazon is apparently pleased with how its Amazon Care pilot in Seattle has gone, since it announced this morning that it will be expanding the offering across the U.S. this summer, and opening it up to companies of all sizes, in addition to its own employees. The Amazon Care model combines on-demand and in-person care, and is meant as a solution from the search giant to address shortfalls in current offering for employer-sponsored healthcare offerings.

In a blog post announcing the expansion, Amazon touted the speed of access to care made possible for its employees and their families via the remote, chat and video-based features of Amazon Care. These are facilitated via a dedicated Amazon Care app, which provides direct, live chats via a nurse or doctor. Issues that then require in-person care is then handled via a house call, so a medical professional is actually sent to your home to take care of things like administering blood tests or doing a chest exam, and prescriptions are delivered to your door as well.

The expansion is being handled differently across both in-person and remote variants of care; remote services will be available starting this summer to both Amazon’s own employees, as well as other companies who sign on as customers, starting this summer. The in-person side will be rolling out more slowly, starting with availability in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and “other cities in the coming months” according to the company.

As of today, Amazon Care is expanding in its home state of Washington to begin serving other companies. The idea is that others will sing on to make Amazon Care part of its overall benefits package for employees. Amazon is touting the speed advantages of testing services, including results delivery, for things including COVID-19 as a major strength of the service.

The Amazon Care model has a surprisingly Amazon twist, too – when using the in-person care option, the app will provide an updating ETA for when to expect your physician or medical technician, which is eerily similar to how its primary app treats package delivery.

While the Amazon Care pilot in Washington only launched a year-and-a-half ago, the company has had its collective mind set on upending the corporate healthcare industry for some time now. It announced a partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan back at the very beginning of 2018 to form a joint venture specifically to address the gaps they saw in the private corporate healthcare provider market.

That deep pocketed all-star team ended up officially disbanding at the outset of this year, after having done a whole lot of not very much in the three years in between. One of the stated reasons that Amazon and its partners gave for unpartnering was that each had made a lot of progress on its own in addressing the problems it had faced anyway. While Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan’s work in that regard might be less obvious, Amazon was clearly referring to Amazon Care.

It’s not unusual for large tech companies with lots of cash on the balance sheet and a need to attract and retain top-flight talent to spin up their own healthcare benefits for their workforces. Apple and Google both have their own on-campus wellness centers staffed by medical professionals, for instance. But Amazon’s ambitious have clearly exceeded those of its peers, and it looks intent on making a business line out of the work it did to improve its own employee care services — a strategy that isn’t too dissimilar from what happened with AWS, by the way.

Jan
22
2021
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Extra Crunch roundup: Digital health VC survey, edtech M&A, deep tech marketing, more

I had my first telehealth consultation last year, and there’s a high probability that you did, too. Since the pandemic began, consumer adoption of remote healthcare has increased 300%.

Speaking as an unvaccinated urban dweller: I’d rather speak to a nurse or doctor via my laptop than try to remain physically distanced on a bus or hailed ride traveling to/from their office.

Even after things return to (rolls eyes) normal, if I thought there was a reliable way to receive high-quality healthcare in my living room, I’d choose it.

Clearly, I’m not alone: a May 2020 McKinsey study pegged yearly domestic telehealth revenue at $3 billion before the coronavirus, but estimated that “up to $250 billion of current U.S. healthcare spend could potentially be virtualized” after the pandemic abates.

That’s a staggering number, but in a category that includes startups focused on sexual health, women’s health, pediatrics, mental health, data management and testing, it’s clear to see why digital-health funding topped more than $10 billion in the first three quarters of 2020.

Drawing from The TechCrunch List, reporter Sarah Buhr interviewed eight active health tech VCs to learn more about the companies and industry verticals that have captured their interest in 2021:

  • Bryan Roberts and Bob Kocher, partners, Venrock
  • Nan Li, managing director, Obvious Ventures
  • Elizabeth Yin, general partner, Hustle Fund
  • Christina Farr, principal investor and health tech lead, OMERS Ventures
  • Ursheet Parikh, partner, Mayfield Ventures
  • Nnamdi Okike, co-founder and managing partner, 645 Ventures
  • Emily Melton, founder and managing partner, Threshold Ventures

Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription


Since COVID-19 has renewed Washington’s focus on healthcare, many investors said they expect a friendly regulatory environment for telehealth in 2021. Additionally, healthcare providers are looking for ways to reduce costs and lower barriers for patients seeking behavioral support.

“Remote really does work,” said Elizabeth Yin, general partner at Hustle Fund.

We’ll cover digital health in more depth this year through additional surveys, vertical reporting, founder interviews and much more.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week; I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

8 VCs agree: Behavioral support and remote visits make digital health a strong bet for 2021

Woman having a medicine video conferencing with her doctor using digital tablet. Senior woman on a video call with a doctor using her tablet computer at home.

Image Credits: Luis Alvarez (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Lessons from Top Hat’s acquisition spree

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

In the last year, edtech startup Top Hat acquired three publishing companies: Fountainhead Press, Bludoor and Nelson HigherEd.

Natasha Mascarenhas interviewed CEO and founder Mike Silagadze to learn more about his content acquisition strategy, but her story also discussed “some rumblings of consolidation and exits in edtech land.”

How VCs invested in Asia and Europe in 2020

Last year, U.S.-based VCs invested an average of $428 million each day in domestic startups, with much of the benefits flowing to fintech companies.

This morning, Alex Wilhelm examined Q4 VC totals for Europe, which had its lowest deal count since Q1 2019, despite a record $14.3 billion in investments.

Asia’s VC industry, which saw $25.2 billion invested across 1,398 deals is seeing “a muted recovery,” says Alex.

“Falling seed volume, lots of big rounds. That’s 2020 VC around the world in a nutshell.”

Decrypted: With more SolarWinds fallout, Biden picks his cybersecurity team

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

In this week’s Decrypted, security reporter Zack Whittaker covered the latest news in the unfolding SolarWinds espionage campaign, now revealed to have impacted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Malwarebytes.

In other news, the controversy regarding WhatsApp’s privacy policy change appears to be driving users to encrypted messaging app Signal, Zack reported. Facebook has put changes at WhatsApp on hold “until it could figure out how to explain the change without losing millions of users,” apparently.

Hot IPOs hang onto gains as investors keep betting on tech

A big IPO debut is a juicy topic for a few news cycles, but because there’s always another unicorn ready to break free from its corral and leap into the public markets, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to reflect.

Alex studied companies like Lemonade, Airbnb and Affirm to see how well these IPO pop stars have retained their value. Not only have most held steady, “many have actually run up the score in the ensuing weeks,” he found.

Dear Sophie: What are Biden’s immigration changes?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Dear Sophie:

I work in HR for a tech firm. I understand that Biden is rolling out a new immigration plan today.

What is your sense as to how the new administration will change business, corporate and startup founder immigration to the U.S.?

—Free in Fremont

Hello, Extra Crunch community!

Hello in Different Languages

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

I began my career as an avid TechCrunch reader and remained one even when I joined as a writer, when I left to work on other things and now that I’ve returned to focus on better serving our community.

I’ve been chatting with some of the folks in our community and I’d love to talk to you, too. Nothing fancy, just 5-10 minutes of your time to hear more about what you want to see from us and get some feedback on what we’ve been doing so far.

If you would be so kind as to take a minute or two to fill out this form, I’ll drop you a note and hopefully we can have a chat about the future of the Extra Crunch community before we formally roll out some of the ideas we’re cooking up.

Drew Olanoff
@yoda

In 2020, VCs invested $428m into US-based startups every day

Last year was a disaster across the board thanks to a global pandemic, economic uncertainty and widespread social and political upheaval.

But if you were involved in the private markets, however, 2020 had some very clear upside — VCs flowed $156.2 billion into U.S.-based startups, “or around $428 million for each day,” reports Alex Wilhelm.

“The huge sum of money, however, was itself dwarfed by the amount of liquidity that American startups generated, some $290.1 billion.”

Using data sourced from the National Venture Capital Association and PitchBook, Alex used Monday’s column to recap last year’s seed, early-stage and late-stage rounds.

How and when to build marketing teams at deep tech companies

Pole lifting rubber duck with hook in its head

Image Credits: Andy Roberts (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Building a marketing team is one of the most opaque parts of spinning up a startup, but for a deep tech company, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

How can technical founders working on bleeding-edge technology find the right people to tell their story?

If you work at a post-revenue, early-stage deep tech startup (or know someone who does), this post explains when to hire a team, whether they’ll need prior industry experience, and how to source and evaluate talent.

Bustle CEO Bryan Goldberg explains his plans for taking the company public

Bustle Digital Group CEO Bryan Goldberg

Bustle Digital Group CEO Bryan Goldberg. Image Credits: Bustle Digital Group

Senior Writer Anthony Ha interviewed Bustle Digital Group CEO Bryan Goldberg to get his thoughts on the state of digital media.

Their conversation covered a lot of ground, but the biggest news it contained focuses on Goldberg’s short-term plans.

“Where do I want to see the company in three years? I want to see three things: I want to be public, I want to see us driving a lot of profits and I want it to be a lot bigger, because we’ve consolidated a lot of other publications,” he said.

It may not be as glamorous as D2C, but beauty tech is big money

Directly Above Shot Of Razors On Green Background

Image Credits: Laia Divols Escude/EyeEm (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is not a huge fan of personal-care D2C brands merging with traditional consumer product companies.

This month, razor startup Billie and Proctor & Gamble announced they were calling off their planned merger after the FTC filed suit.

For similar reasons, Edgewell Personal Care dropped its plans last year to buy Harry’s for $1.37 billion.

In a harsher regulatory environment, “the path to profitability has become a more important part of the startup story versus growth at all costs,” it seems.

Twilio CEO says wisdom lies with your developers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 12: Founder and CEO of Twilio Jeff Lawson speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 at Pier 48 on September 12, 2016 in San Francisco, California. Image Credits: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Companies that build their own tools “tend to win the hearts, minds and wallets of their customers,” according to Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson.

In an interview with enterprise reporter Ron Miller for his new book, “Ask Your Developer,” Lawson says founders should use developer teams as a sounding board when making build-versus-buy decisions.

“Lawson’s basic philosophy in the book is that if you can build it, you should,” says Ron.

Dec
09
2020
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HealNow raises $1.3 million to bring online payments to pharmacies

As the health tech landscape rapidly evolves, another startup is making its presence known. HealNow has closed a $1.3 million round of funding from SoftBank Opportunity Fund and Alabama Futures Fund.

The company was founded by Halston Prox and Joshua Smith. Prox has worked in healthcare for more than a decade with major organizations such as Providence Health, Mount Sinai and Baylor Scott & White, mostly focused on digitizing health records and designing and implementing software for doctors, nurses, etc. Smith, CTO at the company, has been a developer since 2012.

The duo founded HealNow to become the central nervous system for order and delivery of prescriptions, according to Prox. Your average payments processing system isn’t necessarily applicable to pharmacies large and small because of the complexities of health insurance and the regulatory landscape.

Not only is it costly to facilitate online payments for pharmacies, but they also have their own pharmacy management systems and workflows that can be easily disrupted by moving to a new payments system.

HealNow has built a system that’s specifically tailored to pharmacies of any shape or size, from grocery stores to mom and pop pharmacies and everything in between. It’s a white label solution, meaning that any pharmacy can put their brand language on the product.

“We’re embedded in their current workflows and pharmacies don’t have to do anything manual, even if they’re using a pharmacy management system,” said Prox.

When a user looks to get a prescription from their pharmacy, they are sent a link that allows them to securely answer any questions that may be necessary for the pickup, enter insurance info, make a payment and schedule a curbside pickup or a delivery. The tech also integrates with third-party delivery services for pharmacies that offer deliveries.

This technology has been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving smaller pharmacies the chance to compete with bigger chains who have digital solutions already set up that allow for curbside pick up. This is especially true now that Amazon has gotten into the space with the launch of Amazon Pharmacy.

HealNow is a SaaS company, charging a monthly subscription fee for use of the platform, as well as a service fee for prescriptions purchased on the platform. However, that service fee is a flat rate that never changes based on the cost of the prescription.

The space is crowded and growing more crowded, with competitors like NimbleRX and Capsule offering their own spin on simplifying and digitizing the pharmacy. One big difference for HealNow, says Prox, is that the startup has no intention of ever being a pharmacy, but rather serving pharmacies in a way that doesn’t disrupt their current workflow or system.

“We’re not a pharmacy, and we want to enable all these pharmacies to be online,” said Prox. “To do that we have to do that in an unbiased way by focusing on being a complete tech company.”

The funding is going primarily toward building out the sales and marketing arms of the company to continue fueling growth. HealNow has a foothold in the West, Southwest and Middle America, and is opening an office in Birmingham to sprint across the East Coast. Prox says the company is processing thousands of orders a day and tens of thousands of orders each month.

HealNow launched in 2018 after graduating from the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator .

Oct
05
2020
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As it closes in on Arm, Nvidia announces UK supercomputer dedicated to medical research

As Nvidia continues to work through its deal to acquire Arm from SoftBank for $40 billion, the computing giant is making another big move to lay out its commitment to investing in U.K. technology. Today the company announced plans to develop Cambridge-1, a new £40 million AI supercomputer that will be used for research in the health industry in the country, the first supercomputer built by Nvidia specifically for external research access, it said.

Nvidia said it is already working with GSK, AstraZeneca, London hospitals Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London and Oxford Nanopore to use the Cambridge-1. The supercomputer is due to come online by the end of the year and will be the company’s second supercomputer in the country. The first is already in development at the company’s AI Center of Excellence in Cambridge, and the plan is to add more supercomputers over time.

The growing role of AI has underscored an interesting crossroads in medical research. On one hand, leading researchers all acknowledge the role it will be playing in their work. On the other, none of them (nor their institutions) have the resources to meet that demand on their own. That’s driving them all to get involved much more deeply with big tech companies like Google, Microsoft and, in this case, Nvidia, to carry out work.

Alongside the supercomputer news, Nvidia is making a second announcement in the area of healthcare in the U.K.: it has inked a partnership with GSK, which has established an AI hub in London, to build AI-based computational processes that will be used in drug vaccine and discovery — an especially timely piece of news, given that we are in a global health pandemic and all drug makers and researchers are on the hunt to understand more about, and build vaccines for, COVID-19.

The news is coinciding with Nvidia’s industry event, the GPU Technology Conference.

“Tackling the world’s most pressing challenges in healthcare requires massively powerful computing resources to harness the capabilities of AI,” said Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia, in his keynote at the event. “The Cambridge-1 supercomputer will serve as a hub of innovation for the U.K., and further the groundbreaking work being done by the nation’s researchers in critical healthcare and drug discovery.”

The company plans to dedicate Cambridge-1 resources in four areas, it said: industry research, in particular joint research on projects that exceed the resources of any single institution; university granted compute time; health-focused AI startups; and education for future AI practitioners. It’s already building specific applications in areas, like the drug discovery work it’s doing with GSK, that will be run on the machine.

The Cambridge-1 will be built on Nvidia’s DGX SuperPOD system, which can process 400 petaflops of AI performance and 8 petaflops of Linpack performance. Nvidia said this will rank it as the 29th fastest supercomputer in the world.

“Number 29” doesn’t sound very groundbreaking, but there are other reasons why the announcement is significant.

For starters, it underscores how the supercomputing market — while still not a mass-market enterprise — is increasingly developing more focus around specific areas of research and industries. In this case, it underscores how health research has become more complex, and how applications of artificial intelligence have both spurred that complexity but, in the case of building stronger computing power, also provides a better route — some might say one of the only viable routes in the most complex of cases — to medical breakthroughs and discoveries.

It’s also notable that the effort is being forged in the U.K. Nvidia’s deal to buy Arm has seen some resistance in the market — with one group leading a campaign to stop the sale and take Arm independent — but this latest announcement underscores that the company is already involved pretty deeply in the U.K. market, bolstering Nvidia’s case to double down even further. (Yes, chip reference designs and building supercomputers are different enterprises, but the argument for Nvidia is one of commitment and presence.)

“AI and machine learning are like a new microscope that will help scientists to see things that they couldn’t see otherwise,” said Dr. Hal Barron, chief scientific officer and president, R&D, GSK, in a statement. “NVIDIA’s investment in computing, combined with the power of deep learning, will enable solutions to some of the life sciences industry’s greatest challenges and help us continue to deliver transformational medicines and vaccines to patients. Together with GSK’s new AI lab in London, I am delighted that these advanced technologies will now be available to help the U.K.’s outstanding scientists.”

“The use of big data, supercomputing and artificial intelligence have the potential to transform research and development; from target identification through clinical research and all the way to the launch of new medicines,” added James Weatherall, PhD, head of Data Science and AI, AstraZeneca, in his statement.

“Recent advances in AI have seen increasingly powerful models being used for complex tasks such as image recognition and natural language understanding,” said Sebastien Ourselin, head, School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences at King’s College London. “These models have achieved previously unimaginable performance by using an unprecedented scale of computational power, amassing millions of GPU hours per model. Through this partnership, for the first time, such a scale of computational power will be available to healthcare research – it will be truly transformational for patient health and treatment pathways.”

Dr. Ian Abbs, chief executive & chief medical director of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust Officer, said: “If AI is to be deployed at scale for patient care, then accuracy, robustness and safety are of paramount importance. We need to ensure AI researchers have access to the largest and most comprehensive datasets that the NHS has to offer, our clinical expertise, and the required computational infrastructure to make sense of the data. This approach is not only necessary, but also the only ethical way to deliver AI in healthcare – more advanced AI means better care for our patients.”

“Compact AI has enabled real-time sequencing in the palm of your hand, and AI supercomputers are enabling new scientific discoveries in large-scale genomic data sets,” added Gordon Sanghera, CEO, Oxford Nanopore Technologies. “These complementary innovations in data analysis support a wealth of impactful science in the U.K., and critically, support our goal of bringing genomic analysis to anyone, anywhere.”

 

Sep
29
2020
--

Salesforce creates for-profit platform to help governments distribute COVID vaccine when it’s ready

For more than 20 years, Salesforce has been selling cloud business software, but it has also used the same platform to build ways to track other elements besides sales, marketing and service information, including Work.com, the platform it created earlier this year to help companies develop and organize a safe way to begin returning to work during the pandemic.

Today, the company announced it was putting that same platform to work to help distribute and track a vaccine whenever it becomes available, along with related materials like syringes that will be needed to administer it. The plan is to use Salesforce tools to solve logistical problems around distributing the vaccine, as well as data to understand where it could be needed most and the efficacy of the drug, according to Bill Patterson, EVP and general manager for CRM applications at Salesforce.

“The next wave of the virus phasing, if you will, will be [when] a vaccine is on the horizon, and we begin planning the logistics. Can we plan the orchestration? Can we measure the inventory? Can we track the outcomes of the vaccine once it reaches the public’s hands,” Patterson asked.

Salesforce has put together a new product called Work.com for Vaccines to put its platform to work to help answer these questions, which Patterson says ultimately involves logistics and data, two areas that are strengths for Salesforce.

The platform includes the core Work.com command center along with additional components for inventory management, appointment management, clinical administration, outcome monitoring and public outreach.

While this all sounds good, what Salesforce lacks of course is expertise in drug distribution or public health administration, but the company believes that by creating a flexible platform with open data, government entities can share that data with other software products outside of the Salesforce family.

“That’s why it’s important to use an open data platform that allows for aggregate data to be quickly summarized and abstracted for public use,” he said. He points to the fact that some states are using Tableau, the company that Salesforce bought last year for a tidy $15.7 billion, to track other types of COVID data.

“Many states today are running all their COVID testing and positive case reporting through the Tableau platform. We want to do the same kind of exchange of data with things like inventory management [for a vaccine],” he said.

While this sounds like a public service kind of activity, Salesforce intends to sell this product to governments to manage vaccines. Patterson says that to run a system like this at what they envision will be enormous scale, it will be a service that governments have to pay for to access.

This isn’t the first time that Salesforce has created a product that falls somewhat outside of the standard kind of business realm, but which takes advantage of the Salesforce platform. Last year it developed a tool to help companies measure how sustainable they are being. While the end goal is positive, just like Work.com for Vaccines and the broader Work.com platform, it is a tool that they charge for to help companies implement and measure these kinds of initiatives.

The tool set is available starting today. Pricing will vary depending on the requirements and components of each government entity.

The real question here is, should this kind of distribution platform be created by a private company like Salesforce for profit, or perhaps would it be better suited to an open-source project, where a community of developers could create the software and distribute it for free.

Aug
03
2020
--

Amid pandemic, returning to offices remains an open question for tech leaders

As COVID-19 infections surge in parts of the U.S., many workplaces remain empty or are operating with skeleton crews.

Most agree that the decision to return to the office should involve a combination of business, government and medical officials and scientists who have a deep understanding of COVID-19 and infectious disease in general. The exact timing will depend on many factors, including the government’s willingness to open up, the experts’ view of current conditions, business leadership’s tolerance for risk (or how reasonable it is to run the business remotely), where your business happens to be and the current conditions there.

That doesn’t mean every business that can open will, but if and when they get a green light, they can at least begin bringing some percentage of employees back. But what that could look like is clouded in great uncertainty around commutes, office population density and distancing, the use of elevators, how much you can reasonably deep clean, what it could mean to have a mask on for eight hours a day, and many other factors.

To get a sense of how tech companies are looking at this, we spoke to a number of executives to get their perspective. Most couldn’t see returning to the office beyond a small percentage of employees this year. But to get a more complete picture, we also spoke to a physician specializing in infectious diseases and a government official to get their perspectives on the matter.

Taking it slowly

While there are some guidelines out there to help companies, most of the executives we spoke to found that while they missed in-person interactions, they were happy to take things slow and were more worried about putting staff at risk than being in a hurry to return to normal operations.

Iman Abuzeid, CEO and co-founder at Incredible Health, a startup that helps hospitals find and hire nurses, said her company was half-remote even before COVID-19 hit, but since then, the team is now completely remote. Whenever San Francisco’s mayor gives the go-ahead, she says she will reopen the office, but the company’s 30 employees will have the option to keep working remotely.

She points out that for some employees, working at home has proven very challenging. “I do want to highlight two groups that are pretty important that need to be highlighted in this narrative. First, we have employees with very young kids, and the schools are closed so working at home forever or even for the rest of this year is not really an option, and then the second group is employees who are in smaller apartments, and they’ve got roommates and it’s not comfortable to work at home,” Abuzeid explained.

Those folks will need to go to the office whenever that’s allowed, she said. For Lindsay Grenawalt, chief people officer at Cockroach Labs, an 80-person database startup in NYC, said there has to be a highly compelling reason to bring people back to the office at this point.

Jul
07
2020
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Nayya, bringing transparency to choosing and managing healthcare plans, raises $2.7 million

Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator -backed Nayya is on a mission to simplify choosing and managing employee benefits through machine learning and data transparency.

The company has raised $2.7 million in seed funding led by Social Leverage, with participation from Guardian Strategic Ventures, Cameron Ventures, Soma Capital, as well as other strategic angels.

The process of choosing an employer-provided healthcare plan and understanding that plan can be tedious at best and incredibly confusing at worst. And that doesn’t even include all of the supplemental plans and benefits associated with these programs.

Co-founded by Sina Chehrazi and Akash Magoon, Nayya tries to solve this problem. When enrollment starts, employers send out an email that includes a link to Nayya’s Companion, the company’s flagship product.

Companion helps employees find the plan that is right for them. The software first asks a series of questions about lifestyle, location, etc. For example, Nayya co-founder and CEO Chehrazi explained that people who bike to work, as opposed to driving in a car, walking or taking public transportation, are 20 times more likely to get into an accident and need emergency services.

Companion asks questions in this vein, as well as questions around whether you take medication regularly or if you expect your healthcare costs to go up or down over the next year, without getting into the specifics of chronic ailments or diseases or particular issues.

Taking that data into account, Nayya then looks at the various plans provided by the employer to show you which one matches the user’s particular lifestyle and budget best.

Nayya doesn’t just pull information directly from the insurance company directory listings, as nearly 40% of those listings have at least one error or are out of date. It pulls from a broad variety of data sources, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to get the cleanest, most precise data around which doctors are in network and the usual costs associated with visiting those doctors.

Alongside Companion, Nayya also provides a product called “Edison,” which it has dubbed the Alexa for Helathcare. Users can ask Edison questions like “What is my deductible?” or “Is Dr. So-and-So in my network and what would it cost to go see her?”

The company helps individual users find the right provider for them with the ability to compare costs, location and other factors involved. Nayya even puts a badge on listings for providers where another employee at the company has gone and had a great experience, giving another layer of validation to that choice.

As the healthtech industry looks to provide easier-to-use healthcare and insurance, the idea of “personalization” has been left behind in many respects. Nayya focuses first and foremost on the end-user and aims to ensure that their own personal healthcare journey is as simple and straightforward as possible, believing that the other pieces of the puzzle will fall into place when the customer is taken care of.

Nayya plans on using the funding to expand the team across engineering, data science, product management and marketing, as well as doubling down on the amount of data the company is purchasing, ingesting and cleaning.

Alongside charging employers on a per seat, per month basis, Nayya is also looking to start going straight to insurance companies with its product.

“The greatest challenge is educating an entire ecosystem and convincing that ecosystem to believe that where the consumer wins, everyone wins,” said Chehrazi. “How to finance and understand your healthcare has never been more important than it is right now, and there is a huge need to provide that education in a data driven way to people. That’s where I want to spend the next I don’t know how many years of my life to drive that change.”

Nayya has five full-time employees currently and 80% of the team comes from racially diverse backgrounds.

Jul
01
2020
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Minneapolis-based VC shop Bread & Butter focuses on its own backyard

While many investors say sheltering in place has broadened their appetite for funding companies located outside major hubs, one firm is doubling down on backing startups in America’s heartland.

Launched in 2016 by Brett Brohl, The Syndicate Fund rebranded to Bread & Butter Ventures earlier this month (a reference to one of Minnesota’s many nicknames). Along with the rebrand, longtime Google executive and Revolution partner Mary Grove joined the team as a general partner and Stephanie Rich came aboard as head of platform.

The growth of the Twin Cities’ startup ecosystem is precisely why The Syndicate Fund rebranded. The firm, which has $10 million in assets under management, will invest in three of Minneapolis’ biggest strengths: agriculture and food, health care and enterprise software.

Agtech interest spans the entire spectrum from farming to restaurants and grocery stores. The firm is also interested in the “messy middle” of supply chain and logistics around food, said Brohl and is interested in a mix of software, hardware and biosciences. Within health care, the firm evaluates solutions focused on prevention versus treatment, female health startups working on maternal health and fertility and software focused on the aging population and millennials.

It’s also looking at enterprise software that can serve large businesses and scale efficiently.

Jun
04
2020
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Nanox, maker of a low-cost scanning service to replace X-rays, expands Series B to $51M

A lot of the attention in medical technology today has been focused on tools and innovations that might help the world better fight the COVID-19 global health pandemic. Today comes news of another startup that is taking on some funding for a disruptive innovation that has the potential to make both COVID-19 as well as other kinds of clinical assessments more accessible.

Nanox, a startup out of Israel that has developed a small, low-cost scanning system and “medical screening as a service” to replace the costly and large machines and corresponding software typically used for X-rays, CAT scans, PET scans and other body imaging services, is today announcing that it has raised $20 million from a strategic investor, South Korean carrier SK Telecom.

SK Telecom in turn plans to help distribute physical scanners equipped with Nanox technology as well as resell the pay-per-scan imaging service, branded Nanox.Cloud, and corresponding 5G wireless network capacity to operate them. Nanox currently licenses its tech to big names in the imaging space, like FujiFilm, and Foxconn is also manufacturing its donut-shaped Nanox.Arc scanners.

The funding is technically an extension of Nanox’s previous round, which was announced earlier this year at $26 million with backing from Foxconn, FujiFilm and more. Nanox says that the full round is now closed off at $51 million, with the company having raised $80 million since launching almost a decade ago, in 2011.

Nanox’s valuation is not being publicly disclosed, but a news report in the Israeli press from December said that one option the startup was considering was an IPO at a $500 million valuation. We understand from sources that the valuation is about $100 million higher now.

The Nanox system is based around proprietary technology related to digital X-rays. Digital radiography is a relatively new area in the world of imaging that relies on digital scans rather than X-ray plates to capture and process images.

Nanox says the ARC comes in at 70 kg versus 2,000 kg for the average CT scanner, and production costs are around $10,000 compared to $1-3 million for the CT scanner.

But in addition to being smaller (and thus cheaper) machines with much of the processing of images done in the cloud, the Nanox system, according to CEO and founder Ran Poliakine, can make its images in a tiny fraction of a second, making them significantly safer in terms of radiation exposure compared to existing methods.

Imaging has been in the news a lot of late because it has so far been one of the most accurate methods for detecting the progress of COVID-19 in patients or would-be patients in terms of how it is affecting patients’ lungs and other organs. While the dissemination of equipment like Nanox’s definitely could play a role in handling those cases better, the ultimate goal of the startup is much wider than that.

Ultimately, the company hopes to make its devices and cloud-based scanning service ubiquitous enough that it would be possible to run early detection, preventative scans for a much wider proportion of the population.

“What is the best way to fight cancer today? Early detection. But with two-thirds of the world without access to imaging, you may need to wait weeks and months for those scans today,” said Poliakine.

The startup’s mission is to distribute some 15,000 of its machines over the next several years to bridge that gap, and it’s getting there through partnerships. In addition to the SK Telecom deal it’s announcing today, last March, Nanox inked a $174 million deal to distribute 1,000 machines across Australia, New Zealand and Norway in partnership with a company called the Gateway Group.

The SK Telecom investment is an interesting development that underscores how carriers see 5G as an opportunity to revisit what kinds of services they resell and offer to businesses and individuals, and SK Telecom specifically has singled out healthcare as one obvious and big opportunity.

“Telecoms carriers are looking for opportunities around how to sell 5G,” said Ilung Kim, SK Telecom’s president, in an interview. “Now you can imagine a scanner of this size being used in an ambulance, using 5G data. It’s a game changer for the industry.”

Looking ahead, Nanox will continue to ink partnerships for distributing its hardware and reselling its cloud-based services for processing the scans, but Poliakine said it does not plan to develop its own technology beyond that to gain insights from the raw data. For that, it’s working with third parties — currently three AI companies — that plug into its APIs, and it plans to add more to the ecosystem over time.

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