Crunchbase | Joanna Glasner

November 25, 2019

People don’t wake up in the morning overjoyed at the prospect of interacting with healthcare providers. For most of us, the task conjures mental images of sitting on hold, idling in waiting rooms, and worrying about test results.

Startups are hoping to make that image a little brighter. In areas from fertility to chronic disease to pet care, newcomers are rolling out tools to make the task of accessing and receiving healthcare a little simpler and more digitally accessible

No one is promising miracles here. There’s little indication that getting health services will shortly become a joyous delight. However, a Crunchbase News analysis of consumer-facing startups in the healthcare space shows a lot of bets being made on building more user-friendly brands, focused on a broad array of specific health needs.

After crunching through North American funding data for a couple days, we’ve narrowed down four overarching trends to watch in consumer healthcare, based on startups that raised Series A or seed funding in the past year. Here they are:

1: Fertility And Reproductive Health

Startups innovating around fertility and reproductive health are raising a lot of venture rounds lately, and generating some big exits. Much of the activity is at the later stage, with the prominent example being this month’s successful IPO of Progyny, a venture-backed company that helps employers provide fertility services to employees.

But early stage and seed is quite active as well. Crunchbase counted at least ten North American startups focused on fertility and reproductive health that have raised funding at those stages in the past year. Standouts include Kindbody, a provider of health and fertility services for women that has raised $21 million, Dadi, a startup offering sperm storage and analysis that has secured $7 million, and Natalist, a supplier of products for women trying to get pregnant that has brought in $5 million. (Full list here.)

Demographics look like a big driver in the fertility space. The average millennial is now around 30 years old, and the oldest members of this massive, digitally native generation have entered their late 30s. That means that among those who want to have kids, fertility is increasingly top of mind.

2: Digital Platforms

Another area where we’re seeing sizable early investment is in what we’ll call ailment-specific online platforms. Essentially, what we’re talking about is the go-to websites and apps for people dealing with a specific condition, whether it’s acne, diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension.

A survey of the Crunchbase dataset unearthed at least nine companies that fit these parameters that raised seed or Series A funding in the past year. (See full list.) They include MDacne, a mobile platform that uses AI and computer vision to help people with acne, Nutrimedy, an online service that connects people to nutritionists, and Pops Diabetes Care, a virtual care tool that includes an AI-powered virtual coach.

What’s interesting here is that when you think about most common ailments and chronic conditions, there are few or no widely recognized consumer brands associated with them. It’s particularly noteworthy when you consider how much big insurers, HMOs and drug companies spend on branding.

If we fast-forward a few years, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which some sort of consumer-branded service serves as a go-to point for an ever-increasing array of ailments.

3: Pet Health

People are spending more on their pets these days, and much of that is going to things other than food. Americans alone will spend an estimated $75.4 billion on their pets in 2019, per an industry trade group — up nearly 10 percent from two years ago.

Much of that rise in spending is going to pet health. The American Pet Products Associations estimated we’ll spend just over $18 billion in vet bills and $16 billion for medicine and supplies this year.

It’s a big market, and startups want a piece. A Crunchbase analysis found ten startups with pet health applications that raised seed or Series A capital in the past year. (See full list.) There’s Embark Veterinary, which wants to end preventable dog diseases through DNA testing, Fuzzy, a subscription-based pet health and telehealth service, and Mixlab, an online custom pet pharmacy.

4: Mental Health

Smartphones frequently drive us crazy. But they may also be instrumental in improving our mental balance, productivity, support networks, and general sense of calm.

That seems to be the broad theme behind a raft of seed and Series A rounds targeting mental health. The list includes BrainCheck, a provider of mobile, interactive tests for mental health, and Octave, a provider of therapy, coaching, groups, and classes that markets itself to young urban professionals.

On the app front, there’s also Feel, provider of a wearable emotion sensor and cognitive behavioral therapy, and Workit Health, provider of an app and online therapy for kicking opioid addiction. (See full list here.)

Notably, mental health is an area that’s already seen a lot of funding activity at the later stages for a variety of digital platforms, both medical tools and purely consumer-facing apps. This includes Calm and Headspace, the popular meditation apps that have together raised well over $200 million.

Consumers Take Charge

A single seed or Series A deal doesn’t tell us a lot about where the consumer health space is headed. But looking at a whole bunch of rounds, one can get a sense of where we’re going.

The general direction is toward more consumer-driven, digitally native, mobile, brand-marketed and AI-enabled health services. This seems to be the case whether it’s to get Fido’s shots in order, manage our own chronic condition, or navigate the options for fertility-related services.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.