A few years ago, EverlyWell CEO and founder Julia Cheek was not feeling well with a host of unexplainable symptoms including brain fog, fatigue, and general aches and pains. She saw several specialists, all of who ordered batteries of lab tests.
“I had a high deductible insurance plan and after about six months, I started getting all these bills, indicating that the lab tests weren’t covered,” Cheek recalls. “I ended up having to pay, out-of-pocket, over $2,000 for those basic lab tests.”
Upon digging further, Cheek discovered the problem: traditional lab testing is often cumbersome, costly, and confusing—and this is more true as the cost of healthcare in the United States has increasingly shifted to the consumer.
“I asked myself how can we put an end to the traditional lab experience and make it something that’s useful, convenient and affordable,” Cheek told Crunchbase News, “in the same way that consumers can purchase pregnancy tests or vitamins over the counter.”
So she launched EverlyWell with that goal in mind, eventually scaling from $500,000 and three tests in 2016 to over 35 tests, hundreds of thousands of users, and “tens of millions” in sales annually. Last year alone, the company grew its customer base by 300 percent, Cheek said.
Now, as part of an effort to continue growing, Austin-based EverlyWell has raised $50 million and announced a partnership with Target that involves rolling out some of its tests in more than 1,600 of the national retailer’s stores.
EverlyWell’s digital platform connects consumers with existing, independent, certified labs for at-home collection tests that are ordered and reviewed by board-certified physicians. Once the sample is submitted, consumers can access online results with “evidence-based insights,” suggestions, and next steps within a few days’ time, according to the company.
The company has also expanded its product line to offer 35 panels, including what it says are first-to-market tests in fertility, vitamins, peri- and post-menopause, and high-risk HPV. EverlyWell has also launched what it describes as an end-to-end care model for consumers, now offering an independent physician consult and prescription, if appropriate, for select STDs and Lyme Disease testing. It prides itself on providing pricing for all tests prior to purchase, so that there is no surprise for the user.
“Consumers have clearly responded very strongly to our product, and that has meant we have not had to pivot to a B2B model as many other consumer companies end up having to do,” Cheek told Crunchbase News.
EverlyWell also plans to hire with its new capital. It recently tapped former Pinterest and Trulia executive Jenifer Dasho to serve as its chief marketing officer and doubled its headcount since January to 70 people. The company also tapped Dr. Robert Langer to serve as the head of its scientific advisory board. Dr. Langer is one of only four individuals receiving both the National Medal of Science and the United States National Medal of Technology and Innovation.
“Lab testing is arguably one of the most important steps in preventing and managing illness, but has been largely ignored by digital health companies,” said Eric Kim, managing partner at Goodwater Capital, in a written statement. “With a clear consumer pain point and a strong executive team that integrates both consumer and healthcare expertise, EverlyWell is successfully navigating an entrenched industry to offer consumers an opportunity to take charge of their own health.”
“We offer a fundamentally different product than DNA testing,” Cheek said. “It’s a lot of work to educate the average American consumer about the fact that we exist. But we believe the opportunity is there.”
Mike Smerklo, co-founder and managing director of Austin-based Next Coast Ventures, said his firm believes that more people are looking for digital ways to address their personal health. And he too personally had a similar experience to Cheek after getting lab work done.
“It’s one of those situations where I thought, ‘this desperately needs a new solution,’” he told Crunchbase News. “And here’s a company that’s doing forward things about it.” As part of the financing, Smerklo is joining EverlyWell’s board.
Earlier this year, I covered how vitamin company Ritual and meditation app Calm had raised venture funding to meet certain personal health needs. (You can read more about those companies here and here.) This company falls into the same category, in my opinion. And Cheek agrees.
“We’re all providing digital access to consumer-driven experience or for a more transparent product that is fairly priced, and that’s key in typically commoditized industries,” she said.
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