Startup for help­ing pick plans gets Colorado in­vest­ments

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Erin Dou­glas

Armed with Boul­der money, a Cal­i­for­nia health in­sur­ance startup is try­ing to make it big. But not by sell­ing plans — just by telling peo­ple about them.

Im­pact Health is sort of like a dat­ing ser­vice, or maybe an Airbnb. First, put in your pref­er­ences and his­tory, then the al­go­rithms find you a match: a health in­sur­ance plan. The com­pany serves about 59,000 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to chief ex­ec­u­tive and co-founder Chris­tine Car­rillo, but they have lofty goals — and that’s where Tech­stars Ven­ture Cap­i­tal Fund and Foundry Group can help.

The two Colorado-based and tech-fo­cused ven­ture cap­i­tal groups an­nounced Mon­day that they will part­ner to in­vest $13 mil­lion for Im­pact Health’s Se­ries A ven­ture cap­i­tal round.

Im­pact Health is a dig­i­tal cus­tomer ser­vice plat­form that pro­vides in­for­ma­tion for ev­ery plan of­fered in the U.S. — the com­pany had to be li­censed and cer­ti­fied as a bro­ker for ev­ery plan in ev­ery state to do it. But, Car­rillo said, they want to get big­ger. She said they are “ag­gres­sively” grow­ing their mar­ket; by the end of the year, she hopes to have 350,000 cus­tomers.

“We want to be a house­hold name for ev­ery­thing that has to do with health in­sur­ance and health care,” Car­rillo said. “(Tech­stars and Foundry Group) be­lieve in the vi­sion and the long-term plan.”

The two ven­ture cap­i­tal firms that call Boul­der home fo­cus on tech­nol­ogy in­vest­ments and share the same co-founder, Brad Feld. Tech­stars boasts that it in­vests in the most “innovative and dis­rup­tive” com­pa­nies — among them Uber. Car­rillo said it was im­por­tant to Im­pact Health to find in­vestors who shared the same com­pany cul­ture, and that Tech­stars was their top choice.

“We were for­tu­nate that we were able to choose our in­vestors,” Car­rillo said. “… We

were lucky to get them to join us on our jour­ney. Hav­ing them backing us gives us the op­por­tu­nity to take on a mas­sive mar­ket that is highly reg­u­lated.”

The ser­vice matches and man­ages health in­sur­ance plans for con­sumers. Im­pact Health is funded with an av­er­age of $12 from each in­sur­ance com­pany (an in­dus­try av­er­age) and uses ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and al­go­rithms on the back end to make it work. The ser­vice pro­vides ev­ery­thing from ask­ing you if you would like your pre­scrip­tion to be re­filled to find­ing a doc­tor who takes your plan.

Car­rillo wants to in­fil­trate 320 mil­lion house­holds — and she thinks that she and her co-founder, He­len Lee, know how to do it. They are for­mer health in­sur­ance in­dus­try ex­perts who used to con­sult for govern­ment agen­cies be­fore they be­came “ob­sessed” with their con­sumer-driven project.

Their dig­i­tal plat­form in­cludes pri­vate health in­sur­ance plans and Af­ford­able Care Act ex­change plans. They have de­vel­oped pro­cesses to ag­gre­gate and trans­late com­plex data into some­thing easy to un­der­stand.

Given the na­tional di­a­logue about health care, a health in­sur­ance startup could be per­ceived as a risky or con­tro­ver­sial in­vest­ment. Most re­cently on the na­tional stage, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell pressed Repub­li­cans to post­pone their Au­gust re­cess to work through a sec­ond draft of a Repub­li­can-driven health care bill to re­peal and re­place the Af­ford­able Care Act. But Car­rillo said she isn’t wor­ried about her com­pany be­cause they made a com­mit­ment to con­sumers.

“(Health care) is in­cred­i­bly com­plex, so what­ever hap­pens, all we want to do is be able to add some se­cu­rity and com­fort to con­sumers within all of the chaos that is go­ing on right now,” Car­rillo said. “That’s our goal that we’ve taken on, and it will con­tinue with what­ever the ad­min­is­tra­tion de­cides.”

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