STARTUP CREATES THE AIRBNB OF HEALTH CARE
Startup for helping pick plans gets Colorado investments
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.”