13 First-Time Healthcare Founders Navigating 2022's Shaky Market – Business Insider

Most startups fail. Some estimates suggest that about two-thirds of venture-backed businesses ultimately fail to raise additional capital.
One way to increase the probability of success? Get a founder who’s done it before.
As the US tumbles toward a recession, investors may be leaning toward safer bets — and pouring money into founders with past successes in healthcare entrepreneurship certainly looks like the safer option.
That could make the market tougher for people who want to start a business for the first time.
But venture capitalists are still looking for that one-in-a-million founder who can knock it out of the park on their first swing. Hussein Kanji, a partner at Hoxton Ventures, said that in his experience first-time founders might be more willing than serial entrepreneurs to take the risks that could deliver big returns to investors.
“Serial entrepreneurs build consistent companies, but they usually don’t build them to the same scale as first-time founders,” he said.
These 13 founders are taking on healthcare’s rocky waters for the first time in 2022. Their startups have announced at least $5 million in seed or Series A funding this year.
Each of the founders is the CEO of their company. Some of them have decades of healthcare experience. Some have no healthcare background at all.
Check out the full list, ordered from least to most money raised this year.
Borno, Trial Library’s CEO, has spent the past decade working in cancer medicine and research. An oncologist and professor at the University of California, San Francisco, Borno has seen firsthand the lack of diversity in clinical trials for cancer therapies.
She cofounded Trial Library with Stephen Buck, a former vice president and general manager at the $7 billion digital-health startup Ro, to make it easier for people to participate in oncology trials. To help spur recruitment of underrepresented groups, the startup reimburses community oncology practices for screening patients for trials and tries to connect patients with resources they might need when going to a research site. The startup’s platform also helps practices and patients find and register for those trials.
The company raised a $5 million seed round in August led by Lux Capital. Next Ventures, Unseen Capital, and angel investors also participated.
Cardenas, who started Zócalo Health in 2022, has been working in healthcare tech for 20 years. Most recently, he was one of two technology leaders at Amazon Care, where he oversaw teams building the healthcare unit’s tech stack. He was also one of the first employees at Everlywell, an at-home lab-testing startup; he headed up operations for the company’s first year before moving to another testing company, WellnessFX.
Cardenas tried to get a different startup off the ground in 2014, a cancer-care navigation platform called NavAssist, which he built through a healthcare accelerator program. But Cardenas said that without the experience and industry connections he’d develop in later years, the startup ultimately failed that year, after not raising additional money once out of the accelerator program. 
“There’s a lot of pattern-matching in venture capital, and at that time I just didn’t fit the pattern,” he told Insider.
His new venture, Zócalo Health, is designed to deliver affordable primary care tailored to Latinos. A subscription to the service includes access to physicians, nurses, and therapists for $40 a month. The startup launched in California and Texas in September and plans to expand its services to more states later this year.
Zócalo Health raised $5 million in seed funding in September, led by Animo, Virtue, and Vamos Ventures and including firms like Necessary Ventures and Able Partners as well as angel investors like Toyin Ajayi, the CEO of Cityblock Health.
Jain left Johns Hopkins University after two years as an undergraduate student to start Marigold Health. At 26, he’s the youngest founder on this list.
Jain and his cofounders created the mental-health startup in 2016, but Jain said they were initially reluctant to raise venture capital and give away a portion of their business. The team focused on conducting research and field-testing their ideas for a few years first.
“We wanted to make sure we had a really clear idea of what it is we were scaling,” Jain said.
Marigold Health is an anonymous social network where people struggling with substance-use disorders can connect with their peers for support. The platform matches people for one-on-one coaching with a peer specialist, and it can send alerts to the person’s care team about their clinical needs. Jain said the majority of the business comes from Medicaid plans.
The Boston-based startup announced a $6 million seed round in February led by KdT Ventures and Felicis Ventures. Flare Capital Partners, Epsilon Health Investors, Tau Ventures, SpringTide Investments, and Stand Together Ventures also participated.
After spending years investing in healthcare startups, Choudhry is taking the plunge and starting his own company.
Choudhry was the managing director at Cigna Ventures from 2019 to 2021, leading the health system’s investments in Ginger, a mental-health startup, and Octave Bioscience, a platform for care of neurodegenerative diseases. Before Cigna Ventures, he worked at HCSC Ventures for five years.
Handspring Health provides virtual therapy for children and young adults experiencing things like anxiety and depression. The startup’s services are available in Connecticut, Florida, and New Jersey. While Handspring Health has provided only psychotherapy, the startup said it expects to offer some medications later this year.
The startup raised a $6.2 million seed round in May led by Newark Venture Partners and NextView Ventures, with participation from 25Madison Ventures, Arkitekt Ventures, Quantum Angels, and other investors.
Reed and her cofounder and chief operating officer, Kelly Froelich, got the inspiration for Balanced early in the pandemic. Both Reed and Froelich saw their grandparents struggle to find fitness options that worked for them while they were isolated in their homes, searching for exercise tailored to their mobility and other health needs.
Balanced is a fitness platform for older adults that creates personalized exercise plans. The startup has classes designed around certain health conditions like osteoporosis and back pain and created by fitness instructors and physical therapists. A Balanced membership costs $20 a month, but Reed told MobiHealthNews in February that the startup was planning to pursue Medicare Advantage partnerships as well.
Reed, who’s 31, was an engineering manager at Ro before starting Balanced. She’d also held engineering and product roles at the human-resources-tech platform Namely and the digital consultancy firm Lincoln Network.
The startup announced $6.5 million in seed funding in February from Founders Fund, Primary Venture Partners, Lux Capital, Stellation Capital, and several angel investors.
As a mother of two, DaSilva is familiar with the stress of not being able to reach a pediatrician after hours when she needs medical advice for her children.
She cofounded Summer Health with Matthew Woo in December to fill the gaps. With Summer Health, parents can message a clinician with questions about their child’s health anytime and get a response within 15 minutes. The text-messaging platform provides telehealth services for pediatrics and developmental care for $20 a month.
“This is a product that I deeply want to see exist, and I felt like I was going to will it into existence no matter what,” DaSilva told Insider.
DaSilva worked at the digital-health upstart Hims & Hers from early 2018 to late 2021, leading the company’s business development in its early months and its partnerships unit through its public-market debut in January 2021. She’s also been a partner at Rough Draft Ventures and serves as an investment scout for Sequoia Capital. DaSilva was on Insider’s list of the 30 leaders under 40 transforming healthcare in 2022.
Summer Health raised $7.5 million in seed funding in July, co-led by Lux Capital and Sequoia Capital. Other investors included Chelsea Clinton’s venture-capital firm, Metrodora Ventures; Box Group; Coalition Operators; Shrug Capital; Springbank Collective; Moving Ventures; and angel investors including Kate Ryder, the CEO of Maven, and Andrew Dudum, the CEO of Hims & Hers.
Arruda is the only person on this list with no healthcare experience. In fact, none of Flexpa’s three cofounders has worked in healthcare before.
Arruda’s background is in the legal field; he’s held several roles at the intersection of law and technology. Forbes put Arruda on its 30 Under 30 list in 2017 in the law and policy category for his work on a research engine that uses artificial intelligence to automate legal processes. He’s still a member of the board of advisors at the Duke Center on Law & Tech and the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System.
Flexpa’s platform connects patient healthcare data, including clinical records and claims data, and allows patients to share that information with healthcare companies as they choose. The San Francisco-based startup contracts with virtual-care startups, online pharmacies, and healthcare facilities. In September, Flexpa landed a spot on Insider’s list of the 21 most promising healthcare startups of 2022.
General Catalyst led the startup’s $8.5 million seed round in June. Other investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Greycroft, Precursor, Hyperplane, Comma Capital, Commure, PJC, Correlation, Diagram Capital, Accomplice, Better Tomorrow Ventures, Apollo Projects, Village Global, Tribe Capital, and angel investors.
Hastanan has held leadership roles at provider organizations for more than 15 years. She led clinical operations at HealthCare Partners before the organization was acquired by DaVita Medical Group in 2012, then led clinical strategy for DaVita until its medical group was acquired by Optum in 2019. She continued to lead clinical strategy for Optum until September 2020.
She’s brought that experience working with clinicians to start Greater Good Health, a network of nurse practitioners. Founded in 2021, the startup partners with healthcare organizations to connect nurse practitioners to resources with a focus on primary care, including trainings on value-based care and clinical tools for tasks like scheduling.
The Los Angeles-based startup said in May that it had raised $10 million in Series A funding led by LRVHealth, with participation from Martin Ventures, Health Velocity Capital, Optum Ventures, and angel investors. The company has raised $13 million to date.
Soremekun had wanted to start a maternity-care company for years before cofounding Cayaba Care in 2020. A former emergency-room doctor, Soremekun recalled seeing people wait for hours in the emergency room just to get a checkup and an ultrasound because they couldn’t make it to gynecological appointments.
“How do I build a system where people don’t have to come to the emergency department for those types of things?” he said.
Soremekun is working to meet people where they are with Cayaba Care, which offers home-based pregnancy care in Philadelphia and Newark, New Jersey, primarily to Black and brown communities. Soremekun said the services aren’t meant to replace visits to an OB-GYN but to support patients in between visits.
Cayaba Care also has in-person clinics in both cities. The startup partners with both Medicaid plans and commercial health plans to cover the services.
Cayaba Care raised $12 million in a May Series A funding led by Seae Ventures and Kapor Capital, bringing the startup’s total funding to $15 million. Citi Impact Fund, Flare Capital, Wellington Partners, Rhia Ventures, Digitalis Ventures, and SteelSky Ventures also participated.
In addition to his emergency-medicine experience, Soremekun spent several years before Cayaba Care working with primary-care providers on navigating value-based programs, including at HealthSpring, Cigna’s Medicare Advantage business.
As markets tumble, fertility startups are going strong. Surveys have suggested that a recession may not affect people’s desire to have children. Alife Health is riding that wave, with a boost of funding this year. 
The startup is building software meant to make in vitro fertilization treatments more affordable and accessible, using IVF data from other fertility clinics to determine which embryos have the highest probability of success. If someone trying to get pregnant through IVF has success on their first cycle of treatment, they won’t have to pay for more cycles, and those costs can add up fast. Researchers at Alife Health also published a study in January supporting the startup’s artificial-intelligence model for embryo evaluation and selection.
Before Alife Health, Maeder-York was a clinical engineer and then a product manager at the surgical-robotics company Auris Health, which Johnson & Johnson acquired in 2019 for $3.4 billion. He left Auris Health in 2017 and went to Harvard Business School before starting Alife Health, based in San Fransisco, in 2020. He’s now 30.
In March, Alife Health raised $22 million in Series A funding co-led by Lux Capital, Union Square Ventures, and Maveron Ventures. The startup has raised $31.5 million to date.
Knight’s healthtech startup, Soda Health, is aiming to reshape how Medicare Advantage members use supplemental healthcare benefits. People who receive Medicare benefits through a private health insurer have supplemental benefits that help cover extra costs that a basic health-insurance plan doesn’t pay for, like dental care, gym memberships, and even groceries.
The company’s platform connects Medicare Advantage members with personalized health benefits and refers them to retailers where they can use those benefits.
Knight started Soda Health, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, after leaving Walmart, where he spent most of his eight-year tenure building the megaretailer’s healthcare business, according to his LinkedIn profile. Most recently, he served as the company’s head of consumer health innovation, overseeing Walmart’s work in telehealth, home health, and other healthcare initiatives.
Soda Health raised $25 million in a September Series A funding round that included Lightspeed Venture Partners, Define Ventures, and Qiming Venture Partners USA. The company has raised $31 million to date.
In order for people to get specialty medications, or expensive drugs used to treat complex conditions, health insurers require providers to undergo detailed prior authorizations, often causing delays in those medications getting to patients.
House Rx is working to bring those medications directly to specialty-care clinics, like cardiology and orthopedic practices, so people can get their prescriptions and their care in the same place. The startup partners with the clinics either to train providers to use its software for medication dispensing or to place pharmacists inside the clinics to handle the medications directly.
Before starting House Rx, Kavazovic and his cofounder, Tesh Khullar, worked at Flatiron Health, a healthtech company focused on cancer care and research that the pharma giant Roche acquired in 2018 for $1.9 billion. Kavazovic was Flatiron Health’s chief marketing officer before he left in 2018. Since then, he’s been a venture partner at 1984 Ventures, which participated in House Rx’s Series A funding round.
Bessemer Venture Partners led House Rx’s March $25 million Series A, bringing the company’s total funding to $30 million. In addition to 1984 Ventures, First Round Capital and Character joined the round.
Schneider has had a blockbuster year.
The Livongo alum launched Homeward in March to provide primary and specialty care to rural communities. The startup has already raised two rounds of funding this year, totaling $70 million. In May, it partnered with Rite Aid to offer Homeward’s services at up to 700 stores in rural areas, starting in Michigan, with plans to expand to other states by the end of the year.
Homeward’s mission is personal to Schneider, who told Insider in May that she struggled to find specialty care in rural Minnesota after receiving a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes at age 12. She also said Homeward drew on her experiences with personalized care at Livongo, where she served as the chief medical officer and then the president, overseeing the diabetes-care startup’s public-market debut in 2019 and its acquisition by Teladoc for $14 billion a year later.
Before Livongo, Schneider held several leadership positions at Castlight Health, including chief medical officer.
Homeward landed $20 million in Series A funding in March from General Catalyst. The startup later announced a $50 million Series B round in August, led by Arch Venture Partners and Human Capital and including participation from General Catalyst as well as Lee Shapiro and Glen Tullman, cofounders of 7WireVentures and former colleagues of Schneider’s at Livongo.
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