It may be hard for some men to admit but they need to visit the doctor more. Men go the doctor half as often as women. Roman makes the process easier by providing an end-to-end service tailored for men’s health that ranges from an online diagnosis to devliery of medication. Their first product is focused on Erectile Dysfunction (ED). No one talks about how 30% of men with ED don’t seek out treatment, and Roman is changing that with its discrete service.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and cofounder Zachariah Reitano about the company and their latest round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised $3.1M in Seed funding from leading venture capital firms and angel investors in technology, lifestyle and e-commerce. Our round was led by General Catalyst with participation from Initialized Capital (run by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian), David Tisch’s Box Group and Slow Ventures. Our angel investors include the CEOs and partners of Casper, Bark, WayUp, Code Academy, Behance, PillPack, YC, Forbes and prehype.
Tell us about your product or service.
Roman is an end-to-end service for men’s health. We handle everything from online diagnosis to delivery of medication for specific conditions. Our first product helps treat the 30 million men in the United States who suffer from erectile dysfunction.
ED is something I’ve personally experienced. I understand how frustrating and embarrassing it can be to seek help for it. For me, it was actually the sign of a far more serious heart condition. Very often, ED can be the first sign of another underlying condition—think of it like a check engine light.
With Roman, we want to help men overcome the issue of ED at the earliest possible sign of trouble; we want to help men regain control of their health. On average, men die 5 years earlier and visit the doctor half as frequently as women. Scientists estimate that maybe one year can be attributed to biology but the remaining four are most likely “hold my beer and watch this” crap. Stupid machismo. We want to get more men involved in the healthcare system and help them start dialogues with a physician.
How is it different?
We’re the first completely full-stack men’s health company. This is the first time in the US where men go to just one digital healthcare provider for every step of the process, from diagnosis to prescription to delivery and follow-ups.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
We want to help every man affected by ED. That’s approximately 30 million men. To put that number in context, it’s the same number of people with diabetes. This is not a coincidence.
Overall, more than 52% of men experience ED, with the rate only climbing (20% of men in their 20s, 30% of men in their 30s, 40% of men in their 40s, etc.) as men age (NIH). In fact, 26% of adult men under 40 experience ED (ISSM).
What’s your business model?
We make money two ways. 1) We assist with pharmacy fulfillment and make margins on the pharmacy operations. 2) We provide a marketplace to physicians to perform telemedicine services and charge a monthly fee to be on the platform.
Is there any mechanism in place to prevent recreational use among your user base?
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard men tell me, “I take Viagra recreationally. I don’t need it, but I use it every time I have sex.” I usually nod, smile politely, and ask them to read our educational material. Let me explain.
ED medication cannot give you an erection beyond 100%. For example, if a perfectly healthy 18 year old boy took a Viagra (I do not recommend this!), they probably wouldn’t notice the difference. If someone consistently uses medication, and experiences a noticeable and beneficial difference, their erection was previously not at full strength.
As you imagine, I am reluctant to tell someone in open company they’re not at 100%. Frankly, it’s irrelevant. The goal is not to be at 100%. The goal is to be able to achieve and maintain an erection that is satisfying enough for you and your partner. This is an incredibly personal decision and it’s also subjective.
Someone at 50%, while they should definitely focus on their overall health, might not be a good fit for medication if they and their partner are completely satisfied. Conversely, someone at 65% could be a great candidate for ED treatment, depending on their needs, current social circumstances, and health. It depends on the individual.
It is important to acknowledge that there are some healthy individuals who will use medication to combat the affects of alcohol or other recreational drugs. This is a group of people Roman cannot help. Also, and most importantly, the combination of alcohol and ED medication is potentially very dangerous. Don’t do it.
What was the funding process like?
Telling around 50 VCs I have erectile dysfunction was definitely interesting. It was really exciting to us when people understood that it wasn’t an ED company or a Men’s Health company but rather a Men’s Health company starting with making it easy, safe, and affordable to receive treatment for ED.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
We got pushback from some VCs who told us ED would never work as a starting point (i.e., “a wedge into men’s health”). They said we’d never get the YouTube unboxing videos. But for us, their “problem” was our opportunity. The fact that people were so uncomfortable expressing this challenge, even to their doctors, was the exact reason why we had to do something. Men are waiting until things get worse and less embarrassing symptoms manifest themselves.
Some VCs shared our vision, some didn’t. This is completely normal and understandable. It takes time to find the right partners and we could not be more excited about sharing this journey with our investors.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
The mission and the team. Regardless of age or gender, the mission resonated with our investors. Also, each founder had previously founded a company and investors felt we had complementary skills.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
First, Roman will strive to be the easiest, safest, and most affordable way to receive treatment for erectile dysfunction. If we don’t accomplish this, we will never be able to do anything else.
If we are fortunate to take the first step, we will look to our patients. Roman exists to serve our patients. The data shows that many conditions are highly correlated with ED but we don’t yet know which conditions our patients most need us to help them treat. We will progress adaptively and continue to be an important part of their healthcare journey.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Be relentless and scrappy.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We’ll continue to provide the best experience to our patients, and help more men re-enter the healthcare system.
Where is your favorite fall destination in the city?
I love walking my dog in central park with my partner Cleo.