According to a recent study published by the CUNY School of Public Health, women of reproductive age strongly preferred telehealth for sexual and reproductive health in primary care. In addition to the added convenience and improved accessibility, telehealth interactions provided autonomy in addressing unmet needs, especially in rural areas or among populations with transportation and childcare hurdles. Twentyeight Health providers telehealth services for reproductive and sexual health. The platform currently focuses on increasing access to contraception, prenatal vitamins, and sexually transmitted diseases. Patients pay an annual $20 fee that provides unlimited messaging with a licensed physician. Twentyeight Health bills insurance for payment and also offers reasonable pay-out-pocket pricing that starts at $16/month for birth control, which includes over 100 brands of various types of contraception options. The company also donates 25 of its revenue to nonprofits that are focused on making women’s healthcare more accessible and equitable.
AlleyWatch caught up with Twentyeight Health Cofounder Bruno Van Tuykom to learn more about the business, the company’s strategic plans, latest round of funding, which brings the company’s total funding raised to $13.4M, and much, much more…
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Twentyeight Health raised $8.3M. The round came together as a pre-Series A, and featured multiple mission-driven funds: RH Capital, Seae Ventures, Impact Engine, Acumen America, Stardust Equity, Gratitude Railroad, California Health Care Foundation, Penn Medicine-Wharton Fund for Health, Great Oaks Venture Capital, and strategic angel investors including Andrey Ostrovsky, former Chief Medical Officer of US Medicaid Program and Elina Onitskansky, former SVP & Head of Strategy at Molina. Many of Twentyeight Health’s previous investors also participated in the round, including SteelSky Ventures, Third Prime, Town Hall Ventures, GingerBread Capital, and Algaé Ventures.
Tell us about the product or service that Twentyeight Health offers.
Twentyeight Health is a telehealth company providing affordable access and convenience for reproductive and sexual health. Twentyeight Health’s telemedicine services currently include birth control, the morning-after pill, prenatal vitamins, and herpes treatment.
What inspired the start of Twentyeight Health?
I was inspired by my work with the Gates Foundation on improving access to healthcare in low-income countries, particularly for family planning and HIV services. I realized how telehealth and technology in general can help improve health access. It was around the same time that I met Amy and we saw an urgent need to improve sexual and reproductive healthcare access for women from underserved communities in the US as well. Today, low-income women are three times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy than the average woman in the US, and nearly one-third of physicians nationwide aren’t accepting new Medicaid patients. These devastating statistics underscore why offering high-quality sexual & reproductive care, inclusive of people across race, income bracket, or health insurance status is more important than ever.
How is Twentyeight Health different?
Telehealth has incredible potential to improve healthcare for all, but according to data from both Rock Health and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, telehealth in the U.S. is used primarily by wealthier Americans living in urban areas. Twentyeight Health is defying this trend as the first women’s virtual healthcare platform supporting the full spectrum of
patients, focusing on inclusive care for medically underserved groups including lower-income individuals and BIPOC communities.
Since launching in December 2018, Twentyeight Health has taken a wide range of steps to increase access to fundamental healthcare for women from underserved communities. For example, Twentyeight Health leverages multiple modes of telehealth, including audio consultations and direct messaging with physicians, to provide privacy, discretion and a seamless experience regardless of the individual’s access to high-speed internet or housing situation. Twentyeight Health also provides free birth control for uninsured women in financial need through a partnership with Bedsider’s Contraceptive Access Fund, and donates 2% of revenues to Bedsider and the National Institute for Reproductive Health.
What market does Twentyeight Health target and how big is it?
Over 65% of Twentyeight Health’s users are from low-income backgrounds, 58% identify as BIPOC and over 60% didn’t have prior access to prescribed birth control methods. While Twentyeight Health’s care services are tailored to meet the needs of women from underserved communities, women from all backgrounds use the Twentyeight Health platform.
What’s your business model?
Twentyeight Health receives compensation for the care services we provide, either from health insurance, directly from patients paying out-of-pocket or from one of our philanthropic or nonprofit partners who is subsidizing the costs of these services, or directly from our users.
How are you preparing for a potential economic slowdown?
The economic slowdown will disproportionately affect the women from underserved communities who we aim to serve the most. This highlights the importance of building access for Medicaid recipients. Additionally, we are aggressively pursuing more nonprofit partnerships across all of the states Twentyeight Health is available in, in an effort to find more ways of subsidizing the costs of care for underinsured or uninsured women.
What was the funding process like?
As you can see, we have many incredible investors involved in this round, all of whom have many ways that they can help Twentyeight beyond capital. During the process, we were thrilled to meet so many people who became investors, and also gave us invaluable advice about how to most-effectively grow the company.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
The biggest challenge was certainly the macroeconomic environment we faced when we went out to raise this round in mid-2022. There was a lot of uncertainty in the VC world with inflation, a looming recession, and the Fed continually raising interest rates. Still, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the incredible group of investors who decided to back Twentyeight Health during this time.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
We are honored to have such an incredible group of investors join this round. The common thread between all of them is they are firmly behind our mission of improving access to high-quality sexual & reproductive care, and how big and profitable Twentyeight Health can become.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Twentyeight Health has expanded its geographic footprint significantly over the last couple of years. Over the next six months, we look forward to partnering with more payers as well as nonprofits — all in an effort to reach more women from underserved communities.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Regardless of whether you have a fresh injection of capital, you have to focus on building a sustainable business. For companies that don’t have a fresh injection of capital, they need to find ways of reaching profitability sooner — whether that means raising prices, expanding into new product or service lines, or reaching more customers and faster.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Both in the near term and long term, Twentyeight Health’s focus will remain the same: improving access to high-quality sexual and reproductive care via telehealth for women from underserved communities.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Fradei Bistro in Fort Greene.