Diabetes management can be time-consuming, cumbersome and expensive. Particularly for those who are uninsured or underinsured, it can also be unaffordable and inaccessible, according to the leaders of startup 9am.health. So instead of offering to help navigate the existing health system, the San Diego-based virtual diabetes clinic is setting out to create a completely new system of care for people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
“We offer one virtual, integrated diabetes care experience, including labs, doctor visits, treatment plan and 24/7 access to a care team wrapped into one seamless experience,” said Frank Westermann, the company’s co-founder and CEO of 9am.health , in to email.
To fuel its ambitious aim of transforming diabetes care and support the company’s rapid growth, 9am.health has raised $20 million in funding, including $16 million from a Series A funding round announced Wednesday. It also has backing from a veteran health executive who has already been at the helm of two startups-turned-unicorns.
“We see an opportunity to build a new healthcare system,” said Glen Tullman, CEO of newly minted unicorn Transcarent and managing partner of 7wireVentures, in an email.
7wireVentures and Human Capital co-led the Series A round with new investors StartUp Health and Leaps by Bayer and existing investors Define Ventures and Founders Fund also participating.
“Partners like 9am.health, which understand that millions of Americans are looking for a new model for accessing health and care, are what we invest in,” Tullman said. “Beyond just its growth in the DTC market, as 9am.health enters the self-assured employer space, I absolutely see an opportunity to work with them in other ways, including through Transcarent.”
In addition to leading Transcarent, a platform used by employees of self-insured companies to more easily access care, Tullman previously founded Livongo, a data-based health coaching program that can help with managing diabetes. That company sold to Teladoc for $18.5 billion in 2020.
“Improving diabetes care has been a mission of mine for a long time,” Tullman said. “I knew the 9am.health team from its great work building and scaling [the diabetes management app] mySugr, so there was already a lot of trust.”
9am.health’s Westermann—who has diabetes like some other company leaders—co-founded mySugr and served as its CEO. The app was acquired by Roche in 2017.
Tullman will join 9am.health’s board of directors. The company said he will be instrumental in its vision and marketing strategy moving forward.
“They have a similar passion from their own personal experience with the condition, so there was no doubt that investing in their new venture was the smart thing to do,” Tullman said.
Since it launched in September, 9am. health has scaled rapidly across 47 states and DC, providing patients with medical care, lab diagnostics, medications and personalized treatment plans, according to the company. The startup has plans to aggressively grow its direct-to-consumer business this year while also expanding to support the self-insured employer market, offering employees access to its virtual diabetes care program as a covered benefit.
The company offers cash pay plans at a price that is meant to undercut what patients might pay for traditional diabetes care. Its most affordable plan is $25 per month with a quarterly subscription. That pays for medications, free medication shipping and unlimited access to a medical care team, including physicians, pharmacists, registered nutritionists, certified diabetes specialists and educators.
“Our mission is to bring great, affordable diabetes care to everyone and become the destination for people living with the condition,” Westermann said. “We want every person who lives with diabetes to be able to visit our virtual diabetes clinic and get the medication, devices, labs and care needed for an affordable price.”
It’s a mission Tullman sees as aligning closely with his own for Transcarent.
“We see potential opportunities to work with players like 9am.health to address the biggest cost concerns that employers have—from surgery to oncology to virtual care to chronic conditions like diabetes,” he said. “Together we can scale a business broadly but, more importantly, improve the lives of millions of people who have been left out of the traditional US healthcare system.”
Photo: MURAT GOCMEN, Getty Images