Energy drinks are in the news again this week as members of Congress call on the companies that make them to provide data about their ingredients and marketing claims. But this isn’t a new conversation. In fact, it’s one that’s been going on for more than 10 years now. And it’s one example of an information gap that a new digital health company is hoping to fill.
“We’ve been talking about this for years, but it’s not getting done,” said Neil Thanedar, a former product safety lab owner and CEO of LabDoor Inc. “No one’s come out and given us data. One of the things we can do is lead that charge.”
Today, LabDoor is launching a mobile and Web application to help consumers make sense of advertising claims, safety labels and ingredient labels on supplements — and eventually, on over-the-counter medicines too.
Thanedar used to run a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-registered product safety lab that did quality and safety testing on these kinds of products. He saw that the data his team was producing would be useful to consumers but never got to them. So he sold the company and launched LabDoor in Indianapolis. Last fall, the company relocated to San Francisco to participate in Rock Health’s fourth incubator class.
The first version of LabDoor’s app includes 7,000 vitamins, protein powders, energy drinks and other nutritional supplements. Thanedar’s team of co-founders spent months curating original and existing lab research, plus existing government reports and peer-reviewed medical studies on those products and their active and inactive ingredients.
To turn that scientific information into something that consumers could use, they built an app that uses proprietary data algorithms to crunch that data and assign products a letter grade from A to F, plus a score for ingredient quality, clinical efficacy, regulatory environment and label accuracy.
“Building a mobile app should take a few months, but we took almost a year to put out our first product,” he said.
Similar to GoodGuide, Fooducate and the Consumer Reports mobile app, LabDoor lets shoppers use their smartphone to scan a product’s bar code and bring up its profile, which contains the ratings, plus product reviews and a way to search for similar products. Users can also scan products they’d like to see reviewed into LabDoor’s database.
Future iterations of the app will really hit the sweet spot by including over-the-counter drugs that comprise a $17 billion market. It would allow drugstore shoppers to compare, say, Claritin with the other allergy medicines they’d find on the shelves next to it. The app is free to consumers, so LabDoor makes its money by providing some of the data it generates and curates to retailers for quality control purposes.
So far, the company has raised a $350,000 seed round from Aberdare Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mayo Innovation Fund and Mohr Davidow. Thanedar said his short-term goals include building out new business partnerships and raising a new round of capital.
[Screen cap from LabDoor]