Health Tech, Startups

Direct-to-consumer health startup Ro raises $500M

Ro, a direct-to-consumer health startup, recently raised a $500 million funding round. It plans to use the funds to expand into at-home diagnostics and care.

Direct-to-consumer health startup Ro raised $500 million. Photo credit: Ro

After reports that Ro might go public through a special-purpose acquisition company, the direct-to-consumer health startup appears to be taking a different direction.

On Monday, the company shared that it had closed a $500 million funding round, led by General Catalyst, FirstMark Capital and TQ Ventures — all of whom were previous investors.  To date, Ro has raised $876 million.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

At the start of the year, Reuters reported that the company was in talks to go public through a SPAC deal that would value it at more than $4 billion, citing anonymous sources. Direct-to-consumer competitor Hims & Hers took a similar route to the public markets last year. But the recent series D round brought Ro’s valuation beyond that at $5 billion, according to anonymous sources cited by Bloomberg.

When asked if the startup had any plans to go public in the near future, Ro CEO and Co-Founder Zachariah Reitano wrote in an emailed statement that the company’s goal was to “build and sustain a highly successful independent company that can help the most patients possible.

“As we grow, we’re always exploring potential fundraising options that best fit the needs of our business,” he added.

He started Ro just fours year ago with two direct-to-consumer health brands: Roman, for men, and Rory, for women. The company sells prescription medications and supplements for common conditions, such as allergies, dandruff and erectile dysfunction. In 2018, it launched a smoking cessation brand, Zero.

Rather than taking insurance, the company charges a cash fee for its services.  Now, Ro is charting an expansion into virtual primary care and in-home care with its recent acquisition of Workpath, a platform that allows it to dispatch providers to a patient’s home for care or diagnostics tests. For example, it’s using this to help New York state administer Covid-19 vaccines in people’s homes in Yonkers.

“What Zach and his team have been able to build in less than four years is nothing short of amazing,” General Catalyst Managing Partner Hemant Taneja said in a news release. “That this company was started from a place of personal challenge has guided the team to truly rethink healthcare experiences through a patient-centric lens.”

Ro plans to use the funds to build out its pharmacy distribution network,  electronic medical records system, and remote patient monitoring capabilities, Reitano wrote. The company also plans to expand into more treatment areas in the future.