The average invitation to happy hour rarely involves a quest to transform public health outcomes, but for Vanessa Mason, drinks with friends was the perfect platform to challenge why tech had yet to answer the call to prevent chronic diseases.
Spending much of late 2015 culling peers of engineers, designers, and trained public health professionals, Mason sought answers by pushing these groups to intersect in a series of meetups throughout San Francisco.
With her co-founder, Marquesa Finch (formerly communication strategist at Kapor Capital), P2Health launched in early 2016—a $15 million dollar early-stage investment fund for public health tech startups committed to reducing or eliminating health disparities by innovating population and preventive health.
Evidenced-Based Sustainable Change
The market for digital health products reaches over $4 billion dollars annually, with wearables, genomics and sequencing, and big data products garnering much of investors’ attention.
Mason, who has a background advising digital health companies and formerly led product development for ZeroDivide’s eHealth portfolio, maintains a growing concern that many of the funded solutions in the current digital health market are consumer-driven and limited to fee-for-service business models.
P2Health aims to close gaps by identifying innovations that are in the best interest of the public and help companies scale as they address the critical question: How do we co-develop technologies to serve vulnerable populations?
Companies funded by P2Health this year will need to meet the four pillars of the fund’s investment criteria:
- A focus on preventative or population health.
- An emphasis on closing a known health disparity or gap in care.
- A commitment to evidence-based research.
- A dedication to diversity as evidenced by the composition of their teams and how the companies interact with the communities in which they work.
Furthering the Public Health Tech Market
Standing on a claim of being the first and only public health tech fund, P2Health is a reflection of prior funding initiatives aimed at addressing public health disparities. Current models in the space focus less on technology as a tool for delivery, instead providing short-term funding for policy work and other grassroots initiatives and programming.
For instance, The Fund for Public Health in New York City has worked with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene since 2002, raising public and private funding for roughly 300 grants developed to support public health programming within the department. Initiatives included providing free vision screening and eyeglasses to uninsured students in low-performing schools and funding the development of a digital health surveillance system using data from electronic health records to track chronic conditions across the city’s population.
The Global Health Investment Fund, established in 2012, is another financing model developed to make waves in the global public health space. The $108 million dollar fund, supported by corporate and philanthropic entities such as JPMorgan Chase and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, allows investors to finance late-stage companies in the development of new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics to help save lives in low-income countries.
Research is a significant component of P2Health’s ongoing engagement strategy both internally and within the greater public health community. In collaboration with a Columbia University professor, P2Health will release a report later this year evaluating the current public health tech market and its opportunities for development within a multi-billion dollar digital health tech market slated to reach $144.8 billion by 2020.
In addition to its Series-A investment, the fund will provide a suite of data analytics, research, and education services to future portfolio companies,
Thus far, P2Health has built strategic partnerships with Emory University, the University of Michigan, Blue Shield of California, Clover Health, and the Center for Disease Control. Through these partnerships, P2Health plans to shorten its sales cycle for their portfolio and be well-positioned to access diverse and high-quality deal flow.
On the horizon for funds like P2Health is the growing Medicaid market, which boasts 74 million patients. Companies that can help improve efficiencies, reduce paperwork, and address chronic conditions across various population groups will greatly impact the way in which citizens navigate the market.