Entrepreneurs Max Cohen and Cameron Behar have spent the bulk of their careers at forward-thinking companies like Google and Oculus.
They’re now using that shared experience on the forefront of change to launch Sprinter Health, an on-demand mobile health startup that sends full-time nurses and phlebotomists into the home for lab draws, vital checks, COVID-19 testing and more.
“Think DoorDash for your next blood draw,” Sprinter CTO Behar told Home Health Care News.
Sprinter Health began operations after raising a $4.6 million seed round in March, led by Hemant Taneja at General Catalyst, with several noteworthy angel investors as well. The startup announced a $33 million Series A round on Wednesday, with Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) acting as lead investor.
In addition to working with health care consumers directly, Sprinter sees itself as an important partner to home health agencies, physician groups, specialty labs and other types of providers. Instead of using their in-house clinicians for labs or phlebotomy services, for instance, staffing-challenged home health agencies can lean on Sprinter’s team, according to Cohen, the startup’s CEO.
“Frankly, they have a lot of demand that they can’t fulfill right now, so the idea is to send the right level of clinicians for the task,” Cohen told HHCN. “If you just need a basic blood draw, don’t send a doctor or a nurse practitioner (NP) into that home. If you need clinical decision-making, you should. That’s not what Sprinter Health does.”
Sprinter Health is currently operating in the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento in California. Over the next few months, the startup will bring its services to Los Angeles and San Diego, with Texas, Florida and other states in Sprinter’s sights for 2022.
Ultimately, co-founders Behar and Cohen hope to stretch their company’s footprint across the U.S. The $33 million in Series A will help fuel those expansion plans, Cohen noted.
“A lot of health care is becoming nationalized now, in the sense that health systems are crossing state lines and home health agencies are having a broader footprint,” he said. “We want to make sure that we are available in as wide an area as possible.”
A ‘big belief’ in at-home care
Along with lead investor a16z, participation in the Series A came from General Catalyst, Accel, Google Ventures (GV) and others. Following the venture capital firm’s bet on Sprinter Health, a16z General Partner Julie Yoo will join the startup’s board.
“At a macro level, we have a big belief that the delivery of care in the home will incorporate itself into the fabric of more and more care models over time,” Yoo told HHCN.
This isn’t the first major home-based care play for a16z. In fact, it’s far from it.
In 2015, a16z led Honor’s $20 million Series A round, with participation from Kapor Capital, Apple store creator Ron Johnson, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin and others. Since then, Honor has grown into a global home care company, propelled by its recent acquisition of Home Instead.
More recently, a16z invested in Tomorrow Health, the company led by CEO Vijay Kedar that’s building an Amazon-like service to help consumers and clinicians better navigate the in-home medical equipment space. Tomorrow Health closed a $25 million Series A in April.
Devoted Health is another a16z-backed company that’s bullish on in-home care.
“In a way, we think about home health today as almost a separate category of providers,” Yoo said. “I think, over time, we’re going to see home health delivery become increasingly a part of mainstream care models.”
This overarching belief in home-based care was one of three “pillars” of a16z’s Sprinter Health investment thesis, she explained.
As for the second pillar, Yoo highlighted the current shortage of clinical labor throughout the health care world. Similar to Cohen, a16z believes Sprinter Health can help alleviate some of those pressures.
And as for the third, a16z generally sees big upside in the diagnostic testing market and the key role it plays in care decisions. In-home diagnostic testing has become more common during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Yoo expects the market to grow even further on a long-term basis, especially as consumers become educated about alternatives to traditional methods.
“Even beyond [the pandemic], there’s long been an understanding that there’s under-utilization of lab tests in many, many areas of critical care,” she said. “And part of that is just the supply side constraints as well.”
The Sprinter Health team
The consumers who use Sprinter Health’s services don’t fall into a single category.
They can be seniors, younger adults or even children, Cohen said. Additionally, Sprinter’s users can live in a variety of settings, whether “the home” is a private residence or an assisted living facility.
“We’ve seen people book on behalf of elderly parents who are in assisted living facilities,” Cohen said. “We’ve seen people book to have their children done on the pediatric side because, frankly, their kid was very afraid of needles and didn’t like going into a lab setup.”
Typically, Sprinter Health’s in-home “sprinters” are in and out of the home within an average of 6 minutes.
“We’re not trying to do a concierge-medicine play, where it’s essentially only for affluent folks,” Cohen added. “We’re focused on health equity and being able to go into someone’s home, whether that person is homebound or just can’t fit [traditional facility-based services] into their lives.”
Cohen previously served as VP of mobile at Oculus before its 2014 acquisition by Facebook, where he later held various product-leadership roles. Behar previously held engineering roles at both Facebook and Google.
The co-founders first met at Google over 10 years ago, Cohen recalled.
“We always thought we wanted to work on something together, but had to figure out the right idea and the right timing,” he said.
In addition to the aforementioned VC firms that took part in the Series A, individual angels included DoorDash co-founder and CEO Tony Xu, as well as former Senator and well-known home-based care investor Bill Frist.