It was less than three months ago that Jake Winebaum (the same guy who sold Business.com for $360 million) quietly launched Brighter.com, an online marketplace for discounted dental care. As Erick Schonfeld wrote at the time, Americans pay an estimated $55 billion out of pocket each year on dental bills. Dental plans, like their healthcare brethren, tend to take sizable bites out of our wallets without giving a whole lot in return. Except a PPO.
So, Winebaum launched Brighter.com to allow patients to compare over 25,000 U.S. dentists by price and reputation in an effort to let those in need of dental care cut their bills in half and reduce those out-of-pocket expenses. Brighter launched in May with $5 million already in the bank, which it raised from Mayfield Fund, a Menlo Park-based VC firm, back in January.
Today, Winebaum and Brighter added to their overall investment, closing an $8 million series B funding round led by Benchmark Capital. Mayfield also participated in the startup’s series B raise.
According to the Brighter team, the new infusion of capital from Benchmark and Mayfield Fund will be used to continue a few the startup’s growth initiatives, including ramping up consumer marketing and continuing to build on its network of 25,000 dentists offering discounted dental work (approximately one quarter of the total number of dentists in the U.S.).
The new round, which brings the startup’s overall investment to over $13 million (raised in a year and a half), is a testament to the fact that Brighter is offering a much needed service. Allowing users to perform a simple search based on location and procedure to find nearby dentists, how much they charge and what type of discount they are currently offering, essentially brings comparison shopping to dental care — an approach that seems so familiar it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before.
Search results include dentist’s ratings, rates, and proximity, including Yelp reviews, and even enables users to add their own reviews of the dentists they visit or “like” them on Facebook if they were generous with the laughing gas.
Brighter offers 20 to 30 percent discounts for free and up to 60 percent off if a users buys the $79 annual plan. The startup offers both individual and small business memberships, with the latter costing about $49 per employee, a huge benefit to the many SMBs and startups looking to provide cheap insurance to their employees.
And the best part? As Schonfeld wrote in May, thanks to being a solution that circumvents insurance, there are no caps and no procedures. Users know how much the procedure will cost right off the bat, and dentists are buying in because they get paid directly (and immediately) and don’t have to haggle with insurance companies after the fact.
It’s a smart solution to an endemic insurance problem, and $8 million more in the bank from Benchmark and Mayfield certainly doesn’t hurt confidence in Winebaum’s new approach to reducing dental costs. Though it looks like users of this Student Doctor Network forum beg to differ.
On the other hand, this is probably a startup even Homer Simpson could get excited about.