Figure 1, a knowledge-sharing app for doctors, launches sponsored content

Since its launch in 2013, Figure 1, a photo- and knowledge-sharing app for medical professionals, has focused on “traction” that is winning over new users and keeping them around. The app now boasts registered users in 190 countries, with three-quarters of U.S. med students using Figure 1. Today, the Toronto- and New York-based startup revealed how it has begun to generate revenue, namely adding sponsored content and polls to its platform.

Figure 1 co-founder and CEO Gregory Levey told TechCrunch, “Doctors are used to being spammed by pharma companies, medical device makers, clinical trials people and they hate it. Laymen spam them too, with stuff that’s just way below their level of expertise. They do, however, love to hear from other doctors. So when we thought about how to monetize our platform, we didn’t want to do targeted display ads or hit them with anything that didn’t feel like another valuable part of the platform.”

Figure 1 co-founders: Gregory Levey, Richard Penner and Joshua Landy.

What Figure 1 came up with is something they’re calling “peer-to-peer sponsored content.” The startup invited brands to sponsor programs where doctors teach other doctors on Figure 1 about something like a rare disease, a medical procedure or an interesting new application of medicine. The new sponsored content formats on Figure 1 include “Grand Rounds,” “Figure 1 on 1’s” and “Figure 1 Insights.”

In “Grand Rounds,” an institution highlights a procedure they’re known for, like a new application of robotics for eye surgery. With Figure 1 Insights the company polls verified healthcare professionals about a certain issue or trend. “Figure 1 on 1’s” are reminiscent of Reddit AMA’s, where users generate questions for a featured specialist and questions are voted up by other users. In one recent session, pediatric sub-specialist Christian Hendriksz, helped other physicians learn how to identify a rare disorder called Hunter syndrome in their patients.

A quick flip through the app shows that Figure 1 has worked with major Fortune 50 health brands as clients, including Shire, Novartis and the CDC Foundation. Figure 1 started out enabling HIPPA-compliant photo sharing between health professionals, namely so doctors could get diagnostic advice from peers or teach medical and nursing students. But Levey said the company is now aiming to become a “central nervous system,” or main networking platform, for all verified healthcare professionals.