When it comes to health issues like menopause, fertility, pregnancy, and even early parenthood, the data tells us that people typically turn to search engines and social media for advice to ask about symptoms or concerns they have. They tend not to go to a medical practitioner, in the first instance. The suggestion, therefore, is that there is plenty of room for startups to fill that gap. This is effectively the verticalisation of the model first pioneered by startups like KRY, Babylon Health and Ada Health.
Peppy, a B2B digital health platform addressing just these concerns, has now raised a £6.6 million/$10 million Series A funding round led by Felix Capital, with previous investors including Outward VC, Seedcamp and Hambro Perks, also participating.
Peppy is a little like a “Babylon Health before you need Babylon Health.” The company says it provides expert-led support to individuals before they need to see a doctor.
Founded in London in 2018 by co-founders Evan Harris, Max Landry and Mridula Pore, the startup addresses major life and family moments: menopause, fertility, pregnancy and early parenthood.
It offers its services to a corporate customer base, which then incorporates Peppy into its employee health programs, enabling it to acquire some large employers in the U.K. and grow — it says — by 20% month on month for the past 12 months. Customers include BNP Paribas, Santander, DFS, Wickes, NHS trusts, and the University of Sheffield.
The startup is pushing at an open door: Women of menopausal age are the fastest-growing demographic in the U.K., and most say their work is negatively impacted, but — and here’s the crucial bit, they’d rather not talk about it to their line manager. Peppy says this is one of their biggest selling points into companies, which can now address the problem and help employees back to work more easily.
Just as with other telemedicine products, there are features such as access experts via a secure mobile app, with instant messaging, group chat, video consultations, live events, evidence-based articles, videos and programs. Furthermore, users can join a community of people who are experiencing similar challenges.
Mridula Pore, co-founder of Peppy, said: “The pandemic has shown us that employers can’t just talk about supporting their employees’ health and well-being anymore, they have to take action. More and more leading businesses are turning to us to provide the support their people really need — not a one-size-fits-all solution, but support that is trustworthy, personalized and delivered by experts. We’re still at the surface of what is possible for Peppy.”
Susan Lin, investor at Felix Capital, said: “Since Felix started, ‘aspiration for a better life’ has been a core theme and we believe in the strong opportunity for digital health and wellness solutions to improve this. Peppy is at the forefront of three huge market trends and we believe is positioned to become a category-defining brand. First, massive growth in targeted employee benefits, driven by increasing awareness of the importance these have in boosting morale, productivity and retention. Second, demand for much more convenient ways to access healthcare, which has been further accelerated by COVID-19. And finally, a need for much more personalized solutions, especially in critical life stages such as menopause and early parenthood.”
Speaking to TechCrunch, Pore expanded on the problem: “Today, people’s alternative is to go to their GP/MP. They may be lucky, have a GP who knows a lot about the issues to offer the support the patient needs. We know that a lot of women aren’t getting the support they need, they suffer, they struggle, they’re embarrassed to talk to their manager about what’s going on. They muddle through and they’re worried about being fired because of ‘women’s problems.. Some women quit. All the surveys suggest that people either switch their working arrangements, make different decisions or quit. It’s a big headache for employers, and we know the same thing happens for new parents.”
She added: “We’ve seen a real tidal change, especially in the last two years and I think COVID has massively accelerated companies putting menopause policy into line manager training. But none of those really address what the individual needs are because ultimately they still go to their GP and they’re back at square one. And so what we’re doing with Peppy is giving them access to our nurses and counselors on our programs, so they can get informed, educated on what their options are, medical and nonmedical, have the information they need to be able to go and seek out the right options for them, try them and they get that support over months, because we know that it will go up and down over time and you know everyone’s health journey evolves.”
She told me that the tech solution means Peppy allows people to connect to human experts “through the way that suits them in a personalized way and convenience so they can get child support, they can get video consultations, they’ll get content that’s tailored for them, they can join in live sessions on topics that are relevant for them. That can be anything from the basics of menopause, to your sex life. You can do it on your own time, in short bursts, or if you need it, for a 45-minute phone consultation.”