Four years ago, Frank Westermann sold his previous startup, mySugr to Roche. The app, which lets people track their glucose levels, meals and exercise, became the foundation of Roche’s digital health services for people with diabetes.
Now, Westermann is starting a new company, also focused on diabetes, with the goal of improving access to care.
“I did a bit of soul searching, thinking about what do I want to do next,” he said. “I think where we can have the most impact is providing better access to care. We have amazing tools, medications but still a lot of people really struggle to get access to proper diabetes care.”
Westermann and co-CEO Anton Kittelberger both have Type 1 diabetes, and are familiar with these challenges. When Westermann moved to the U.S. five years ago, he remembered going to the pharmacy to pick up his prescription, and being charged $930.
“The same insulin, I paid 160 Euros for in Germany. How can that be?” he said. “It’s so expensive, when you talk about medications, but also test strips, CGMs — that’s the real mission that we’re on.”
He and his three co-founders started 9am.health, a direct-to-consumer startup where people pay a monthly fee to chat with a care team, and get medications or lab tests delivered at home. The company recently launched with $3.7 million in seed funding, led by Define Ventures and Founders Fund.
9am currently charges a $25 monthly subscription fee, which includes the ability to chat with a care team, have a video consultation with a patient advocate, and have one medication delivered at home. Each additional medication costs another $5 per month, and at-home A1C and cholesterol tests cost $15 per month.
“We are cash pay, and we want to stay cash pay,” Westermann said. “We think with our current offer, we can continue to offer our service for a price that is better and more affordable than your typical copay.”
The startup currently has an endocrinologist and a pharmacist, along with registered dietitian nutritionists and certified diabetes care and education specialists. At this point, 9am does not include insulin, but it has some common medications for managing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, such as metformin and glipizide, and medications for hypertension and hyperlipidemia.
In the future, Westermann wants for 9am to offer insulin, and said the startup is in discussions with manufacturers. He referred to Walmart’s partnership with Novo Nordisk as one example of bringing prices down.
9am faces plenty of competition. Livongo and Omada are making inroads with employers, by offering connected glucometers paired with coaching. Meanwhile, startups like DarioHealth are taking a direct-to-consumer approach with their own connected devices.
But Westermann hopes that packaging together medications and care for cheaper prices will help it stand out in a crowded market.