Ro just hit a $1.5 billion valuation as it reinvents how people go to the doctor. Here’s why Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian decided to back the buzzy startup right at the start.

  • Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of Initialized Capital and Reddit, bet on healthcare startup Ro when the company only had a pitch deck and a founding team. 
  • Ro on Monday hit a $1.5 billion valuation after raising $200 million in a round led by General Catalyst.
  • “I think it’s going to be a really important part of our healthcare system,” Ohanian said.
  • For more stories like this, sign up here for our healthcare newsletter, Dispensed.

When it comes to making bets in early-stage companies that are taking on massive industries like healthcare, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian takes his cues from the founders pitching him. 

“We take our guidance from the founders in a lot of ways,” Ohanian, the cofounder of Initialized Capital, told Business Insider. “They’re the ones who are willing to spend the rest of their lives, trying to solve problems.”

Ohanian and Initialized were early investors in the healthcare startup Ro. On July 27, Ro raised an additional $200 million from investors including Initialized in a round that valued it at $1.5 billion.

Read more:

Ohanian, a Ro board member, recalled hearing the pitch for Ro CEO Zachariah Reitano, often referred to as “Z” when he was about to go on paternity leave after the birth of his daughter Olympia in 2017. 

“When Z, the CEO of Ro, pitched, he only had a founding team and a deck and it was still pretty uncertain,” Ohanian said. 

At the time, Ro, then called Roman, was focused on connecting men with doctors who can prescribe erectile-dysfunction medication that can then be shipped to your door. The hope was that by making the medication more easily accessible, men would start interacting with doctors more frequently. 

At the time, erectile dysfunction medications including Viagra were going generic, and statewide telemedicine laws were rules were loosening up to allow patients to message their doctors online. 

But Reitano and his cofounders pitched Ohanian on the vision that Ro would be the first place patients called when they had a healthcare question or concern of any kind. 

In the years since, Ro has gone on to expand the model to treating more conditions, and in June set up a pharmacy service in which all generic medications dispensed are $5. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing,

Read more: There’s a billion-dollar fight brewing over whether doctors should be paid for phone calls and video visits. Who wins could determine the future of healthcare.

To date, Ro has conducted 5 million visits. It has hit record monthly sales amid the pandemic and has an annual revenue of $250 million, CNBC reported in June.

“I can’t say four years ago I was an expert on this,” Ohanian said. “I just was going to become a dad who was thinking more about his health and needing to take better care of it. It resonated.”

Read more: The 21 billion-dollar startups to watch that are revolutionizing healthcare in 2020

Americans are increasingly getting involved in how they get their healthcare, and Ohanian said he sees Ro’s approach as becoming a key part of the industry. 

“I think we’re now going to see tremendous innovation in the next few years post-lockdown world because now more and more Americans are realizing the importance of this and the value of this,” Ohanian said. “I think it’s going to be a really important part of our healthcare system.”

An important part of Ro’s approach, Ohanian said was building all the parts of its business in-house. Ro, for instance operates its own pharmacy and built software to help doctors and patients interact. To be sure, the company is still in the early days of its vision of being the first place people call for their healthcare needs.

“They need to do it at the highest levels of integrity because that’s what it takes to actually become the patient’s first call for healthcare,” Ohanian said. “So that was a heckuva vision with just a deck. That’s what gets me so excited about this job.”

View original article here Source