Another day under quarantine is just another day that healthcare disruptors are raking in the cash. There’s been debate recently about whether COVID-19 has been an accelerant or a change agent, but for health startups it’s definitely been the former. Outcomes that were years in the making are rearing their heads now, leaving companies that were slow to change their roll floundering while those prepared for the future but gaining little ground pre-COVID are standing tall.
Health insurance disruptor Oscar Health Insurance ($PRIVATE:OSCARINSURANCE), which is backed in part by Josh Kushner, recently secured an additional $225 million in funding, carving out a strong foothold during the pandemic. The company aims to use technology to reduce the cost of health insurance for Americans —an appealing option when so many businesses are shedding jobs and looking to cut costs. The company’s relation to the White House drew some side eye when The Atlantic reported it was working with the government to develop tools to track COVID-19, though the plans were eventually scrapped. But political controversy sure didn’t stop that fat $225 million check.
While Oscar’s App Store review count is up 92.5% year-over-year, very little of that is from this year. Reviews inexplicably stagnated after January whereas they’ve continued to rise for other health tech companies like Capsule ($PRIVATE:CAPSULECARES) which only really serves one major metropolitan area whereas Oscar is nationwide. That dip you see between March 21 and March 25 isn’t angry customers suddenly yanking their reviews — it was likely a purge on Apple’s part of bot and/or out-of-date reviews, as apps across a vast range of industries saw the same dip.
Still, it should be noted that Capsule, a digital and direct-to-your-door pharmacy, is an app that consumers are more likely to interact with on a regular basis as opposed to health insurance, which in an ideal world you would only hear from once and then never again.
Facebook Talking About data gives a clearer image of how Oscar compares to other health disruptors. Oscar previously saw a spike in discourse shortly before the new year, but other than that has remained relatively quiet alongside Capsule. However when it saw its COVID-induced peak in April, it reached a similar high to what Capsule would reach in the following month. Again we can see Capsule’s consumer-facing model in action as their buzz didn’t drop off down to pre-COVID levels after it spiked in May.
Job listings tanked 63% from January to mid-May as concerns about the economy deepened, but Oscar is cautiously climbing back up again, now only down 35%. Linkedin Headcount (not shown) shows that Oscar has added about 130 new employees to their already-thousand-person-strong workforce in the same amount of time, holding steady in growth. It hasn’t seen the same kind of explosion in headcount that some other companies with their own COVID growth spurts have gone through, but this rate of growth was enough to secure that $225 million regardless. Rather than investors betting on a hot new item, it seems they’re backing Oscar for its potential to take over in the long run.
IPO season is in full bloom, and Oscar may be watching certain deals like competitor GoHealth’s recent offering to see how it might fare if it decides to take the public plunge. Health disruptors will certainly walk out of COVID-19 as a force to be reckoned with, but they uniquely benefit from the current buzz of being growing disruptors in a shaky marketplace and may seek to capitalize on it as much as possible.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.