Raising $150m from 1,500pc annual growth rate is only the beginning for home health testing kit firm
There’s one difference between Peter Foley and other Irish ‘unicorn’ founders: an Irish accent.
Having just raised $150m (€123m) to tip LetsGetChecked’s value over $1bn (€822m), there is no hint of the American lilt that inflects the timbre of a Collison (Stripe), a McCabe (Intercom) or a Mosley (Workhuman).
“Yeah, I think people would have a hard job getting an American twang out of me,” the 35-year-old says from his home near the firm’s Dun Laoghaire headquarters.
This looks unlikely to change anytime soon.
Despite the US being LetsGetChecked’s biggest single market for most of its home health diagnostic testing kits, Mr Foley intends to keep running the newly minted ‘unicorn’ company from Dublin.
So far, a Dublin cockpit seems to be working out fine. LetsGetChecked has just announced its latest funding round of $150m (€123m) on the strength of a 1,500pc annual growth rate for its home health-testing kits. These cover over 30 different checks for sexual health, diabetes, thyroid, Covid and others, with over two million at-home health tests now done.
It brings funding to the company, founded by Mr Foley in 2015, to $260m (€214m) and places LetsGetChecked alongside the likes of Intercom and Workhuman in a tiny club of home-grown firms valued at over $1bn.
What does that ‘unicorn’ status mean to him?
“It’s definitely a milestone,” says Mr Foley. “It puts you into a category, particularly from an Irish perspective, with some amazing Irish companies. But it’s not a measure of absolute success. It’s just a valuation. What you do for your customers, and how you execute in the market, is ultimately the measure of success.”
$150m is a huge funding round for an Irish-based company, even in these heady times.
It seems that the American venture firms behind it – Casdin Capital, CommonFund Capital, Illumina Ventures and others – are making a big bet: first, that the wider home-testing isn’t a pandemic-infused passing phenomenon; and second, that LetsGetChecked itself has filled itself out into a ‘full stack’ operation to take advantage of it.
This second element is buttressed by LetsGetChecked’s expansion into its own high-end labs, logistics and medical personnel, done with an apparent aspiration of operations not only in remote testing but also in telehealth services and even pharmacy.
On the theory that people will drift back to in-person health consultations once the pandemic is over, leaving remote and virtual options behind, Mr Foley has clear views.
“There will be a natural gravitation for some people coming back to physical appointments,” he says.
“But there has now been a fundamental shift in people’s minds, knowing that that isn’t the only way to access [healthcare] anymore. Healthcare hasn’t evolved at the same pace as areas such as payments or ecommerce, where people aren’t willing to wait very long. I think that the time when people would wait weeks or months for a healthcare consultation is fading. I think it will be forever different and we happen to be at the epicentre of that.”
Nevertheless, the pandemic hasn’t hurt LetsGetChecked’s overall prospects.
“Yeah, it was kind of a forced change to digital first into the home,” he says.
“We just saw this massive shift in terms of how people would engage with healthcare. We grew by over 1,000pc. But it was essentially just bringing healthcare services into the home. It wasn’t just Covid testing, it was diabetes management and colorectal cancer screening and other things that didn't go away just because there was a pandemic. So we had to scale everything. We ended up bringing over a million customers on board.
“What this [funding round] does is to capitalise on that, to continue to evolve and mature those channels.”
LetsGetChecked, he says, is now a pharmacy business, a telehealth business and a diagnostics business.
“What those three verticals do is to help patients manage conditions over time. So rather than just giving you a diagnosis, we will take care of you into the future. We’ll drive better clinical outcomes for patients. That might mean reducing cardiovascular risk, reducing cholesterol or improving hypothyroidism for people who suffer from it.”
Professional golfer Rory McIlroy is among the array of companies involved in the Series D round.
“He's actually been with the company for quite some time,” says Mr Foley. “He invested in our Series A [round] in 2018. He has always been a big champion of the company and it’s good to have him involved.”
Others to participate in the round include Optum Ventures, Transformation Capital, HLM Venture Partners and Qiming Venture Partners USA.
The company now claims to have an annual growth rate of 1,500pc. It announced last December that it was creating 160 new jobs in Dublin, where it has built a lab to cater for the European market. It also has an office in New York.
During the pandemic, the company worked with airlines to arrange Covid tests that fit in with countries’ travel requirements. This focused mainly on carriers with US routes, with a test taken 72 hours before passengers were due to fly.
With all that, LetsGetChecked is adding to its service portfolio, and the soft entry into quasi-pharmaceutical territory, would he consider changing the company’s name at some point?
“Never,” he says. “Diagnostics is the most important piece of the healthcare journey. It’s your on-ramp to [health] care. Let's get people checked and tested early, then offer more services or care pathways. So the message and the brand is really critical to that diagnostic piece.”
Mr Foley’s ideas around future services for LetsGetChecked include predictive healthcare.
One plan is something that resembles a personalised DNA ‘book’ on people that concentrate – and automate – tests and treatments based on a person’s core genetic makeup.
The idea is to identify risk factors about people based on their genetic information. This way, the company could advise that a customer may have a higher probability of developing, say, colorectal cancer or cholesterol. A ‘book of you’ would then evolve over time as more information became available, possibly including the sequencing of a customer’s DNA. Customers might then know that they should get screened for particular things every year based on their risk profile. LetsGetChecked’s idea is to have telehealth consultations and e-prescriptions ready for all of this.
“This will be a small component of some of the care pathways that we're developing,” he says.
“In some instances, genetics scores can be a really important component in how you're managing someone's care by identifying these risk conditions. We’re preparing for this in the near term and it will be just another tool that we have for our physicians to be able to manage a patient's care.”
Letsgetchecked has 300 corporate customers, including American Airlines, travel booking engine Kayak and the golfing PGA.
Employer healthcare is now a “big chunk” of the company’s business, says Mr Foley.
Does he think that the healthcare industry, in general, is gravitating more toward private services such as his, compared to traditional public health services offered in countries around Europe?
“We operate in both the private and public sector,” he says. “We deal with health insurance and with employers but we also have tons of applications where we actually work with the public sector, including massive large public health screening programs with the likes of Medicaid in the United States. There will always be a need for that kind of public health infrastructure.”
Mr Foley is managing all of this with three young children at home. It’s one of the reasons he attributes to maintaining Dublin as the company’s future headquarters.
But another is that you can now build and run ‘unicorns’ from Ireland, using the deeper, more adventurous pockets of US venture capital.
“We’ve evolved as a company,” he says. “We’re on a road to providing all of these care pathways to people. I’m happy to do this here in Dublin.”