Healthtech/News/

Ada Health raises $90m, plans further US expansion

The symptom-checking app is doubling down on partnerships with health insurers and health systems — in the US in particular.

By Amy Lewin

Credit: Daniel Nathrath, CEO and cofounder of Ada Health

It’s been a long slog for Daniel Nathrath and Claire Novorol, the married cofounders of digital healthcare business Ada Health, which they founded in 2011.

Digital health was not always as hot as it is now (with consumers, medics or investors), the company has been through a few shifts in strategy and now contends with some seriously well-funded competition.

“But we’re finally seeing a lot of light at the end of the tunnel,” says Nathrath, Ada’s CEO. “It’s a good time to be in digital health.” 

Today, Berlin-based Ada is announcing a $90m investment from Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment arm of the pharmaceutical giant. This Series B round brings total funding raised to $164m — and puts the company in a solid position to expand in the US and several other markets around the world.

The money to be made — and potential impact to have — is huge. The global digital health market is expected to reach $221bn by 2026. Ada already has 11m users around the world and covers 10 languages, giving it a much broader global reach than many other Europe-founded digital health apps.

And, if it can pull off its latest big idea — to move beyond symptom checking to help people monitor their health continuously and take proactive steps to keep it in tip-top condition — it could really change a whole lot of lives.

Partnering with health insurers

“Last year we started getting more serious about partnering with health systems and health insurers around the world,” says Nathrath. “We saw a lot more interest on the B2B side — and that allows us to support patients better along their entire journey.” 

When people use Ada’s free symptom-checking app to figure out what’s going on with their health, they’re given advice on what to do next. (23m assessments have been completed on the app to date, and a peer-reviewed study published in the British Medical Journal last year found that Ada was by far the most accurate symptom-checker on the market.) 

But when Ada has partnerships in place with those patients’ healthcare providers or insurers, it can actually help them take the next step.

“We can go straight into booking an appointment and the outcome of the pre-assessment can be shared with health professionals so they’re briefed ahead of the session,” says Nathrath. “That can save them a few minutes and some documentation effort. It can also help them avoid missing really vital information.” 

Ada’s partners now include Californian health system Sutter Health, Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda, diagnostics company Labor Berlin and philanthropic organisations Fondation Botnar and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — and more, as yet unannounced.

Over the next few years, Ada plans to increase its footprint in the US — currently its biggest market, with around 2m users, compared to 1m in the UK and 1m in Germany. 

Partnering with other healthtechs

The next step for Ada, product-wise, is to partner with other digital health apps so that it doesn’t solely rely on patient-reported symptoms.

“We’re working on creating a personalised operating system for health,” says Nathrath. 

Imagine, for example, that the data collected by someone’s smart watch was integrated with Ada’s app — Ada would be able to see how that person’s health was changing over a period of time. Ada could also integrate with direct-to-consumer lab testing startups, digital therapeutics apps or even genome sequencing companies. It’s currently in conversation with Apple, says Nathrath.

“Our ambition is to develop an early warning sign for your health.”

“Our ambition is to develop an early warning sign for your health,” he adds. Most people only visit their GP a handful of times per year; by working with multiple sources of health data, Ada could spot problems far sooner. 

“We want to catch something when it’s a £100 problem rather than a £100k per year problem.” 

That’s an attractive idea to patients, insurers, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies. “Life science companies like Bayer and Novartis can learn from that aggregated data — and the patient doesn’t have to go through a 10- or 15-year odyssey just to get a diagnosis,” says Nathrath. 

Partnering with Bayer

The exact details of how Ada and Bayer will work together moving forwards are still being worked out, says Nathrath — but they’re “at the beginning of a long-term relationship”. 

“We’ve had positive and fruitful conversations with both the Leaps by Bayer entity and people from the different business units of Bayer,” he says. 

Ada is, he adds, “not prohibited from partnering with anyone else” as a result of the investment, and Bayer doesn’t have a controlling stake in the business. The pharmaceutical company joins the board along with representatives from former investors Samsung Catalyst Fund and Vitruvian Partners, and some private investors. 

 

Growing the team

Ada’s 250-person team, which is split across offices in Berlin, London, Munich and New York, will be expanding — but Nathrath doesn’t want to put a number on it.

“Last time I mentioned that we were planning to significantly increase the team in the US I had 20 LinkedIn messages from real estate agents the next day,” he says. “I think they must be the only people more aggressive than UK recruiters and Ukrainian outsourcing agents.” 

Jokes aside, he says he’s also “over the idea of measuring success by increasing headcount”. 

“Our main metrics are really the number of lives we can touch, the medical accuracy of our app — and revenue.”

Amy Lewin is Sifted’s deputy editor. She covers VC, foodtech and diversity in tech, and tweets from @amyrlewin. She’s the coauthor of our weekly Startup Life newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.

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