French unicorn Alan has grown massively over the last few years by offering people health insurance via their workplace. Its annual revenue has jumped to almost €200m, it serves 300k customers, it's launched a whole new product around mental health support and, the founders say, it’s on track to wean itself off investor cash in the near(ish) future.
But not just yet: it today announced that it’s raised a bit more, to the tune of €183m in a Series E round led by Canadian Teachers Venture Growth, the investment arm of the $242bn Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, at a €2.7bn valuation.
The plan is to become cashflow positive in France by the end of 2024, says cofounder Charles Gorintin.
“We want to be independent of the ups and downs of the fundraising markets,” he adds. “Right now, [the fundraising market] is kind of down — but we still managed to raise this round, which is great news. Becoming cashflow positive in our main market will give us a lot more independence and allow us to grow healthily without outside funding.”
Alan, unlike many other big healthtech startups in Europe like Kry/Livi and Ada Health, has companies as its customers. By offering them health insurance for their employees (which is a company’s legal obligation in France) Alan cuts out some of the administrative burden on HR departments.
“We have been focused on removing that mental load for the companies. What we're really trying to do is bring the tools to those HR departments so that they can focus on what truly matters to them,” Gorintin says. And it seems to be working. In the last year, Alan has doubled its member base to 300k people at 1,500 companies.
Its (ambitious) goal is to serve 10 times that number of people — 3m — by 2025. To do that, Alan needs to offer something more. It thinks the answer is mental health.
Alan Mind — the opportunity to expand
Plenty of startups have made the leap into mental health support with their own services and products. Last year, Sifted counted as many as 79 mental health startups in Europe, and that number doesn't include the larger healthtech players that also offer mental health care, such as Kry/Livi.
A few of those have a similar focus to Alan — employee mental health. A survey Alan ran in France found that 91% of employees believed that psychological difficulties were increasingly common at work and 85% said that improving their mental wellbeing would reinforce their loyalty to their employer.
Improving employee loyalty and health with its new offering — Alan Mind — is a way for the company to grow its customer base, including in markets that it hasn't yet entered with its core offering.
“Our ambition is to be pan-European but the health systems are very different from one country to another and it’s a really heavily regulated space, for good reasons. To launch in a new country is, therefore, a major endeavour,” Gorintin says.
“That said, we've realised that it is very easy to launch Alan Mind in other countries. Right now we're doing it through the companies that are in multiple geographies. And at some point, we're going to launch properly in other countries.”
As part of its offer, the Alan Mind platform that launched six months ago offers personalised digital programmes through its app, including self-help content and digital therapy sessions. So far it has had 15k visitors.
Putting failed projects to sleep
Alan now has a number of products. There’s Alan Clinic, its core health insurance platform, which helps users find recommended health professionals that fit their insurance package; a chat service with the Alan health team and access tele-consultations. There’s also Alan Mind, for mental health issues, and Alan Clear, which enables users to try on glasses with AR technology and buy them through the app.
Another app, Alan Baby, which was launched in January 2021, has now been discontinued. It enabled new parents to chat with others in a (moderated) community forum and get their questions answered by a doctor or midwife — but it never really took off.
“We decided to shut it down. While we thought that we would experiment and try to [create] something new, we feel that other companies operating in the space are actually really good and they can do the work just as well as we could,” says Gorintin. “In those cases, it's better to refocus. I think it's a really healthy thing to be able to shut down projects.”
Tripling its team
Alan plans to hire another 1,000 people by the end of 2025 — from doctors for Alan Clinic, therapists for Alan Mind to engineers in the product team.
When Sifted first met Alan back in 2020, it had just 164 employees. Now it has 500, based all over Europe.
“The strategy was always to reverse the usual mindset which is to create an office and ask people to go into it. Instead what we do is look at where people want to be located, which is pretty much everywhere in Europe, and we build offices around them,” says Gorintin.
Gorintin mentions an office built in Lyon where 20 of its employees wanted to be located. And with transparent salaries, no managers and a no-meetings policy, Alan has a reputation for having a different approach to business culture than most others.
“I remember when we were 50 people, everybody told us that you will never be able to scale. Now we are 500 and people are as efficient as ever,” Gorintin says. “We are actually able to scale that culture that's very distinctive.”