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Telemedicine startup Roman just raised $88M to help you quit smoking

Telemedicine startup Roman just raised $88M to help you quit smoking
[Photo: courtesy of Roman]

Roman, a telemedicine startup founded just last year, has raised $88 million in series A funding to expand from men’s health into smoking cessation and other healthcare verticals, the company announced today. By going direct-to-consumer, Roman—which today shortens its name to Ro—sidesteps many of the complexities of the healthcare industry. The New York-based company had previously raised $3.1 million in seed funding.

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Ro launched as Roman in 2017 with a singular focus: treating erectile dysfunction. For $15, customers could meet with a doctor via online chat or video, and obtain a prescription for Viagra, Cialis, or a generic drug. Despite not accepting insurance, the company was able to quickly rack up over a million patient-physician interactions. According to cofounder and CEO Zachariah Reitano, the company is on track to earn “tens of millions” in revenue by the end of the year. Ro will continue to serve patients seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction under the Roman brand.

[Photo: courtesy of Ro]
With this new funding, Ro is now looking to tackle other healthcare needs. First up is smoking cessation, under a new brand dubbed “Zero.” Using the same back-end technology as Roman, Zero will connect smokers looking to quit with licensed physicians. Treatment will combine a prescription for bupropion, packs of nicotine gum, and a behavioral app designed to encourage patients as they progress. (Research suggests that combining all three approaches is far more effective than attempting to quit cold turkey, which has a success rate of just 3% to 5%.)

For now, Zero patients will have to pay out-of-pocket for the online consultation with a physician (again, $15), as well as $129 per month for the prescription, gum, and app. “More and more people are paying for things out-of-pocket, and what happens is they can actually vote with their feet now and demand a better experience,” Reitano says. In the near future, he adds, the company hopes to be able to accept FSA cards as payment.

Going forward, Reitano envisions launching additional men’s health offerings under Roman, and additional addiction treatments under Zero. He also plans to develop other brands—women’s health, for example, is a top priority.

[Photo: courtesy of Ro]
Telemedicine has seen an explosion in funding over the last several years, with startups raising over $1.2 billion since 2013, according to CB Insights. Many established telemedicine companies, however, have focused on serving health plans and employers, rather than consumers directly. Accolade, for example, which dubs itself an “on-demand health concierge,” has raised over $200 million and boasts customers like Comcast and Lowe’s. As for Ro, Reitano says he is “absolutely open to partnering with insurance companies.”

FirstMark Capital led Ro’s series A round, with investors including Alexis Ohanian’s Initialized Capital, SignalFire, General Catalyst, Slow Ventures, Sinai Ventures, Torch Capital, BoxGroup, and Tusk Ventures also participating. As part of the investment, Ohanian and FirstMark managing director Rick Heitzmann will join Ro’s board of directors.

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