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Ro’s $225 million Modern Fertility acquisition is a big bet on women’s health

The company got its start offering men and women hair and skin care, vitamins, and sexual reproductive health products. Now it’s investing in providing a range of healthcare services at home—everything but the doctor’s office.

Ro’s $225 million Modern Fertility acquisition is a big bet on women’s health
[Photos: courtesy of Ro]
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Online health brand Ro has been expanding beyond the pharmacy with at-home blood draws and vaccine delivery. Now it’s moving into fertility care with the acquisition of personal testing company Modern Fertility. The purchase shows that Ro sees women’s health as a key area of development. But it also represents the ways in which the company plans to push the boundaries of virtual and at-home healthcare through testing and health tracking.

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The deal—Ro’s biggest acquisition to date—is said to be valued at more than $225 million, according to a person with knowledge of the arrangement. Founded in 2017, Modern Fertility is a pioneer of the so-called fem-tech market. In 2018, the company began shipping at-home blood tests that analyzed hormone levels to understand aspects of a person’s fertility. The test costs $159 and includes a consultation with a nurse. The company has since launched a pregnancy test, prenatal vitamin, ovulation test strips, an app for fertility tracking, and an online community for women with questions about their reproductive health.

“Preconception has always been this completely underserved area,” says Modern Fertility cofounder Carly Leahy. She sees the acquisition as giving her and cofounder Afton Vechery the platform to build out more products for other aspects of women’s healthcare. Both Leahy and Vechery will be staying on to expand Ro’s healthcare offerings for women. “The opportunity to continue to support people when they do get that first pregnancy test and beyond is massive as well,” Leahy says.

From left: Ro CEO Zachariah Reitano with Modern Fertility cofounders Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy [Photo: courtesy of Ro]
Women’s health has not traditionally been a hot area of investment, though that may be changing. Since Modern Fertility first launched, a bevy of women’s health startups have arisen tackling everything from new therapeutics to better contraception and pregnancy care. The women’s health-tech market is expected to generate at least $3 billion by 2030, according to PitchBook.

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For Ro, the acquisition highlights an easy way to grow the lineup of services it can offer for at-home use. Ro founder and CEO Zachariah Reitano believes that his company can “dramatically unburden” the healthcare system by providing as much care online and at home as possible. That means offering telehealth visits, at-home testing, health monitoring, blood collection, and one day a bevy of medical care services like ultrasound delivered right to your door. “If we’re able to reserve all in-person capacity for those who need it most and can only be treated in person, then they can have a much better experience,” Reitano says.

Ro started as an online pharmacy offering generic medications for hair loss, erectile dysfunction, skin care, and other common ailments with attractive branding under two names: Roman (men’s) and Rory (women’s). Its pharmacy, simply branded Ro, now offers 500 medications as well as online primary and urgent care, and has opened eight national distribution centers in order to get meds to patients faster. It also offers chronic care for hypertension and diabetes.

From left: Ro founders Zachariah Reitano, Rob Schutz, and Saman Rahmanian [Photo: courtesy of Ro]
In the last year, Ro raised $700 million, with the most recent raise valuing the company at $5 billion, according to PitchBook. In December, Ro acquired Workpath, which provides at-home blood draws and which the company has already used to distribute thousands of COVID-19 vaccines to elderly New Yorkers at home. Just last month, it signed a deal with Walmart to sell its branded over-the-counter medications at 4,600 stores. It also plans to open seven additional distribution facilities by the end of 2022. “We can have 98% of the U.S. population have next-day medication at ground [shipping] rates,” Reitano says.

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For care that Ro can’t deliver, it’s working with Ribbon, a startup that provides information to patients about doctors in their area. Since its inception, Ro has facilitated more than 6 million healthcare visits. Earlier this year, the company was rumored to be considering a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company that would take it public.

About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of health and technology.

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