Here is a headline that will not surprise you: America’s biggest epidemic is obesity
America, the Obese
What may surprise you is the extent to which America’s obesity crisis, while widely acknowledged for two decades, has been left untreated. From 2000 to 2020, the percentage of the US population classified as obese rose from 30% to nearly 42%. That’s nearly 130 million Americans, with 30 million of those categorized as ‘severely obese’.
Obesity-related conditions like heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and certain types of cancer are among the leading causes of over 2.8 million preventable deaths annually. COVID-19 further highlighted the disparity of outcomes for individuals with comorbidities like obesity and those of a healthy weight. As the data showed, between March and November of 2020, 30% of Covid-related hospitalizations were attributed to obesity.
Add to that the financial burden because our national epidemic is also costing each of us as a country to the tune of $179 billion annually, most of which is paid by Medicare and Medicaid. Out-of-pocket medical costs for adults with obesity are also $2,000 higher than medical costs for individuals at a healthy weight.
Until recently, bariatric, or weight loss, surgery was considered the most effective way to lose significant weight. Non-surgical methods have not holistically treated patients to create sustainable habits and yield long-lasting results. Perhaps that explains why, despite the pollution of VC-backed weight-loss apps and digital solutions available today, Americans continue to struggle with losing weight and keeping it off.
We believe our latest investment, Enara Health, has a better approach.
How Enara Works
Enara is a personalized obesity management and weight loss care solution that integrates with primary and specialized care clinics to more meaningfully serve the health needs of patients. The big advantage here is that, unlike existing direct-to-consumer (D2C) weight loss platforms, Enara sells its service B2B — to primary care physicians (PCPs) as well as cardiology clinics, who then ‘prescribe’ it to their patients.
Enara empowers clinics with a turnkey way to offer obesity management as a new service right ‘out of the box’. Since launching in 2019, Enara found that PCPs who use their software to engage patients on their weight loss journey had higher conversion, longer retention, and ultimately more effective and lasting weight loss results per patient.
Enara has two product lines: (1) The Patient Facing App and (2) the Physician-Facing Portal
The app is the interface by which patients access and manage their obesity care. It includes content, food tracking, messages from their doctor, and additional information like a portal to schedule appointments, and manage prescriptions and reminders. The Portal allows physicians to easily administrate both in-person and telemedicine care for their patients and intervene at appropriate moments to help their patients achieve the desired weight loss outcomes.
The platform accepts a wide array of options, including Anthem BlueCross, BlueCross BlueShield, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and Medicare.
Why did VSC Ventures Invest in Enara?
The first and most important thing that attracted us to Enara was the depth of clinical experience of their founding and executive team, starting with Dr. Rami Bailony who has over 16 years of experience in medicine.
It was from this experience that Rami knew, that despite new “blockbuster” drugs approved for weight loss by the FDA, these medications work best when encompassed within multi-modal and holistic programs, often referred to as ‘centers of excellence.’
Rounding out Rami’s experience is Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lydia Alexander, who was a chief resident and physician before joining Enara 2 years ago and has grown the number of providers on the platform by 10x over that time. Lydia is also the vice president of the Obesity Medicine Association which has over 3500 members and whose experience Enara can draw on to better the platform.
We also loved that Enara had clarity of purpose in the customer they were serving. While the end-user may be the patient, Enara focused the past 2 years on building a best-in-class platform for care providers to make it seamless to integrate Enara as an add-on to their clinics and practices. Essentially, making providers successful so they can make their patients successful. Much of this is in the capable hands of co-founder and CTO Felipe Baytelman who was previously co-founder and CTO of leading platforms like ClassPass, Goodtalk, and Noken.
Enara’s ability to get successfully get insurance to cover obesity treatments for a majority of their patients was also a very compelling facet of their business. Given the team’s clinical and operational expertise, they can help their partner clinics and medical providers work with insurance to cover a majority of the program’s cost for patients – ultimately increasing conversion and promoting higher retention.
Lastly, what convinced us to join Enara on their journey was the traction and results. Happy PCPs and cardiologists using Enara coupled with long retention data for Enara patients. Add to that proven effective weight loss of 15% on average per patient (~30lbs) across thousands of patients – whereas D2C competitors barely cracked 10% — and we believe Enara may be the solution our obesity crisis has been sorely wanting.
We are thrilled to join our frequent co-investors Offline Ventures as well as new co-investors Charge, Crossover, and Continuum as well as notable angels in Enara’s $6M round. Our sincere thanks to our friend and co-investor Raj Kapoor for introducing us to Rami and the Enara team.
America may be among the unhealthiest developed nations in the world today. But we are hopeful that with Enara, care providers can finally empower patients to take steps toward a healthier tomorrow.