Andrew Herr, founder of Fount, wants to customize healthcare. This one-size-fits-all approach, he says, is not working. But to do that, he needs better data. “The current data we have is garbage.”
Herr, who has worked with the military and executives on optimizing their health, is interested in expanding beyond that elite niche to a broader audience. It’s a step-by-step approach that he hopes will become more and more affordable with each step.
“Right now, we have a few different problems with the way healthcare is set up,” he explains. “First we have these studies and clinical trials that are based on small numbers of people, only about 20 to 40 usually. Secondly, they’re using mice — and these are not even like mice that you would find in the wild, they’ve been altered. Third, the incentive right now is to turn out more papers and studies, because that’s what medical research is funding. So academics are stuck in this model.”
Instead of small groups of people for clinical trials, Herr says you’d need thousands to build a better data set. Instead of mice, you’d need humans. And instead of a few simple blood tests, you need bloodwork done over a longer period of time, coupled with other forms of testing and surveys.
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By working with executives through his coaching business (who pay about $3,000 a month), he already has some of this data. However, he needs to scale it up. That costs money, and requires more support.
This week, Fount announced that it’s raised $12 million for its Series A. Plus, he’s part of a team that has the skillset to move in this broader direction. His co-founder Clayton Kim, for example, has a background in machine learning and AI, having worked as a data scientist at major companies before working on Fount. “So we have the expertise to be able to build this out,” Herr iterates.
“We get so much data per client. What we need is about 5000 people to go through the program. That’s not a crazy number of people to get accurate models, that could be used to build out a more customized approach to healthcare.”
Herr has already developed a product that tackles jetlag, somewhat as a proof of point. And he says it’s been effective, claiming to help nearly all their customers deal with the uncomfortable effects of jetlag. Similarly, he’s worked with women on menstrual issues, advising them on techniques to reduce cramps and monthly pain.
In the coming months, Herr is going to introduce a product that’s focused on sleep. Essentially, he wants to tackle the usual lifestyle pain points: sleep, stress, mood, focus. While these will all cost less than his monthly coaching fee, they’re still considered a “premium” service.
His goal, though, is that in a couple years, he’ll be able to drive down the price significantly enough that it’s competitive with the cost of a monthly gym membership or yoga class pass. “I’m not doing this to just help executives. I really want to reach as many Americans as possible.”
And the answer is not just supplements. It’s a combination of techniques from changes in your lifestyle, sleep, meditation, exercise, nutrition, and more. “Supplements are helpful. But they have to be given at the right time and in the right dosage for them to truly make a difference.”
That kind of customized approach, he argues, could help American address the underlying causes of inflammation and so many chronic conditions that can be reversed through non-medical intervention.
In fact, because the medical world requires a fair amount of regulatory rigor, Herr and his colleagues have taken Fount down the wellness route instead. “But to be honest, I think a lot of lifestyle-related illnesses can be cured without prescription meds. Actually, often they’re just managed with prescription meds, not cured,” he says.
And while there are a slew of health tech gizmos that people can use to monitor their sleep, activity, stress, etc., he finds that these companies are not as effective in providing a solution. “They tell you that your sleep is not great. But they’re not advising you on how to fix it, beyond just going to bed sooner. We want to be able to say to each person, based on their specific circumstances, what could help with that.”
So could Fount be a part of the transition to customized healthcare in America with a more holistic look at the human body? This week’s funding announcement is just a start.