Two-year-old telehealth company RecoveryLink is one of three tech startups to receive funding from the Fund for Health, a new partnership between Penn Medicine and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative.
Over the next three years, the Fund will invest $5 million in early-stage businesses addressing the social determinants of the health of economically disadvantaged Philadelphians.
Philly-based RecoveryLink is the maker of an online suite of tools for people in recovery from substance use, mental health issues, disordered eating, trauma and more. RecoveryLink, returning citizens-focused CRM tool Uptrust of California and education software company Kinvolved of New York received a total of $750,000 from the fund.
Cofounder and CEO Robert Ashford told Technical.ly that along with an investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners in July, the company has raised $550,000 overall, all from from local investors. RecoveryLink hasn’t yet raised a seed round, and has been bootstrapped up until this point.
The platform offers services for individuals, employers and providers, including goal setting, management of peer-to-peer counseling, data collection and other aspects of care. Ashford called it a “real-time insight into what they’re accomplishing” in recovery plans earlier this year.
The 2021 RealLIST Startups runner up launched in 2019 — and in 2020, as care management adjusted to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, these virtual services became even more essential, Ashford said. Not many entrepreneurs wade into the recovery market, he added, whether it be due to negative stigmas around addition and recovery or not wanting to do business in the Medicaid market. But the startup has made the “right tools at the right time,” he said.
Since its launch, the CEO said, RecoveryLink has provided support services to more than 800,000 people through its recovery meetings, digital recovery yoga, and digital meditations; it also supports 1,400 peer specialists at more than 150 organizations. The company also launched statewide recovery support service hotlines in New Hampshire and Texas for those impacted by COVID-19 and other disasters.
The new Fund for Health is supported by a team of students from Wharton and Penn Medicine who are tasked with identifying and conducting due diligence on early-stage startups set out to strengthen social determinants of health — conditions like food insecurity, equitable healthcare or housing access that can directly relate to communities suffering poorer health conditions.
“Access to subject matter experts, ground-breaking research in addiction and mental health, as well as business operations will allow us to accelerate the business in ways that means more people served faster,” Ashford said about the fund’s benefits in a statement.
Each year, the students involved will find the most promising companies tackling these issues and the fund will make seed investments between $100,000 and $250,000. Companies may be local or outside the region, but their products, serves or operations much positively impact Philadelphia residents. Penn retains a minority stake in the companies that receive funds. The Fund expects to invest in up to 10 companies a year.
“The path to health equity needs unconventional and transformative approaches,” said Kevin Mahoney, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “Penn Medicine and Wharton joined forces to create the Fund for Health because we believe we have a responsibility not just to our patients but also the broader communities we serve.”
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