Primary care company Forward cuts 5% of workforce amid 'extremely tough' market conditions

Primary care company Forward, reportedly worth more than $1 billion, is the latest digital health startup to feel pressure from the current market downturn.

The company confirmed to Fierce Healthcare it cut 5% of its workforce.

"Due to the extremely tough market conditions, we laid off a small group of people, representing about 5% of Forward’s headcount. We were very sad to lose these folks and we’re supporting them with severance and outplacement services," a company spokesperson said via email.

The company did not disclose how many employees it had prior to the cuts.

San Francisco-based startup Forward Health launched in 2016 with a tech-enabled direct primary care business model as part of its bid to redefine the healthcare experience. It now operates clinics in 25 cities, including Miami, New York, Denver, Austin, Dallas and multiple locations throughout California.

Dubbing itself the primary care of the future, Forward provides membership-based preventive primary care that embeds advanced medical technology into the model including biometric body scans, genetic testing and real-time blood testing in 12 minutes.

The trendy startup has gained backing from big-name venture capital investors like Founders Fund and Khosla Ventures. The company also attracted investments from recognizable names in the music, sports and tech worlds.

Marc Benioff, founder, chairman and CEO of Salesforce, and musician The Weeknd are among investors to back Forward's $225 million series D funding round back in March 2021.

Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures and Softbank, among others, also participated in the funding round.

That funding round boosted Forward's valuation to $1 billion.

In April 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the startup laid off 3% of its staff, Business Insider reported. Those cuts targeted employees in recruiting and expansion roles, the company confirmed. Forward had about 350 employees at that time, Insider reported.

Forward executives say the company is building healthcare a product with a strong focus on using tech and innovation to scale up medical services.

"Forward does not build doctor offices. We build hardware and software that scales," Forward’s CEO and founder Adrian Aoun said recently during the Collision 2022 technology conference in Toronto.

"Healthcare shouldn’t be a service we think healthcare should be a product. We are going to build technologies and tools so the role of the doctor changes. We want doctors to go from the person who is fixing the flu on you to writing the software and hardware that fixes the flu on millions and billions of people," Aoun said. "We want to move from doctors fixing one person at a time to medical engineers who fix the problem once and for all. We want to build healthcare that innovates rapidly."

Digital health companies enjoyed a pandemic-fueled boom in the past two years, but changing market conditions have forced some startups to scale back their workforces.

Healthcare payments company Cedar cut 24% of its workers, the company confirmed to Fierce Healthcare last week.

Ro, which offers pharmacy services, telehealth and in-home care, recently confirmed that it cut 18% of its workforce amid a market downturn. Carbon Health, a hybrid primary care company that banked a hefty $350 million funding round a year ago, reduced its global workforce by about 250 employees, the company announced in June.

Beleaguered mental health startup Cerebral also announced layoffs as it restructures its operations. The company is mired in a federal investigation of its prescribing practices.

Health tech companies cutting staff this year included Mfine, a Bengaluru, India-based platform company (600 employees laid off); Stockholm-based digital health company Kry (100 employees); Thirty Madison, which recently merged with Nurx (24); divvyDOSE (62); Noom (495); Ahead (44); Chinese healthcare company WeDoctor (500); and Truepill, according to, which keeps a database of reported layoffs.

At-home diagnostics company Cue Health also is slimming down its business, cutting 170 people from its manufacturing workforce, Fierce Biotech reported.

Irish tech unicorn LetsGetChecked has laid off a number of employees over the past week, including staff working in Dublin, the Business Post reported.