Marc Benioff, The Weeknd invest in Forward's $225M series D to expand primary care footprint

Forward Health said it will use nearly a quarter-billion in new financing to rapidly expand its healthcare system nationwide, with several new locations slated to open in the first half of 2021. (Forward Health)

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.

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.

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

“I invested in Forward Health because I walked into the Los Angeles location and couldn’t believe what I saw: a state-of-the-art facility that looked like the exact opposite of what you’d expect to see in a typical doctor’s office—with no waiting room and everyone being seen straight away,” The Weeknd said in a statement. 

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The quarter-billion in new financing will be used to rapidly expand Forward Health’s healthcare system nationwide, with several new locations slated to open in the first half of 2021. Forward Health will also use the funds to introduce new doctor-led programs focused on heart health, cancer detection, COVID-19, stress, anxiety and weight management, the company said.

Led by serial entrepreneur Adrian Aoun, the company was launched five years ago with $30 million in funding backed by a who's who of investors including Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Benioff, Oscar founder Joshua Kushner and Uber co-founder Garrett Camp.  

“The pandemic has further exposed the limitations of traditional healthcare, and the band-aid of telehealth alone does not solve the problem. We’re grateful that our investors have recognized this, and are backing a new healthcare system that requires no insurance and no co-pay,” said Aoun, CEO and co-founder of Forward, in a statement. 

In addition to serving as a single-source for everyday, primary care, the company's insight-led care helps identify issues early to help members stay healthy for the long term, Aoun said.

Forward Health, one of Fierce Healthcare's Fierce 15 winners in 2020, currently has locations in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Seattle, California's Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The company provide members with unlimited in-person care at its tech-driven clinics, where first-time visits last an average of 60 minutes compared to the national average of 15 minutes.

During a member’s initial visit, more than 500 unique biomarkers can be captured—the vast majority of which are not commonly screened for. The findings are then incorporated into the member’s health plan, delivering an extremely comprehensive and precise baseline. Doctors and members work together to get ahead of health issues through continuous monitoring of biometric and behavioral data, which doctors use to create personal health programs that identify and treat issues before they become problems, the company said.

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Forward uses a direct primary care model, which means it doesn't work with insurance companies. Instead, it charges patients a $149-a-month fee the same way a patient might pay for a gym membership. 

The company further sought to differentiate itself by embedding technology including artificial intelligence, sensors and mobile apps in ways that aim to make healthcare more closely mirror consumer experiences, Nate Favini, M.D., Forward's medical lead, told Fierce Healthcare in 2019.

For its members, Forward Health offers a biometric full-body scan to provide the doctor with a complete picture of a member’s health. The visit includes a comprehensive blood panel drawn and delivered during the same visit. Members can also dive deeper into their health with genetic analysis, cancer screenings and home monitoring, which allows Forward Health’s care team to monitor and triage results 24/7 via a mobile app.

The company developed doctor-led programs that work on both immediate and long-term health. Members receive counsel on potential risk factors for cancer, diabetes, hypertension and more as well as guidance on issues such as stress management, high cholesterol, COVID-19 care, weight management and nutrition.

In 2020, the company launched Forward at Home to support patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. The service combines one-on-one consultations with our doctors, interactive health data visualizations and automated vitals monitoring.

Forward also announced Thursday the launch of its Healthcare is Backwards campaign that aims to expose how the current healthcare system makes it harder for people to care about their health due to archaic tools, rushed visits and hidden charges.