'LinkedIn for healthcare' startup lands $13M backed by Menlo Ventures, Novartis

A startup called H1 landed $12.9 million in a Series A funding round to scale up its platform that serves as a LinkedIn for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.

The company's first institutional funding round was led by Menlo Ventures, a 44-year old venture capital firm, and was joined by Novartis DRX, Y Combinator, and Liquid 2 Ventures, a seed-stage fund led by former NFL quarterback Joe Montana.

Other investors participating in the round included Baron Davis Enterprises, ClearPoint Investment, Jeff Hammerbacker and Underscore VC.

H1 will use the capital to grow its existing team including sales, product designers, and engineering, as well as to fuel expansion into additional market segments.

The New York City-based startup developed a massive digital professional database and data analytics platform that connects healthcare professionals and life science companies.

Its platform provides comprehensive in-depth profiles of more than 8 million healthcare professionals and 16,000 institutions in 70-plus countries, all of which are kept up-to-date weekly. It's the largest such data platform in the industry, according to the company.

"It's a data platform that profiles every healthcare professional, including their expertise, educational history, where they are affiliated, the research they are doing and have done throughout their career, publications, clinical trials, patents, grants, and all clinical activity," Ariel Katz, H1 co-founder and CEO, told FierceHealthcare.

The platform leverages AI and machine learning to identify the thought-leading doctors in a given disease area, according to the company.

RELATED: Digital health investments were off to a record start. How will COVID-19 change things?

Medical affairs and marketing professionals at pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, and healthcare organizations use H1’s interface to identify and connect with the healthcare professionals most relevant to the products they’re launching.

"Pharmaceuticals are a multi-billion-dollar market, and connecting with the right healthcare professionals can make or break a new drug. Until H1 there hasn’t been an easy and accurate way to identify and reach the right healthcare professionals,” Katz said in a statement.

Prior to H1, Katz co-founded several data platforms, including ResearchConnection, a searchable online database that helps connect students with research opportunities. That company was acquired by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

screen shot of provider database showing doctors name and clinical research
H1's provider database (H1)

He also started Labspot, a curriculum management system for medical school student research called Labspot.io, and Greensight, a platform to collect data to help scientists at universities make decisions. Shore Group acquired those two companies.

Katz and Ian Sax founded H1 in 2017 based on the idea of developing a platform to connect healthcare professionals to help pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical devices develop drugs and devices.

"Companies starting using the ResearchConnection platform and we didn’t understand it at the time, but there is a huge market for industry to collaborate with academia," Katz said.

RELATED: Startup Olive lands $51M from General Catalyst, Ascension Ventures

H1 counts over 35 pharmaceutical companies as clients including seven of the top 10, the company said.

The startup also has seen rapid growth and expansion of its global healthcare analytics platforms. Revenue grew 350% in 2019 compared to 2018. 

H1 is looking to expand into new market segments, including hospitals and health systems, and the provider community, Katz said.

"We want doctors to be users. We have 8 million doctor profiles and these are the most up-to-date, comprehensive profiles of those doctors, and they don't know it. I know they want to know it, and they want their own data and they want to benchmark against their peers," Katz said.

Despite the disruption to the healthcare industry from COVID-19 and pharma companies pausing clinical trials, use of the H1 platform has remained steady, Katz said.

RELATED: Investors poured $4B into healthcare AI startups in 2019

"Pharma professionals are still engaging with healthcare professionals," he said.

As a result of the COVID outbreak, there could be major changes in how healthcare professionals connect and that could drive demand for digital platforms like H1 for collaboration.

Katz says he sees H1 evolving to become that ecosystem to enable academic, industry, and healthcare professionals to collaborate, keep up-to-date on the latest research and share research.

“Advances in machine learning and AI are creating new opportunities to leverage data for a positive impact on human health,” said Greg Yap, partner at Menlo Ventures, in a statement. “H1 is harnessing the power of this data and providing a robust platform for pharma, biotech, and life sciences companies to connect with healthcare professionals. Their early traction is promising and shows that it meets a clear need for the industry.”

The company also announced that Yap will join H1’s board of directors.