Why Johnson & Johnson is investing in this niche telehealth startup

Former Google employees Demetri Karagas (left) and Steve Gutentag launched Thirty Madison to improve the way chronic conditions are treated. (Thirty Madison)

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is investing in direct-to-consumer telehealth company Thirty Madison.

New York City-based Thirty Madison offers telehealth visits and online prescriptions for drugs for hair loss, migraines and acid reflux.

Thirty Madison has scored $47 million in a series B funding round led by healthcare venture capital firm Polaris Partners.

Johnson & Johnson's innovation arm, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc., joined the round as a new investor. Existing investors Maveron and Northzone also participated in that round.

The startup, which launched three years ago, has raised a total of $70 million to date.

Thirty Madison launched its hair-loss treatment business, Keeps, in 2018, followed by Cove to serve migraine sufferers. It launched a brand for acid reflux treatment called Evens in September 2019.

Keeps was founded by former Google employees Steve Gutentag and Demetri Karagas to improve the way chronic conditions are treated.

The company enables patients to easily access specialist-level care combined with the convenience of telemedicine and treatment delivery.

Thirty Madison also recently rolled out urgent care consultations.

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With this new round of investment, Thirty Madison plans to further innovate in the digital healthcare space and launch new brands, according to Gutentag, co-founder and CEO of Thirty Madison.

"We are excited to have JJDC as an investor, given Johnson & Johnson's leadership across healthcare and consumer health, and their commitment to putting consumers and patients first," Gutentag said in a statement.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation's investment in Thirty Madison aligns with its overall strategy to bring new healthcare products and solutions to the people who need them most—in this case, where current gaps exist for those suffering from chronic health conditions, said Stacy Feld, head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, West North America, Australia and New Zealand, in a statement.

“At Johnson & Johnson Innovation,JJDC, Inc, our goal is to accelerate novel science and technologies that have the potential to make a transformational impact on human health,” she said. "We understand that each company is unique and requires a distinct investment strategy, and we believe strongly in value-add investing and playing an active role in the companies in which we invest."

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Johnson & Johnson sells products that treat the conditions Thirty Madison focuses on, such as hair loss and acid reflux.

The size of Johnson & Johnson's investment was not disclosed.

Digital health portfolio

Johnson & Johnson's innovation arm also has invested in other digital health companies.

In 2018, the company led a $25 million funding round in Carrot, a smoking cessation startup, and also backed neuro-technology and sleep tracking company Dreem in its $35 million financing round.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a surge in telehealth visits during the past five months, many industry stakeholders believe the adoption of virtual care has hit a tipping point and will play a bigger role in how healthcare is delivered going forward.

As a healthcare giant, Johnson & Johnson has been around for more than a century. The company's investment in a three-year-old telehealth startup points to its interest in supporting new models of healthcare outside of the traditional doctor's office.

Thirty Madison differentiates itself from bigger telehealth competitors like Teladoc by offering specialized care through virtual visits.

"For Thirty Madison, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to treatment—or to products. In addition to providing a range of issue-appropriate treatment options, the brands also partner directly with innovative healthcare companies to provide patients with increased access to the latest treatment options and offer meaningful cost savings," company executives said in a statement.

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The company has seen rapid growth during the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers shift to virtual care.

Halfway through 2020, the company's Keeps brand has surpassed its 2019 revenue, the company said.

Thirty Madison's Cove brand has made high-quality migraine care more accessible and affordable, helping 70% of patients see a reduction in migraine severity and driving a 79% reduction in emergency room visits due to migraine, the company said.

Cove also has entered into four pharmaceutical collaborations this year.

Biohaven Pharmaceuticals collaborated with the brand to launch its migraine treatment, Nurtec, exclusively on Cove's telehealth platform.

Along with the funding round, the company also announced that Amy Schulman, managing partner at Polaris Partners, will join Thirty Madison's board of directors.

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