The relationship between founder and investor is a critical one. In good times and bad. We share a little bit of background about how these relationships are built.
From our first meeting, it was clear Manish was a talented technologist with a unique business model, building in a clear white space. From my time studying the health sector, I knew there was a class of vendors offering software for preventative care in the MSK space, but no one was focused specifically on this idea of Prehab and Rehab like PeerWell. The market was chasing Employer Benefits programs, but Manish saw an opportunity to support Workers Compensation programs at a time when no one else was.
When I first met Michael, it was obvious both he and his team understood the MSK space and we were able to jump into substantive conversations that were critical to the next stages of my business. Many VC’s will bring on outsourced consultants during a diligence process, but this team had done their own homework, which I appreciated. Actually, this was a key factor in deciding to work with OMERS Ventures. As an early stage founder, you want partners who are genuinely interested and invested in the industry and your company. I knew Michael had extensive experience in the health sector, but he was still willing to spend the time drilling down into the specifics of this industry, in service of providing continuous value over the long term.
We also take the long view. We are not passively investing in a stock – we invest to build. So we view ourselves as a company’s reserve team, willing to roll up our sleeves and scrub in when we’re needed. We were impressed by what Manish and his team were able to do in 4 years with minimal investment. Our Series A enabled PeerWell to further resource the team, so they could go from a steady jog to an all-out sprint. It’s been incredible to watch how rapidly they iterate on innovation. Their increased customer acquisition rates are proof of their understanding of the market needs.
The Series A raise is always a significant milestone for a company. We were clear on our market and product, and we were ready to bring in the right processes and leadership team to help us level up. OMERS Ventures has been a great support through this stage of our growth. Even from the start, through the diligence process, it was clear this team is smart on process, and that has helped us improve our own processes and go-to-market plans. Michael’s 10+ years in the health sector help him to better evaluate our core strengths against the industry landscape, like building channel partnerships, and then support us through building a strategy to leverage these strengths.
We’ve also benefitted from this relationship. This is the first company I backed with a 100% virtual office, and it was a timely insight to see how they were able to work remotely, successfully. It was the body of evidence that I needed to really believe a company can operate effectively in this way. We didn’t know at the time that we would all go virtual when COVID hit us in 2020, but we benefited when it did - both our own business and our broader portfolio – from what we’d seen and learned from PeerWell.
We are happy to support other companies in the OMERS portfolio, just as we benefit from being part of the family. The broader OMERS network only became apparent to us after we signed the term sheet and started working together, but once you’re in, it’s clear how valuable a network it really is. The Ventures team was quick to unlock that value, and we were introduced to some great (and helpful) individuals and organizations. Today we are actively working with a company in their Equity group, Paradigm, because of just such an introduction. OMERS also connected us with leadership from their Pensions groups in Canada, like the Ontario Police Union, who have members that could benefit from our services. As we look at opportunities to expand internationally, these connections become key.
We are excited about the future of PeerWell. The need for and adoption of telehealth has increased exponentially, and this rate was compounded when COVID hit. PeerWell was well-positioned to offer critical services that enabled people to safely get the care they require. While the pandemic certainly escalated the use and adoption of this type of healthtech, it’s also proven where the opportunities are, and shifted the market in service of consumers. We are witnessing telehealth shifting to accommodate a wider range of segments – chronic and specialty care for example. You can see how technology will allow people to ‘age in place’ vs institutionalized care if that’s their preference. Rehab products, diagnostic tools, and on demand visits are examples of where technology will enable this.