Curv Health’s initial focus was on measuring human motion using computer vision and machine learning. The Toronto and Halifax-based digital health startup’s early efforts went towards developing a proprietary tool that used these technologies to derive insights designed to inform preventative and rehabilitative care, which it built and then began licensing.
In an interview with BetaKit, Curv co-founder and CEO, Shea Balish, said the startup quickly realized that there was a much larger opportunity to apply the remote monitoring tech it had developed to its own full-stack digital clinic.
“We ended up on a much more ambitious path, which is making [this tool] a core feature in a much broader platform and building a potentially much bigger company,” he said.
Now, with $5.1 million CAD in seed financing co-led by two new investors (healthtech-focused Toronto-based iGan Partners and Atlantic Canada’s Build Ventures), Curv aims to fuel the next stage of its evolution into a “full-scale digital health clinic” that serves employers and healthcare providers alike.
Curv connects employers and insurance carriers to a range of healthcare providers serving physical, nutritional, and mental health needs, including physiotherapists, psychotherapists, counselors, dietitians, and certified diabetes educators.
In addition to iGan and Build, Curv’s all-equity, all-primary seed financing also saw follow-on participation from Globalive Capital and NewFund Capital, and support from new investor Kale Investment Fund. The round brings Curv’s total funding to $6.5 million, including a $1.5 million seed round in 2019.
“We look back at that as a pre-seed because we had a tool, we had a really niche piece of technology, and we had a hammer looking for a nail,” said Balish.
According to Balish, Curv’s shift in focus to building a full-stack digital clinic began pre-pandemic, and was supported by OMERS Ventures alum Mark Goad, who joined the startup as COO in 2020.
Since then, COVID-19 has led to accelerated demand and investment in the digital health space. “There’s obviously been massive tailwinds,” said Balish. “But it also means there’s massive competition in this space. It’s an incredibly crowded space, and so we’re very much wide-eyed about that.”
“There’s all these niche point solutions, and then there’s the really comprehensive telehealth platforms, but neither are doing everything, and understandably so,” said Balish.
Enter Curv, which is building “a comprehensive digital clinic that works across different healthcare verticals.”
With this move into building a full-stack digital clinic, Balish said Curv has increased its risk profile and “taken on more infrastructure” to build. “At Series A, there’s often core risks that have been solved,” he said. “I still think we’re at a stage of risk that would be recognized as seed-stage.”
Balish added that Curv’s latest funding came at different terms and a higher valuation than its 2019 round. According to the CEO, Curv intends to raise a larger Series A round at a later date.
As part of its latest round, iGan Partner Joel Finlayson and Build Ventures General Partner Patrick Keefe are joining Curv’s board of directors. Keefe told BetaKit that Curv is creating value in “two massive and intertwined markets” — employer-based health and wellness and enablement tools for healthcare providers.
“If their intended fly-wheel emerges, not only will employers benefit by partnering with Curv, but actual healthcare providers will have better tools to grow their own digital practice, which is a growing trend we see emerging across health professions,” said Keefe. “The ceiling is extremely high, and the Curv team is ruthlessly focused on enabling cost-effective care to scale.”
According to Keefe, Curv has already made “massive inroads” on this front, partnering with large insurance carriers, signing some of Canada’s biggest group benefits brokers as channel partners, and contracting a few of the country’s largest employers.
Curv has already attracted 3,000 healthcare providers to its platform. The startup has also opened virtual clinics in every Canadian province and territory, and begun its planned United States (US) expansion with a virtual clinic in New York.
Curv plans to use some of its seed financing to support its launch in other US markets in 2022. Balish declined to disclose which specific US regions Curv is targeting, adding that the startup sees opportunity south of the border from a market size standpoint. “The [US] market is, at minimum, 10 times bigger than it is in Canada,” he said.
Since closing this funding in late December, Curv has already grown its team from 11 to 15. Balish said the startup expects to double its headcount over the next two years.
“I think Canada’s really poised to be a hotbed for health technology — healthtech in general — and it’s high time that Canadians lose their modesty and start building with really bold ambitions,” said Balish.