A few years ago, we watched the raise of the organic and health-conscious food movement sweep across major urban areas. Farm-to-table restaurants and all-natural body products have become staples across the United States, and the globe, as people become more invested in their own bodies and health. Just look at the incredible evaluation, and purchase, of Whole Foods by Amazon that we saw earlier this summer, the health-conscious movement does not appear to be going away anytime soon.
Now, those who want to monitor and improve their wellness have expanded options with the rise in at-home testing services designed to provide greater insight into the invisible biological processes occurring within. Improving technology has only increased our desire for actionable data, creating room for these services to grow by leaps and bounds.
In 2015, Julia Cheek founded a home health testing platform, EverlyWell, that has received acclaim from TechCrunch, CBS, Fast Company, and the Harvard Business School. Based in Austin, TX, EverlyWell has raised $5 million to date and is one of the fastest-growing consumer healthcare startups in recent history. They’ve reached millions in sales in just one year after launching in beta and in 2017 Julia was named the number one female entrepreneur to watch by CIO magazine for 2017.
With a mission of providing actionable insight regarding the biomarkers that appear on testing results so informed wellness decisions can be made, Everlywell has developed a convenient at-home process that has removed the layers of doctor appointments and difficult to understand results. Their recent partnership with Helix has also brought genomic testing to the platform, making them at the forefrongt of genomic and biomarker consumer testing.
We spoke with Julia about the founding of her company and where she hopes it will be heading in the future.
Junto Health (JH): Can you fill us in on the origin story of EverlyWell? Did you always plan on getting involved in the digital health field?
Julia Cheek (JC): After personally having a really bad experience with very expensive lab testing that resulted in little explanation from my doctors, I knew there had to be a better way – especially since managing biomarkers is a top contributor to preventing chronic disease. With a few other passionate people, EverlyWell was launched one year ago to redesign lab testing to be convenient and meaningful.
I had lots of ideas for companies before we started EverlyWell - but I decided to take the leap because timing is really important for startups, and this is the right time for consumer lab testing. There’s a fast-growing $250B industry around consumer-centered care -- think 23andMe, FitBit, Doctor on Demand, etc. I also believed people were more comfortable self-collecting which was a behavior first set out by 23andMe. But lab testing has been virtually untouched in the consumer health revolution - yet it’s so important to health management.
What started as a major inconvenience when I was trying to get a few lab tests run turned into a brand and service that helps thousands of people every month simplify health testing -- and gives you more control and access to testing.
JH: EverlyWell boasts a wide spectrum of tests covering everything from more common sexual health tests and thyroid tests to unique breast milk DHA tests and food sensitivity tests. How did you develop this wide spectrum of offerings?
JC: Our mission is as strong as the day we started: to be the next-generation health testing platform designed completely around you, the person who matters the most to your health. Through easy online ordering for test kits, at-home collection, and completely redesigned lab results that are easy to understand, we’ve transformed the testing experience to be focused on the individual.
We’re lucky to have a team that is so dedicated to our mission, and who are constantly working to add new tests to our platform. We started with only three tests to sell, and now we have fourteen options available.
JH: When individuals receive their test results what is included in the analysis and how are these insights developed?
JC: The process is super easy! EverlyWell’s test kit is shipped directly to you, no need to go to multiple appointments normally required by traditional labs. No copays, no time off work, no dingy labs. The sample collection is quick and easy, and only requires a few drops of blood.
EverlyWell provides easy-to-follow instructions and materials to collect your own sample on your own time. We work with accurate and certified partner labs.
JH: What has been the most challenging aspect of getting EverlyWell off the ground? The easiest?
JC: It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come in just one year, and while I can’t say that any of it has been easy, I wouldn't trade a minute of the experience. In terms of the challenging part -- I think one year at a startup is equivalent to 5 years in the corporate world. I’ve had to become an expert in every function and grow the company and team at a very fast pace. It’s been a very rewarding and challenging experience starting and growing a company, but ultimately I can’t imagine going back!
JH: EverlyWell’s team has a significant number of women in leadership positions, which is incredibly exciting to see in a healthcare company! Do you have any advice for other women who are trying to break the glass ceilings in the healthcare and tech industries?
JC: I’ve always worked in mostly male industries, so the startup world isn’t any different for me, but I think that female founders tend to have less of a support network than when you are in a corporate leadership role. I think it's helpful to have a small group of female founders/CEOs that you can connect with in your city -- those have been my most valuable relationships. I get great investor and press announcements through that group, and we really support one another's requests.
JH: What are the next 3 milestones for EverlyWell?
JC: We are working harder than ever to bring you more tests, more content, and more cutting-edge services that can enhance your experience with EverlyWell.