Mail-order lab test startup EverlyWell makes million-dollar deal on ABC's Shark Tank

By Jonah Comstock
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Online mail-order lab testing startup EverlyWell showed off its wares on ABC’s Shark Tank last night, securing a $1 million line of credit from host Lori Greiner. CEO and founder Julia Cheek appeared on the long-running reality TV show, in which entrepreneurs pitch a panel of high-profile investors.

“I think it’s an incredible milestone to have a company like EverlyWell — it’s incredible for the industry that we were selected and aired on a show like Shark Tank,” Cheek told MobiHealthNews. “It really shows the intersection of what’s happening in consumer healthcare and the high cost in healthcare, and that people are really responding to new solutions.”

The company allows consumers to order a range of lab tests from its website. EverlyWell sends customers a collection kit for blood, urine, or saliva. Customers send back the sample, and Everlywell delivers results online in a format that can be understood by a layperson, and as a report they can share with a physician. A big part of the pitch is that it lets customers get their lab test for a reliable, upfront cost, rather than getting an unexpected bill from a lab after insurance didn’t pay for a test.

As Cheek explained on the program, she was inspired by personal experiences to create the platform.

“I went to a lot of doctors and took a lot of tests, which took a lot of time and cost me a lot of money in unexpected lab bills,” she said during Sunday’s broadcast. “All I received was a bunch of this paper with numbers, which I spent weeks researching, on my own, with no help. I thought there had to be a better way. And that’s why we built EverlyWell.”

The investment marks the largest deal Greiner has ever made on the show in terms of check size and the largest valuation deal for a solo woman entrepreneur in the show’s history.

Cheek also shared some interesting financial and usage data from EverlyWell on the show. The company has done $2.5 million in sales since launching last summer and is on a $400,000 per month run rate. It is growing 20 percent a month on average, and forecasts $5.5 million in sales next year and $12.3 million the following year.

Cheek also said the company’s STD test is 10 percent of its business, and the addition of that test took their user base from 85 percent female down to 75 percent female.

Four of the five of the sharks opted out because they thought the business would need too much money to be competitive in a rapidly growing space, though they were generally positive about the product. But Greiner decided to go for it, offering a million-dollar line of credit — at 8 percent interest — rather than the million dollar investment Cheek went in seeking.

“I think the product is brilliantly crafted,” Greiner said. “It’s really nice, it’s really easy, it’s super clear. I think the state of healthcare in our country now is so precarious. Millions right now are out of insurance or fearing that they will be. I think this gives people an empowered way at least to check on some things, to know whether or not they have to go find a doctor.”

Known as the QVC Queen, Griener has extensive experience with the design and marketing of consumer products, which she'll share with EverlyWell as part of the deal. Additionally, Cheek told MobiHealthNews that EverlyWell tried out for Shark Tank for the exposure as much as for the investment.

“Fundamentally our product is direct to consumer,” she said. “Although we have physicians involved in the process, consumers are the ones who make the decision to purchase and we just felt like there was such an education opportunity being able to be on a program like Shark Tank, just in communicating to the American public that this is even a choice for their testing. Because there’s such low awareness that this process exists, that you can order it online, it’s still physician approved, et cetera.”

EverlyWell is at least the second digital health company to go on Shark Tank. Digital oral health company Breathometer got $500,000 from Mark Cuban on the show in 2013.