Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from Cera.
London-based homecare company Cera announced that it has raked in $17 million in Series A funding with investors including Guinness Asset Administration, Yabeo, and Kairos.
The web-based platform was set up to help elderly people find care and support in their community. Its services include elderly care, palliative care, dementia care and several other options.
The two-year old company has some big names behind it, like former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK Sir Nick Clegg, who is serving as an advisor to the company. It has also has had some large profile wins in its time, like scoring a Pfizer Healthcare Hub: London competitive grant in 2017.
But this new funding come amidst controversy; last week Bloomberg reported that Cera staff and “people close to them” were logging on to customer review sites and posting fake reviews of the company. According to the report, a number of the reviews posted on review site Trustpilot were fake, with 12 having recently been taken down.
"We’ve found reviews written by family members and others associated with the company while other reviews were found to be fabricated," Kasper Heine, head of trust and transparency at Trustpilot, told Bloomberg. "We’ve sent the company a warning for breaching our guidelines and we continue to investigate the matter to see if further action is needed.”
In an email to MobiHealthNews, Cera opposed the "numerous false statements" the company said were included in the Bloomberg report, and that it is investigating the false reviews.
"We have looked into this, and TrustPilot have removed unverified reviews," Cera representatives wrote in an email to MobiHealthNews. "We pride ourselves on delivering outstanding, high-quality care, which is demonstrated through our platform’s automated customer feedback, which remains at a 95 percent satisfaction rate (as of April 27, 2018). We have partnered with several NHS organisations over the past year, successfully delivering NHS-funded and referred care services."
The Bloomberg report went on to say that seven of the 10 partnerships the startup claimed to have are not real. One of the listed partners, Barnet CCG, told Bloomberg that they were contacted by Cera but turned down the offer to partner.
These partnerships were another point of contention between Cera and the Bloomberg report.
"In 2018 we have delivered NHS CCG funded care with the following CCGs: Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Haringey, Enfield, and previously had partnered with CCGs including Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon, and East London Foundation Trust, in addition to marketing in NHS hospitals including: Central Middlesex, West Middlesex, Northwick Park, Royal Marsden, Whittington and Barnet & Chase Farm," Cera wrote to MobiHealthNews. "We note that at the time the articles were written, our website was not fully up to date with these materials and have since rectified it — this was in part due to variable contractual expiry dates."
Bloomberg also reported data security issues. In the UK every organization that processes personal information has to register with the UK data regulator, according to the report. The company, which was founded in 2016, did not register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) until February of 2018, Bloomberg said. According to TechCrunch, Cera claimed to have started the process a year earlier.
"We initially applied to be registered with the ICO on 28th February 2017," Cera wrote in an email to MobiHealthNews. "We were officially registered with the ICO on the 28th February 2018 ... and like most companies are also taking significant measures to be [General Data Protection Regulation] compliant. We also have in place strict data protection governance, policies, and protocols (including encrypted IT protocols) and are diligently committed to monitoring, reviewing, and updating these measures."
The company plans to use the funding to expand its business across the UK and to develop its AI technology, including a chatbot assistant called “Martha,” according to TechCrunch. Nike Air Force 1 Low Grey Obsidian