Tula Health Raises $24.1 Million, Valuation Rises to $187 Million
Tula Health, with offices in Farmington and Ogden, Utah, recently raised $24.1 million in debt and equity financing from two venture firms, Springtide Ventures and Sandbox Capital Advisors. Springtide is a health tech venture firm based in Utah and Boston, and Sandbox Capital Advisors is based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Tula Health creates behavioral change guidance via on-call support, and supporting hardware and software, shown below, to help their customers manage chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes—currently the company’s primary focus. Customers receive a smartphone with an FDA approved glucometer built in, along with a smart watch and supplies for glucose testing. A health coach uses the information received from these devices to help customers track and regulate their blood sugar levels.
David Derrick, CEO at Tula Health, said the capital would be used to grow inventory, as well as hiring and training additional staff.
“There's a certain mindset that really has to be in place to do this,” said Derrick about the support staff training. “Unless we actually do the teaching and the training, we don't get there. There's a six week process with three nationally accredited certifications that each one of our coaches has to achieve in order to interact with and coach members. We require that everybody go through diabetes education, paraprofessional training levels one and level two, and be certified. We require that they all go through and get certified with motivational interviewing. Because again, so much of this is meeting these folks where they are, and figuring out how to really help them change their behavior... And then every one of our coaches is certified as a 911 emergency medical dispatcher, so that if our members end up in a crisis situation, everybody is trained on how to manage that. We can dispatch emergency medical services, we can manage them through the situation.”
The company has built a coaching center across the street from Weber State University in Ogden Utah. This facility can accommodate up to 120 health coaches that can manage the needs of up to 120,000 members. The location gives them an advantage as they are close to the nursing school and away from competing centers in Utah Valley.
The investment came in two stages. In December, Tula received $17M from Springtide Ventures, and in April, an additional $7.1M was invested by Sandbox Capital Advisors.
Austin Walters, co-founder and managing partner at Springtide Ventures said, “Tula takes the abundant clinical research showing the importance of human touch and empathy to behavior change and health seriously. They will be one of the largest employers in northern Utah as they grow their coaching team.”
Tula Health focuses on helping customers limit events where their blood sugar levels are too high or too low. “With engaged members we are able to reduce expenditures associated with emergency room visits by 26%,” said Kevin Sears, Executive Chairman of the Board of Tula Health. “Similarly, we're seeing a reduction of inpatient hospitalization expenditures and ambulance transportations of those members by about 35%—and those are very expensive services.”
The devices and on-call coach help prevent emergency hospital visits and ambulance costs. Sears says Tula Health saves their customers between $1,700 and $3,300 per year, per engaged member.
Tula Health works with Brigham Young University to further their research and development through a generous grant formally known as an ORCA grant. The name has recently been changed to RAO - the Research Administration Office. This grant allows students and faculty to work on cutting edge scientific endeavors. In conjunction with BYU, the company is currrently working on a non-invasive sensor fitted inside the smart watch. This sensor will analyze blood in the radial artery, allowing members and health coaches to see continuously and in real time a member's glucose, potassium, and hematocrit and hydration levels, giving them a better picture of their health. It could also open the market for customers with type one diabetes.
“At this point, we've proven, by and large, the scientific approach that we're pursuing is the correct path,” said Sears. “It's now about dialing it in—calibration work, signal to noise ratio—the kinds of things that just take time to get to medical grade, which is what we're committed to.”
Tula Health’s roadmap in the coming years will include support and treatments for other chronic conditions highly prevalent in the US population. These conditions include hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), obesity, and congestive heart failure.