(New York, New York) November 17, 2015 – FruitStreet.com, a New York telehealth startup focused on lifestyle modifications and wellness, now has $4.0M in funding and funding commitments, primarily from 60 physicians committed to improving clinical outcomes. These investments have been made over the last 18 months as the Fruit Street telehealth platform has gone from an idea to its use at major academic medical centers and private practices.
The decision to seek equity investments from physicians and engage them as advisors is a key strategic decision from Fruit Street’s CEO & Founder, Laurence Girard. Physicians are investing not only to receive a return on investment, but because they care about Fruit Street’s social mission and improving clinical outcomes. Fruit Street’s social mission is to prevent and treat lifestyle related disease using telemedicine, wearable devices, and mobile applications.
Fruit Street converted from a Delaware C-Corp to a Delaware Public Benefit Corporation last year. As a recent Forbes article points out, “incorporation as a benefit corporation legally protects an entrepreneur’s social goals by mandating considerations other than just profit. By giving directors the secured legal protection necessary to consider the interest of all stakeholders, rather than just the shareholders who elected them, benefit corporations can help meet the needs of those interested in having their business help solve social challenges.”
Fruit Street is not following the traditional path of driving up and down Sand Hill Road, the Menlo Park street famous for its concentration of venture capital firms.
“Traditionally technology entrepreneurs have sought funding from venture capital firms,” notes Girard, and “there is a problem with that approach if you are trying to have a social impact. Venture capital firms have limited partners to whom they have a fiduciary obligation to make their return on investment as large as possible. This means that most venture firms are exclusively interested in maximizing returns, not having a social impact. I personally believe that you can do both at the same time and that if you are focused on having a social impact, you will be more financially successful. This is because you are more focused on solving problems for your customers.”
Another benefit in targeting physicians as investors is that they often use the product in their practice and can connect us with their colleagues in the healthcare industry at an institutional level, which is traditionally difficult to penetrate. The feedback provided by physicians and connections to research opportunities is also extremely valuable.
Rule 506(c) of Regulation D of the Securities and Exchange Commission enables Fruit Street to generally solicit its investment opportunity to qualified physician investors without securities registration, something that was not legally permitted until The JOBS Act was passed a few years ago and signed into law by President Obama. In particular, Girard credits the inspiring press conference President Obama conducted on the White House lawn upon the signing of the JOBS Act as one his inspirations for his investor approach.
Girard went on to say, “Our goal is to keep Fruit Street almost exclusively funded by physicians who will ultimately be the users of our product. Due to new JOBS Act regulations, Fruit Street could raise $50M in funding from 1,000 physicians investing $50K instead of pursuing venture capital. These physician investors provide us with valuable input to our product and their expertise is priceless. Our physicians also share and reinforce our vision for achieving a social impact and improving clinical outcomes in healthcare.”