May 26, 2020

#32: Andrew Dudum, CEO of hims & hers

New on the Fitt Insider podcast, Joe Vennare is joined by Andrew Dudum, CEO of hims & hers — a telemedicine company offering a modern approach to healthcare. The company has raised ~$200M in funding and its last public valuation was north of $1B.

In this episode:

  • The disruptive potential of telemedicine
  • The difference between wellness and healthcare
  • How hims & hers launched an FDA approved at-home test for COVID-19
  • Andrew’s plan to make hims & hers a public company worth more than $20B.

In the COVID-era, telemedicine is experiencing a massive boom as the disruption of healthcare accelerates. This conversation and Andrew’s vision for how him’s and her’s will transform the space is timely and compelling.

Check out an overview of the conversation below or listen to the entire episode for more.

What is hims & hers?

AD: hims & hers is a health and wellness company that makes getting access to specialists, doctors, medicine, treatments, across the spectrum of issues, exceptionally easy. 

We’ve built a telemedicine platform that lets you come to our website, select different conditions or issues you might be concerned with, such as hair loss or sexual health, and get connected with a physician that’s licensed in your state. You can have a quick and affordable consultation and then get the medication you need prescribed and delivered to your door within a couple of days. 

We’ve really rebuilt the healthcare system in a consumer-first world and built an incredible brand that’s authentic and fun that speaks to all of us in ways that encourage us to be our best version of ourselves.

What key insight led you to start the company? 

AD: We had insight from the very beginning from talking to many men and women about the existing health system and how it really didn’t meet their needs and expectations. 

Then when we started testing, the numbers became obvious. We put together a small amount of capital and essentially built a mobile app over a weekend. The app had you answer questions about your health and wellness, select different conditions that you’re worried about, and then pay to get connected with a physician to be evaluated for treatment.

We put some money into marketing to see how people respond to this kind of testing, and the numbers were outrageous. We went from zero to over a million dollars in sales in about five weeks with this prototype. We actually immediately shut it down because we weren’t staffed to equip this business successfully. But, we analyzed the data to see who the customers were and the types of issues they were experiencing. And then we lined up that data against other ideas we were testing and saw that acquisition costs were so much more affordable.

All of those numbers gave us the confidence that the demand was there, we knew how to scale it, and we knew the type of customer that was going to buy this end product. We decided to raise some seed capital and spent maybe nine months building the hims & hers brand, the telemedicine infrastructure, the pharmacy drug supply chain, and the team.

How has the vision evolved? 

AD: Often when entrepreneurs start a company, they realize there’s depth to their company they might not have known. It starts simple, but there’s more underneath the surface of what customers want and it’s abundantly clear. 

hims & hers was exactly like that. We knew the potential was there from the beginning, but it became obvious within the first months customers wanted more. They would reach out asking for insight on a number of medical issues and we saw the depth of consumer demand was there. 

The gap between what people want today, in a world where Amazon same-day delivery is the norm, the traditional, lengthy doctor visit routine is just not an experience that is up to par. And we saw demand from the beginning and is why we’ve had our eyes set on this not being just a small health and wellness brand, but actually us rebuilding the healthcare system in a way that 10-15 years from now will be what the healthcare system is for the majority of the country. 

How do you differentiate between wellness and healthcare?

AD: In my mind, all of your health is on a spectrum. For example, there’s no different playing field of the spectrum from when you’re talking about meditation and yoga to when you’re talking about anxiety medications. They are just on different sides of how serious and how Eastern versus Western you want to go for a specific condition. 

And I think the new norm is when people have issues they’re struggling with related to their health and wellness, mental or physical, they need to make a decision of where on that spectrum they want to start. Some might be willing to go straight to the pharmaceutical end while others prefer to start earlier on the spectrum.

For hims & hers, we need to offer that full spectrum because it’s all health related. It’s all healthcare. It’s all wellness. It’s all the exact same thing. It’s just a question for people on their preference, how serious the issue is, and how aggressive they want to be, because all of that will inform where we begin.

I very much believe over the course of the next few years, this trend will continue to happen where wellness and health are fairly interchangeable. Because if you ask me today after looking at the millions of customers who buy all types of products from us, there is no discernible difference between those two words.

How do you increase access and reduce stigmas? 

AD: The vision for the company was always founded in this pillar of improving access for people to health and wellness products, and when you start to chip away at what access means and what the barriers are, there’s a few.

For one, there’s cost. In a lot of situations, people just frankly can’t afford a specific prescription, so we’ve been able to compound it and get it to you at huge price reduction. Location was a barrier as well. Two thirds of rural communities in this country are in medical deserts, which means there’s not a specialist physician for all of these conditions within a couple of hours of driving, which is a huge problem.

And then the last big bucket is stigma. People feel ashamed about certain conditions and don’t want to talk about it or admit that they’re struggling. They don’t even know who to talk to, but even if they did, they don’t want to go in person and discuss it. 

The stigma accounted for a very large percentage of the access problems for the majority of medicines we started with. Breaking down  stigma—being a catalyst for conversations, making the products beautiful and the brand engaging—was exceptionally intentional because we saw stigma was the barrier for so many men and women preventing them from even taking the first step of being well.

As a company, we hold it as a pillar. We need to continue to activate conversations, be front and center, talk to people authentically, encourage them to be well, and hopefully decrease some of those barriers preventing them from taking care of themselves.

How does hims & hers stand out in the telemedicine space?

AD: We approach it from a consumer perspective first and have always been direct to consumer. When you think about the healthcare system, the consumer is the person getting care, but when you look at the financial incentives within the healthcare system, so many people are making money and being optimized except for the consumer. It’s terribly expensive for them. 

As a business, will always be oriented towards people and making it easier, simpler, more affordable, more beautiful, and more enjoyable for people. We’re going to do all of the nasty stuff behind the scenes with pharmacies, provider networks, and insurance, etc. so that you can come to us and feel like you’re shopping at your favorite brand and getting an experience you love. And I think that’s something that’s going to be very different from the rest of the crowd.

How do you determine which products to develop?

AD: It’s a mix of two things. One, we listen to our customers. They share their stories on social media about their experiences and we talk to them frequently to understand what they’re most worried about, other products they feel would be complementary to existing treatments, and even completely new areas they’re feeling concerned about that we could hopefully play a role in solving. 

Second, we work with some of the best medical communities in the country who are able to help educate us on the conditions that are most negatively affecting health for men and women in the country. We’re looking at a matrix from the top down number standpoint to see where we actually make the biggest impact in people’s lives and people’s health. 

How was the COVID-19 home test developed? 

AD: This was a huge push for the company the last couple of months. We all know the testing limitations are some of the biggest reasons why we’ve struggled to get back to work and why our ability to flatten the curve has been worse than the majority of countries. 

We worked with partner labs and with the FDA directly to show data that an at home test where a customer could self collect safely at home, which saves our doctors time and lets them focus on the critically ill, is just as safe and effective as doing it in person with a doctor.

With that data, they were convinced and we were able to launch the test and we’re really proud to have it live on the platform today. So, anybody experiencing a symptom of COVID-19 can come to our website for a quick consultation, then a physician will prescribe you an at home saliva test which will get shipped overnight to your door. You spit in a tube, and use the prepaid return label to ship it back overnight back to our partner labs and you’ll get results on your phone within a day or two.

A lot of companies tried to do this and had the best intentions, but I think the vast majority of them moved a little too fast and didn’t work hand in hand with the FDA. And for that reason, the FDA shut them down almost immediately. 

What are you focused on next? 

AD: I think it’s a little simpler than people think, which is, focus on the customer. Understand the issues they’re struggling with, the conditions they’re fearful of, and the barriers preventing them from getting treated. Then, figure out on the back end how to make it as simple as possible. 

It could be through telemedicine, supply chain, pharmacy operations, strategic partnerships, etc. It could take shape in a lot of different ways, but focus on the customer and continue to make it easier, more affordable, and more beautiful to take care of their health and wellness.

**Note: Andrew’s answers have been edited for brevity and cohesion.

About Andrew Dudum:

Andrew Dudum is the Founder and CEO of Hims & Hers, a direct-to-consumer health and wellness company that provides access to medical-grade products and preventative solutions via telemedicine.

Andrew is a serial entrepreneur. Previously he co-founded Atomic, a venture-builder in San Francisco backed by Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen, and is an active Angel Investor and Advisor to over two dozen startups. He co-founded Ever.com in 2013, one of the top iOS productivity apps across 95+ countries, and earlier in his career, led product at Tokbox.com through their acquisition by Telefonica. In 2007, he founded Lendforpeace.com, the first non for profit micro-lending platform for the Middle East. Andrew attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

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