In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Morris Esformes, co-founder of Malla, a functional medicine platform. Morris explains how he and his partner’s negative experiences with traditional healthcare led to a holistic, root-cause practice utilizing personalized diagnostics, supplements, and support.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at Malla?
Morris Esformes: Malla is a next-gen functional medicine platform democratizing access to holistic, root-cause care.
Functional medicine has the power to radically shift our approach to healthcare and to prevent and reverse chronic disease. However, it’s currently prohibitively expensive, difficult for people to apply to their day-to-day lives, and lacks a solution that’s built for modern consumer.
Malla offers access to functional medicine practitioners, specialty lab testing (like advanced gut and hormone panels), personalized health plans, and functional medicine doctor-formulated supplements — all for a quarter of the price of traditional functional medicine care.
It’s the most affordable functional medicine option on the market, and we’re building a brand and platform for the next generation excited to make long-term, impactful changes to their health.
How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?
ME: About four years ago, I experienced the power of the functional medicine approach to healing. I went to a handful of specialists in search of treatment for an overwhelming amount of anxiety, brain fog, and GI issues, but they all recommended more and more pills for each symptom.
Moms know best, and mine recommended I see a functional medicine expert. When I did, I was completely blown away at how they treated the root causes of my ailments, which in my case were SIBO, mercury toxicity, and some vitamin deficiencies! I felt like a completely new person after.
A couple of years later, my partner got really sick from being on antibiotics and steroids for months. She was hospitalized during the height of COVID with pneumonia, a 105° fever, and rashes all over her body. We were terrified. But, after my experience, she also saw a functional medicine doctor, who completely changed her approach to optimal health.
The big problem, though, was that a single consultation cost $800, and that was before lab tests, follow-up visits, supplements, and diet and lifestyle changes.
And, like many, she experienced firsthand how necessary it is to continue seeing your practitioner, who gave her a pretty comprehensive health plan that was impossible to follow on her own.
With substantial barriers to continued care, some of her symptoms ended up resurfacing.
That’s when I knew there had to be a better way. We shouldn’t have to deplete our savings to feel our best. And we shouldn’t be left in the dark when navigating our health. That’s why we’re making Malla the most accessible functional medicine platform on the planet.
How did you turn your idea into a company?
ME: As soon as I opened up about my own experiences with the healthcare system, everyone I talked to seemed to have a similar story to share.
Now more than ever, people are taking their health into their own hands, looking for alternative options beyond the traditional doctor’s office and voicing that they need support with lifestyle changes beyond simply taking another prescription.
I shared my vision with the functional medicine community and was immediately able to add best-in-class doctors to our clinical advisory board while also welcoming Tanya [Mezher], a talented dietitian who came to us from Parsley Health.
With a group of talented creatives and marketers, we built a brand that makes functional medicine feel different — more inviting, exciting, and that speaks directly to the challenges and trends we all contemplate around our health.
After raising our pre-seed round and bringing on a co-founder and CTO in Ammar Mian, we recently launched our early-access membership.
How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?
ME: Our mission is to democratize access to functional medicine, creating a world where no one has chronic headaches or anxiety, feels bloated after a delicious meal, can’t do their favorite activities, and so much more.
The US alone spends over $1T per year on the direct treatment of chronic conditions, and the global wellness industry was recently valued at more than $4T. We sit at the intersection of those two industries and have the founding team necessary to build Malla into a category leader.
To get from zero to one, we’re laser-focused on building a product people are obsessed with and use religiously to make meaningful changes to their health.
Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?
ME: There’s a huge opportunity to bring functional medicine to the modern consumer. While “wellness” has become an exciting category over the past decade, “healthcare” still has a ways to go.
We’re combining a provocative and powerful mission with a voice that speaks directly to a slightly younger generation (20s and 30s), engaging this group in a way no functional or even traditional health-related brand has before.
We’re excited by the opportunity to really create “viral” social content, release ground-breaking campaigns that change the way people think about their health, and, ultimately, fuel word-of-mouth referrals to make us the first functional medicine brand that people actually want to tell their friends about or share on their Instagram stories.
We’re also fueling our growth efforts with more traditional direct-to-consumer marketing strategies such as paid social advertising, influencer partnerships, and events with like-minded brands.
We’re well set up to play in the employer and provider markets too, which we plan to explore in the future.
Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?
ME: Over the next three to five months, we’re focused on growing our membership base through word-of-mouth and organic efforts while working with our early customers and practitioners to nail the experience.
We’re discovering how frequently we should be checking in with our members, what services they find the most valuable, and how we can expand our offering in the future to really be a complete one-stop shop for their well-being.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
ME: Because we just went live with early access to our membership, we’d love to extend an offer to all Fitt Insider readers. Sign up here with code FirstMonth10 for 10% off the first month of the monthly plan, or with code FirstYear20 for 20% off the first year of the annual plan!
If you’re interested in having your company featured in our Startup Q&A series, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.