Q&A with YoDerm’s Ben Holber
YoDerm allows anyone to get a prescription treatment plan from a dermatologist within 24 hours. Submit a consultation on your phone or computer in 10 minutes, and have a personalized treatment plan in your hands the very next day.
Ben Holber is the CEO and co-founder of YoDerm. We caught up to chat about the founding of the company, his time at 500 Startups as a digital health company, and his philosophy on customer acquisition in B2C health care.
Scott: Every company has a good founding story, would love to hear more about how you and Ryan (YoDerm’s other co-founder) decided to found YoDerm and leave behind well-paying jobs elsewhere?
Ben: I’ve struggled with acne since high school and after being let down by Christina Aguillera and Proactiv, I sought care from a dermatologist. I had a very traditional American experience seeking care…in that it was bad. I waited over a month before the doctor was available, I had to miss school and drive 30 minutes to her office where I sat in the waiting room for 30 minutes, etc.
Compare that to my co-founder Ryan, who I met in the 6th grade: whose dad is a dermatologist. He received care whenever he needed it and on a daily basis. Throughout high school, his complexion was always clearer. So through our experiences (and my bitterness) we created a better way for anyone to get on-demand dermatological care.
Scott: Founding a company is full of highs, lows, and the infamous “trough of sorrow”, how did you guys push forward and keep your eye on the prize through the roller coaster?
Ben: It’s definitely been a battle :-)
I look at perseverance as a factor of motivation vs. discipline. Motivation being the drive to accomplish something you prefer spending time on; discipline being the willpower to accomplish something you’d rather not spend time on. Our motivation comes from our patients, and our discipline comes from each other.
Scott: Direct-to-consumer can be difficult in health care, dermatology may be an exception, do you have any advice for companies looking for how to attract consumers for growth?
Ben: Good question. Let me contextualize this by saying that we still work hard everyday to grow the patient base without increasing our acquisition costs. As opposed to regurgitating all of Brian Balfour’s growth machine structure, I’ll just point you there: http://www.coelevate.com/
Scott: There are a few companies in the teledermatology space, how do you guys think of YoDerm as being differentiated from your competitors?
Ben: We’re laser focused on providing a comprehensive experience and improved outcomes on just a few conditions. Likewise, we’re purely DTC.
Scott: You’ve been a part of 500 Startups for the past few months, health care would seem to be a very unique sector to mentor, what was that experience like specifically as a health care company?
Ben: The Digital Health Track @ 500 Startups is brand new, so they have some work to do. But the fundamentals of 500 Startups are still very applicable to any business (growth, funding, product, team, etc.). Likewise, their brand and network is so strong that a little hustle can get you in the door pretty much anywhere. Our team benefited immensely from the program, particularly in growth and fundraising. As we’re DTC, we fit well with their current curriculum.
Scott: Would you have any advice for other health care companies thinking about applying to the program?
Ben: Ed Spiegal and Rebecca Woodcock are the mentors who lead the healthcare track at 500. From our conversations, they are traction > anything else. So any conversation with them has to start with your numbers, however you measure success.
Scott: Were there any other health care companies in the program that got you particularly excited?
Ben: Neutun — They provide a suite of free tools for epileptics to live better, more independent lives. Any free app that has actually saved a life deserves a shout out :-)
Scott: Any other advice you have for current or would be entrepreneurs attacking problems in health care?
Ben: When speaking to healthcare investors:
- Know your numbers
- Have a comprehensive understanding of how healthcare in the US works (not just your niche)
- Read this before: http://yd.md/29PW2TL