Microsoft’s VC arm buys into MedMe’s vision to turn pharmacies into community health hubs.
After establishing a presence in Canada, where it played an important role helping pharmacies administer COVID-19 vaccinations last year, MedMe Health has raised $3.4 million CAD ($2.7 million USD) in seed funding to take its pharmacy operations software to new markets.
To date, the Toronto-based Y Combinator graduate has amassed a list of over 3,600 Canadian customers ranging from independent pharmacies to some of Canada’s largest pharmacy chains, including Rexall, Shoppers Drug Mart, Guardian, and Pharmasave, which it adapted its platform to serve during the pandemic.
“Our ability to respond to [the] pandemic was really, hugely reliant on the role of pharmacies and pharmacists.”
-Purya Sarmadi, MedMe Health
Now, with the support of Microsoft’s venture capital arm, M12, MedMe aims to build on its recent growth and bring its platform to United States (US) pharmacies.
In an interview with BetaKit, MedMe co-founder and CEO Purya Sarmadi described COVID-19 as “validation” of MedMe’s pre-pandemic hypothesis that “the future of pharmacy is service-based,” highlighting how heavily Canada’s response to COVID-19 relied on pharmacies to administer vaccines, booster shots, and tests.
“I think that was an eye-opening experience for our healthcare system, the public, as well as pharmacists themselves on what the future holds,” said Sarmadi.
During the pandemic, MedMe experienced significant growth, helping pharmacies administer more than 544,000 flu shots, over 2.22 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, and more than 155,000 COVID-19 tests. In December alone, 760,000 appointments were booked using its platform.
According to M12 Principal Priyanka Mitra, amid COVID-19, “pharmacies are trending towards becoming community health hubs of the future.” Mitra described MedMe’s capabilities as “critical in the new normal, as seen by their incredibly high rates of adoption by pharmacies and pharmacists across North America.”
MedMe’s software platform helps pharmacies engage with patients, streamline their workflows, and automate documentation. MedMe claims to serve over eight million unique patients by helping its brick-and-mortar pharmacy customers schedule appointments and manage clinical services at scale.
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MedMe’s all-equity January seed financing was led by M12 with participation from return investor MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (MaRS IAF), Graphite Ventures—which was recently spun out of MaRS—and Y Combinator. The announcement comes about a year after MedMe closed its $750,000 CAD MaRS IAF-led pre-seed round, and brings the company’s total funding to $4.7 million CAD ($3.7 million USD).
“Two years ago we invested (through MaRS IAF) in Purya, Rui, and Nick on the vision of arming pharmacists with a set of next generation tools to deliver new clinical services,” said Graphite Ventures investor Connor Edwards. “Fast forward to today, MedMe is quickly becoming an integral part of the modern pharmacy tech stack.”
Sarmadi, a health informatics and analytics professional-turned-entrepreneur, said MedMe’s thesis is predicated on the idea that “online pharmacies are coming” and to compete, traditional, brick-and-mortar pharmacies need to either “sell more chocolate bars and popcorn, or … do more health care services.”
Founded in 2019 by Sarmadi, Chief Clinical Officer Rui Su, and Chief Product Officer Nicholas Hui, MedMe began serving independent pharmacies at the end of 2020, targeting small operators to start because they were “more nimble” and ready to adapt than larger players.
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But according to Sarmadi, when the pandemic “forced the need for this kind of software” across the board, MedMe adapted its platform to serve pharmacy chains, and today, the startup caters to both.
“Historically, pharmacy software has been largely monolithic,” said Sarmadi. “It’s been, generally, not built for integration, and it’s also been very siloed.”
Conversely, MedMe’s strategy revolves around building a modular, “integration-first,” and API-driven operating system.
“A lot of our competitors in this space … [are] iterating on what the pharmacy is today,” said Sarmadi. “We’re really trying to create that single operating system for the pharmacy of the future.”
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To date, MedMe has built “the basic toolkit” for supporting services in pharmacies. The startup currently helps pharmacies provide “simpler services” like appointment scheduling, but it’s looking to expand to serve more “medium and high complexity services,” such as diabetes monitoring.
MedMe’s also looking to grow its presence south of the border and beyond. “We’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth and utility of our platform in Canada,” said Sarmadi. “Now we’re eager to take our platform to the next level not only from a product roadmap perspective, but also from an adaptability perspective, in new markets and new healthcare systems.”
MedMe is targeting US states with “an expanded scope of practice for pharmacists,” such as a primary care gap. The startup is launching with customers in Georgia, before moving into states like Oregon, Idaho, and North Carolina. But its expansion plans don’t stop there.
“We’re seeing that there is a big need for our platform all across the world,” said Sarmadi.
Feature image courtesy of MedMe Health.