Last June, Isabelle Kenyon took her telehealth startup Calibrate out of stealth mode with a team of 10 and an ambitious goal: Kenyon wanted to disrupt the $70 billion weight-loss industry by focusing on holistic metabolic health instead of pounds on the scale. By January, she’d raised a $22.5 million Series A, grown her team to 52 people, and watched as Calibrate customers started achieving real results on the program.
Seven months later, Forbes can report, exclusively, that Kenyon has hit a new milestone: Calibrate has raised a $100 million Series B round of funding, co-led by new investors Founders Fund and Tiger Global. Optum Ventures also participated in the round, which brings Calibrate’s total funding to $127.6 million, as did existing investors Forerunner Ventures, Threshold Ventures, and Redesign Health.
Kenyon sees this funding as fuel to start testing Calibrate into enterprise channels, she told Forbes. “Enterprise channels could mean employer, it could be [the insurance] payer, it could be the government through Medicare and Medicaid,” she said. “It could be anyone else who would subsidize the cost of the program.”
The close of the Series B also means that Founders Fund partner Brian Singerman will join Calibrate’s board of directors. He describes his decision to invest in Calibrate as one “almost entirely” based on Kenyon and her vision. “What I look for is market execution,” he said. “And usually, especially in cases like this, that involves the founder being top tier.”
Singerman, who is No. 25 on the Forbes Midas list and whose notable investments include Oscar Health and Affirm, told Forbes that he is sector agnostic in his investment approach and is instead “open to anything that can become one of the most important companies on the planet.”
Calibrate is not quite there yet, but it is growing. The company has recorded $21 million in 2021 revenue, which overshot Kenyon’s projections by about $10- to $12 million, she said. Threshold Ventures cofounder Emily Melton, who joined Calibrate’s board after leading its Series A round of funding, can attest to the speed of growth: “When I first invested the number of members we were signing up in a month is now what we’re signing up a day,” Melton noted.
The customers who are coming to Calibrate’s platform are, on average, 45 years old and overwhelmingly female. Three-fourths of its members are white, and 52% have reported household annual household incomes less than $150,000 (a plurality fall in the $75,000-$150,000 range). Calibrate charges $129 a month for its full suite of lifestyle coaching and weight management offerings (a one-time health assessment costs $249), a rate that is not insignificant for households in this income range. But with Calibrate members reporting an average annual body weight loss of 14%, Kenyon and her advisors see the platform’s consumer trends as a sign that the conversations around comorbidities, health and wellness that have broken open because of Covid are spurring people to make real changes to their health regimens.
“I think that we’ve had this moment in time and synthesis where consumers have looked and said, ‘My health is the cornerstone. If you don’t have your health, you have nothing,’” Melton said.
The other tailwind poised to propel Calibrate’s business, Melton and other advisors note, is the FDA’s approval, in June, of Wegovy, an injection for chronic weight management. Dr. Donna Ryan, the former president of the World Obesity Foundation and a Calibrate clinical advisor, says that demand for Wegovy has been “extraordinary,” in part because of its positive effect on blood pressure, glucose levels, and “the other metabolic dysfunction that occurs when excess abnormal body weight is reversed.”
While Wegovy’s approval is too recent to have been a meaningful driver of Calibrate’s $21 million in 2021 revenue, it is likely to factor into members’ future weight management plans—when medically appropriate and when insurance can cover the cost of the drug (which is north of $1,000 per month out of pocket). For the latter issue, Kenyon and her team have built a proprietary pharmacy engine for Calibrate, through which members can more easily obtain weight loss medication that is covered by their insurance plans. It’s a handy tool, because if it works at scale, Kenyon hinted that it could be deployed for other drugs and diseases, like diabetes.
This also means that in spite of Calibrate’s speed of growth over the last year—and in spite of a $100 million capital infusion that could, in theory, allow her to take a breath—Kenyon is nowhere close to taking her foot off the gas pedal.
“Why the focus on speed? Because it all comes down to the same thing: The faster that you reach more people, the faster that you change the way the world treats weight,” Kenyon says. “So for me, the [Series B] round really creates tremendous pressure to actually make Calibrate a household name and to grow the consumer business faster than we have been growing it.”