Rock Health’s first half funding roundup adjusts the bath temperature to tepid, the bubbles to flat

The ‘new normal’ continues, as the bubbles vanish and the poor duck’s feathers are getting soggy and cold. Rock Health’s roundup of digital health funding (US only) continues the chilly flat-to-downward trend to funding. What money and fewer funders are out there which persist in their dedication to healthcare are betting cautiously, minimizing their risk on the table in lower unlabeled funding rounds and pre-vetted concepts. 

  • First half 2023 (H1) funding closed at $6.1 billion across 244 deals. Average deal size was $24.8 million, the lowest since 2019.
  • Breaking down by quarter, Q2 2023 funding hit a new low– $2.5 billion in funding across 113 deals, lower than Q4 2022’s ‘hole’ of $2.7 billion. By comparison, Q1 2023 funding totaled $3.5 billion over 131 deals, adjusted from the earlier report of 132 deals [TTA 5 Apr]. The collapse of three banks, most notably Silicon Valley Bank in March, clearly affected Q2.
  • Given the trend, Rock Health projects that 2023 funding will fall well below 2022, between 2019’s $8.1 billion and 2020’s $14.3 billion

Delving into the numbers:

  • Those ‘generalists’ who jumped into the digital health pool in 2021-22 jumped out. H1’s 555 investors had a 71% repeat rate, meaning that those who knew the water saw some opportunity or put on their wet suits. The overall total dropped from 775 in H1 2022 and 832 in H1 2021.
  • Unlabeled raises were suddenly the way to go. 101 of 244 deals–41%–had no series or round attached. This unprecedented move avoids the spectre of down rounds for companies needing to raise funds–down rounds affect valuation. Interestingly, 67% of these companies’ prior raises were in 2021 and 2022. 37 of them were Series B or lower. 
  • Mega deals inhabit a different territory. H1 had 12 mega deals, 37% of total funding dollars, and was at the 2021 norm of $185 million. Half were at Series D and growth/PE. They clustered in value-based care, non-clinical workflow, and that former mouse in the pumpkin coach, in-home and senior care. This level of funding also gravitated to the pre-vetted: incubated by VCs included Paradigm (clinical trials) and Monogram Health (kidney care).  Recently funded Author Health, long in stealth, will operate in a narrow slice of mental health funded by Medicare plans.
  • Zero IPOs, but acquisitions and shutdowns/selloffs continue. Acquisitions continued on a track of about a dozen per month, down from 2022’s average of 15. On the gloomier side, quite a few companies simply ran out of runway after raising a little or a lot of funding. These hit the lights at the end resulting in hull loss: Pear Therapeutics, SimpleHealth, The Pill Club, Hurdle, and Quil Health. If they were lucky, they had intellectual property worth something to someone–Pear to four buyers including a former founder, 98point6’s AI platform business to Transcarent–or subscriber bases worth acquiring, such as Pill Club to Nurx, SimpleHealth to TwentyEight Health. This does not count Amazon shuttering Halo and leaving subscribers in the lurch. (Nor Amazon’s dodgy approach to privacy getting Federal and private scrutiny, which this Editor explores here and here.)

To this Editor, 2023 will be a ‘grind it out and survive’ year for most health tech and digital health companies. Survivors will carefully tend their spend, their customers (who will be doing their own cutbacks), and watch their banks. The signature phrase this year was written in 1950, another uncertain time, by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and uttered with flair by Bette Davis in a classic film about the theatre, ‘All About Eve‘: “Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”   Rock Health Insights

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