Oscar, a company founded to rethink how a health insurer should look and act in the digital age and after the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, is scaling up with a big $145 million round of funding led by Peter Thiel and Brian Singerman at Founders Fund. While the company couldn't comment on valuation, we hear that the round pegged the company's worth at $1.5 billion. The company has said it has about 40,000 members. If the average customer is paying about $4,800 per year, you could calculate the annual revenue run rate at somewhere around $200 million. Li Ka-Shing of Horizon Ventures, the Wellington Management Company and Goldman Sachs also participated. The funding comes at a time when Oscar is looking to scale outside of its home market of New York. It is exploring expanding to the California market pending regulatory approvals. “When we founded Oscar, our ambition was to take an experience that was confusing and make it intuitive and transparent through technology, data and design,” said Josh Kushner, the company’s co-founder. “But the deeper we get, the more we realize that the operating system that we have built on the back-end is what enables us to offer an experience that other traditional health insurers cannot." Oscar started out offering features like unlimited telemedicine and free checkups, flu shots and generic drugs without referrals. But they've also added in things like a free fitness tracker which rewards customers $1 a day or up to $240 a year if they meet daily activity goals. (I should add that the tracker, the Flash, comes from another Founders Fund portfolio company called Misfit Wearables.) More broadly speaking, a problem that lots of healthcare startups run into is distribution. Many of the companies we see funded by more middle-of-the-road Silicon Valley venture firms tend to go a direct-to-consumer route so that they bypass health insurers and the intensive sales efforts and regulatory battles needed to market to physicians and other health care providers. Because Oscar is a health insurer itself, it can deploy new concepts more quickly than other healthcare startups that may need to partner and do time-consuming distribution deals with healthcare providers. “As an insurer we control our own destiny. We are not reliant on any partners to deliver the experience that we believe is best for our customers. We can innovate without buy in from others. We’re more in control of our own destiny,” Kushner said. “We can do interesting things but we don’t need as much buy-in from others.” Kushner said he went with Founders Fund, which is already an existing investor, because they had been so instrumental in the company in the first place. Thiel and Singerman have been proponents of doing investments in health and biotech for years, while other venture firms have remained with less risky and regulation intensive startups in the consumer and enterprise space.
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