Darius Monsef first met Dr. Corey Fish after taking his son into an urgent care clinic following a bike accident. They ran into each other again a week later when another of Monsef’s children came down with a case of croup.
Monsef, a serial entrepreneur who sold his last company to Johnson & Johnson, was impressed with the clinic and Fish — so much so that he decided to get back in the startup game, joining forces with the doctor to launch Brave Care.
The new Portland startup is applying a child-centered mindset with a dash of technology to treat the inevitable bumped heads, skinned knees and achy ears that come with growing up.
Brave Care this week relaunched out of Pacific Crest Children’s Urgent Care, which has been operating a clinic for the past year and a half. Fish created Pacific Crest and now serves as Brave’s chief medical officer.
The startup recently raised a seed round of $1.4 million from venture capital firms Maveron, Liquid2, Founders’ Co-op and Hustle Fund, as well as angel investors Drew Wilson, Rob LaFave and Travis Rush.
The company’s technology vision, still a work in progress, involves building tools for parents to get advice from pediatric care providers at all hours in order to decide whether or not to head to a hospital or clinic.
“I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried Googling for symptoms to try and figure out what’s going on with one of my kids, and how scary and stressful that can be,” Monsef told GeekWire in an email. Brave also wants to use technology to simplify the clinic visit experience from check-in to billing.
I took my son to a Pediatric Urgent Care & it changed my life… I hope it changes yours too.
I met Dr. Corey Fish when he stitched my son's face up… Now we're cofounders, and building a company to make Children's Urgent Care accessible to parents across the US.
— Darius ‘Bubs’ Monsef (@bubs) March 21, 2019
Nearly one in five children visit an emergency room each year, according to the CDC. The most common reason for ER visits, aside from serious medical problems, was that the doctor’s office was not open.
As the healthcare industry shifts to methods of care that deliver better value for money, alternatives to the ER have gained steam. The number of urgent care clinics in the U.S. grew 27 percent from 6,400 in 2014 to 8,100 in 2018, according to Consumer Reports. And the use of telehealth services has grown swiftly as well, jumping 53 percent between 2016 and 2017.
Monsef previously co-founded Sightbox, a subscription service for contact lenses and eye exams that sold to Johnson & Johnson in 2017, as well as several other startups. He’s also a Y Combinator graduate and is active in the startup scene as an investor, advisor and mentor.
After deciding to start Brave Care, Monsef and Fish brought on Asa Miller as chief technology officer and Maryam Taheri as chief operating officer. Miller was most recently a senior software engineer at Envoy, which makes sign-in software for office lobbies. Taheri has a history in healthcare marketing and ran clinical affairs for Siren Care, a startup that makes a smart sock that can detect problems related to inflammation.
In the Pacific Northwest, urgent care chain Zoom+Care has similarly used technology to make urgent care visits more accessible. Seattle startup 98point6 is using mobile apps to create “virtual clinics” that allow patients to bypass the doctor’s office altogether.
Brave Care’s clinic is open seven days a week and stays open until 10 p.m. on weekdays for after-work visits. Brave accepts insurance and has a self-pay pricing scheme that ranges from $150 to $250 depending on the severity of the visit.
The startup is trying to make the experience as painless as possible for kids and parents. “Our clinics are for kids-only, so we’re able to focus on creating an environment that is friendly to kids and makes them feel comfortable when they feel awful and scared,” Monsef said.
For grown-ups, Brave thinks that making professional pediatric advice easier to access can reduce the anxiety that comes with uncertainty. It also wants to divert parents away from costly and often unnecessary emergency room visits.
Brave has a dozen employees, half working on technology products and half on medical care.