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When Lex Oiler, co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based health care payments startup Peachy, first met for coffee with Roshan Patel, her counterpart at New York-based Walnut, she says she tried to break the ice by asking, “So—mergers and acquisitions?”
The quip came from the fact that many venture capital investors viewed the two startups as competitors, according to the founders, since both are tackling the complex web of health care payments. Walnut allows patients to pay large medical bills in manageable installments, while Peachy streamlines payment collection while also helping patients maintain and improve their credit scores.
But what may have started as a lighthearted joke turned out to be a serious business proposition. After hashing out the details over months and bringing their teams together via a shared Slack channel, the companies unveiled a partnership earlier this month that will give customers the ability to use Walnut’s financing options when paying a bill through Peachy.
“Health care is so broad—no one company is just going to fix health care and be done with it,” Patel told dot.LA. “Peachy and Walnut basically solve two different parts of the tech stack, and we thought combining actually creates a much more compelling solution for both patients and health care providers.”
Walnut CEO Roshan Patel.
Courtesy of Walnut
Both startups were informed by their founders’ trying experiences with health care payments. Patel, whose parents ran a pharmacy, witnessed their struggle to negotiate paying off an unexpected $5,000 medical bill after his sister got into a car accident. Oiler spent a year chasing a forgotten $144 medical bill that negatively impacted her credit report and made it difficult for her to get approved for a home loan.
“If you harm someone's financial health, you harm their mental health [and] their physical health is impacted,” Oiler said. “Here we are 15 years later and my family, me included, we're still afraid to go to the doctor when something's wrong. Even though I have health insurance, that doesn't really mean anything.”
Two-year-old Walnut—which raised $3.6 million in seed funding last year from the likes of Silicon Valley-based Gradient Ventures and New York-based Supernode Ventures—works with individuals and health care providers alike to help patients manage large bills in smaller increments, with no fees and financing options starting at 0% interest. Peachy, which was also founded in 2020, works closely with providers to make the process of paying a bill as seamless as possible; its platform sends patients bills and payment reminders via text and email, while also allowing them to pay on their phones. The L.A. startup has onboarded nearly a dozen providers to date while in beta testing.
The partnership is one of several in the works for Peachy, which will be announcing more in the coming months designed to address gaps in what Oiler considers a segregated and outmoded health care system. The founder—a self-described anti-capitalist and Medicare-for-all proponent—says she isn’t interested in competing with others when it comes to health care, and is going so far as to refuse funding from insurance companies.
Peachy raised $1.9 million in seed funding in early 2021 led by investors Village Global, City Light Capital and Alumni Ventures, with $110,000 of that amount raised through crowdfunding. When the startup was fishing for more funding last summer, Oiler says she turned down two term sheets worth $2 million apiece due to fundamental disagreements over how the company should be run, and instead opted to collect some $800,000 instead. Peachy plans on fundraising again this spring.
“You put venture funding behind something, and all of a sudden it turns into a numbers game,” according to Oiler. “ I think that we have been really lucky at bringing on investors who trust me and my co-founder [Peachy CTO PJ Santoro] to make very smart, educated decisions based on what's best for the patient.”
For Joey Primiani, designing a new NFT marketplace is just the latest stop in what’s been a long and fascinating trip through the world of tech.
After stints at Google and Cortex and a gig developing Lady Gaga’s online fan community, Primiani, together with business partner Mirko Kiefer, unveiled his latest venture this week: Folio, a social network that offers artists a platform and tools to showcase their NFT creations.
Billing itself as the “first mobile NFT marketplace and social network,” Los Angeles-based Folio is an invite-only community allowing artists to promote their work, collaborate with other artists and connect with NFT collectors. The platform, which is accessible via iOS app or web browser, is meant to act as both a digital portfolio for artists and a tool allowing collectors to search and discover digital art. Artists decide what price they want to sell their art for, and Folio takes a cut of every work sold.
Primiani told dot.LA that the idea was motivated by the difficulties those in the NFT art community can face when accessing various online platforms, such as setting up and logging in through digital wallets like MetaMask.
“The onboarding experience is a pain point for a lot of artists that we really want to solve,” he said. “We want to make that an easier experience so that more people can use it.”
Primiani first interned at Google in 2009, where he helped design the Silicon Valley giant’s search products, and later worked as a designer at the Google Labs tech incubator. From there, he went on to work with Lady Gaga to create LittleMonsters.com, a social network for the singer’s devoted fan following. It was his work with the renowned entertainer that turned Primiani onto the idea of creating a marketplace of his own—particularly one focused on showcasing LGBTQ+ and underrepresented artists, which is a focus of Folio’s.
“The big problem in the art world previously was that a lot of people were making art for the galleries, and now they're actually making it directly for the fans and the consumers,” he said.
Primiani’s dream came closer to fruition after he connected via Twitter with Mirko Kiefer, an engineer and blockchain entrepreneur. After some workshopping, they officially—and quietly—created Folio in 2020. The platform was in private beta testing in recent months, during which time the founders were completing a Web3-focused residency at L.A.’s Launch House accelerator. (Creatives such as Pol Kurucz, Zigor, and Marc Hemeon had access to the beta product.)
“We really wanted to be one of the first to really nail that experience, because it's so new and platforms couldn't handle a lot of the demand that was happening,” Primiani said.
Folio and its small five-person team is still in its pre-seed stages and has bootstrapped all of its funding to this point. Primiani said any new funding will go toward hiring both in L.A. and remotely, and to grow and scale the company.
“I think we're only at like 5% of what's possible,” Primiani said of the blockchain-enabled internet known as Web3. “It kind of feels like the internet in the ‘90s, where it's like the wild West and anything's possible.”
This is the first installment of Moves—a weekly feature highlighting job and career changes around the Los Angeles and Southern California tech ecosystem.
Moves is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here. And if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing sharmineh@dot.LA.
Anne Devine and Rose Rogers have joined electric vehicle battery manufacturer Romeo Power as chief operating officer and chief people officer, respectively. Devine arrives from auto parts maker UGN, while Rogers previously worked at aerospace components manufacturer Ducommun.
Rob Leff has joined content technology platform Nativo as chief financial officer. Leff previously held the same role at media measurement startup VideoAmp.
Alex Morrison has joined Pearpop, which helps creators collaborate with social media platforms, as chief marketing officer. Morrison joins the startup from advertising agency Grey West, where he served as global partner and president.
Soo Hong has joined fintech startup Sunbit as chief people officer. Hong previously led people and talent operations at National Veterinary Associates, WeWork and Tinder.
Evelyn Krasnow has joined furniture rental startup Fernish as its new chief marketing officer; she has previously held positions at Bird, Seedling and Berkin. The company has also hired Jorge Montoya as vice president of operations; John Praino as the vice president of partnerships; Sydni Gethner as head of sales; and Tessa Peshke as head of multifamily.
Evan Fitzpatrick and Rajiv Makhijani have been appointed to new roles at audit, risk and compliance platform AuditBoard. Fitzpatrick joins as senior vice president of AuditBoard’s CrossComply product from Bain Capital, while Makhijani was promoted from within and will serve as AuditBoard’s senior vice president of emerging products.
Marketing firm Gimbal | true[X] has appointed Lauri Baker as its senior vice president of partnership strategy. Baker joins from Pause Commercials, where she served as partner and chief operating officer.
Marina del Rey-based venture capital firm Fifth Wall has hired Virginia Drennen, Clay McFarlane and Gaby Yo to vice president positions in value creation, real estate technology and the investment team, respectively. Fifth Wall has also promoted Sarah Liu to partner of real estate technology, Cedric Char as senior associate of climate technology, and Mike Foell as the senior finance manager. Oliver Harrison will serve as the company’s new senior associate of Europe, MIchael New will serve as the principle of capital formation and G.M. Nicholas Vik will become a partner and head of strategy.
Stefanie Schwartz has joined creator-focused video distributor Jellysmack as global head of platform partnerships. Schwartz was most recently executive vice president and general manager of Viacom Digital Studios.
Jeff Holland has joined electric vehicle manufacturer VinFast as director of communications. He previously served as director of global communications for Karma Automotive.
Ryan Pollreisz has joined video game developer Imagendary Studios as studio manager. He arrives from Sony Pictures Imageworks, where he served as vice president of artist management.
Ready, Set, Food!, a startup that helps prevent children from developing food allergies, has hired Laura Michelson as senior director of brand marketing and Emily Peltzer as vice president of manufacturing and operations. Michelson joins from cannabis company PLUS while Peltzer arrives from flower retailer The Bouqs Company.