Vamstar Raises $9.5M To Boost Its Medical Supply Chain Platform

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

Vamstar Raises $9.5M To Boost Its Medical Supply Chain Platform
Courtesy of Vamstar

In early March 2020, as the world stood on the precipice of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization warned countries around the globe of a pending medical equipment shortage. Sure enough, in a matter of weeks—as coronavirus case numbers and deaths skyrocketed and much of the world sheltered in place—face masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) became scarce, as suppliers jacked up prices and individuals hoarded what had become a precious resource.

Hospitals were not exempt from this, with many slow to source and provide PPE and other medical devices to clinicians dealing with influx of patients—many of whom were severely ill and dying.

“People died because hospitals did not have the right product to treat them,” according to Praful Mehta, the co-founder and CEO of supply chain startup Vamstar. “This is a supply chain challenge.”

Vamstar—a Los Angeles- and London-based venture which runs an AI-enabled sourcing and procurement platform for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals—announced a new $9.5 million funding round Wednesday that should help it address such inefficiencies in the health care supply chain. The Series A round was led by Alpha Intelligence Capital and the Dutch Founders Fund, who were joined by existing investors BTOV Partners and Antler.

Vamstar launched in 2019 and has since onboarded 86,000 hospitals and clinics in more than 80 countries to its platform—an all-in-one B2B marketplace that connects them with the medical suppliers and pharmaceutical companies who can provide the goods they need. The platform deploys machine learning to more efficiently connect buyers with suppliers based on what they need, how much they need and how soon they need it.

It also helps suppliers predict, based on buyer queries, how much they will need to stock up on certain items, which could help mitigate shortages in the future. Buyers, in turn, are alerted to stock up on goods before prices are predicted to increase. According to Mehta, buyers on Vamstar’s platform are able to procure the medical equipment they need in one-quarter the usual time, on average.

“There is the need for a solution that is networked, that is connected, that makes health care a complete ecosystem,” Mehta said. “There's a lot of talk about the health care ecosystem, [that] it's one unit—but actually it's not, it's highly fragmented.”

The pandemic brought to light the medical supply chain’s worst-case scenario: If a medical buyer needs to source a device, drug or supply whose local distributor has been depleted, it must then contact several other suppliers who are selling it at varying prices, prolonging the buying process.

“[Buyers] had to scan the market locally, regionally, nationally and internationally because, with what happened with COVID, your local sources of supplies were completely exhausted, which is often the case in healthcare,” Mehta said.

The new funding will go toward further developing Vamstar’s platform to make the transaction process quicker and more intuitive for both buyers and sellers, according to the company.

Vamstar is one of several startups tackling the fragmented health care supply chain. Others include Switzerland-based Hystrix Medical, which also operates a B2B marketplace for medical products, and Illinois-based Hybrent, which works closely with hospitals to source medical equipment.

“These problems that we are addressing in our industry have been problems for a very long time,” Mehta noted. “It's just that COVID exposed those problems to the public; it just highlighted the inefficiencies of the supply chain. And what we saw as a result of that was a massive loss of life.”

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.