While it is said 110 million Americans have an STD at any given time, we have yet to undo the stigma that lies beneath STD screening on an individual and community level. As this problem grows, one company is actually doing something about it. myLAB Box, the STD screening kit service, sends you a quick do-it-yourself kit to test yourself. All you have to do is send it back to them to determine if you are infected or not. With their cheap pricing, they are going about raising awareness for this incredible cause with their informative and witty style.
Coming off a round of funding Cofounders Lora Ivanova and Ursula Hessenflow answer the tough questions for AlleyWatch and speak about where their social cause and tech meet.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Our angel investors include K5 Ventures, The Ace Fund, Houston Health Ventures, Houston Angel Network, Texas Halo Fund, and Pipeline Angels. To date, myLAB Box has secured $560,000 in an Angel round of funding.
Tell us about your product or service.
myLAB Box was founded in 2013. It is the first company to offer a nationwide at-home screening platform for STDs. Championing the motto “Safe is Sexy” the innovative e-retailer presents a solution with unprecedented ease, convenience and price. Suitable for men and women, the service empowers users to detect prevalent infections early, in or out of relationships, and take better care of their health. All test results are diagnostic. This means that users can then take them to their personal physician and work on a treatment plan. It is so much faster than with conventional testing methods.
What inspired you to start the company?
Personal experiences were powerful motivators in our decision to create myLAB Box. Through years of dating and sharing stories with friends we were puzzled by a worrisome pattern: contrary to what all sex-ed classes had taught us in our youth – both men and women are not testing for STDs consistently and healthy conversations about safe sex are few and far between.
Where most available testing options fall short is the ability to provide a fast, private and positive experience to their customers. When it comes to intimacy with a partner, every step taking us there should offer the same level of comfort and enjoyment. What better way to accomplish that than by giving people the opportunity to, just like dating, tailor their healthcare to their individual preference.
myLAB Box sees an opportunity to transform preventative STD screening with a simple service offering a first line of defense. Users can enjoy our early detection options with unprecedented accuracy whenever and wherever most convenient to get fast results with little effort. When it comes to sexually transmitted infections, early detection is the key to minimizing potentially serious health consequences and saving lives.
How is it different?
myLAB Box is the first at-home STD testing service to work in all fifty states. The service is designed to eliminate the shame and stigma that stops people from getting tested in the first place. Every step of the testing process can be done remotely from home or on the go.
The test kits provide lab-certified diagnostic results with the same accuracy of tests one would receive at a doctor’s office or a clinic, but without the hassle. This makes the path to treatment and prevention much easier and faster.
myLAB Box’s service screens for the most prevalent risk factors such as HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Trichomoniasis which address 71% of the infections occurring in the U.S.. myLAB Box also fully supports post-test counseling and offers it through every step of the ordering process for any positive results.
- at-home STD test packages, fitted to individual lifestyles
- discreet packaging and free delivery
- easy 5-minute tests that can be completed wherever
- peace of mind with lab-certified results
- access to professional STD counselors
- myLAB Box is the only company to offer its services in all 50 states.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
$8 billion dollars are spent annually in the US to diagnose and treat STDs with an estimated impact of $16 billion in STD related costs for the US economy. myLAB Box is of course targeting all sexually active Americans, 110 million of whom are currently said to be living with an STI according to the CDC. This is one-third of our population, a worrisome fact we aim to change.
What’s your business model?
myLAB Box is the first nationwide platform empowering consumers to test themselves for STDs from the privacy of home. Our tests are sold online starting at $73. Consumers collect a sample in five minutes or less, mail it into the lab and get a certified result back in a matter of days.
You can order a test directly from our website or by using a third-party retailer. Either way, registering and ordering from myLAB Box is simple, quick and easy.
What was the funding process like?
The funding process was a full-time job that required commitment and persistence. It was a lot of conversations, introductions, pitching and honing pitches to get to a story that resonated with investors and could be understood easily. Ultimately we were able to attract a group of extraordinary individuals as investors whose confidence in us and our product is a true source of pride. We are confident they will be instrumental in helping us take our business to the next level.
Over the fundraising process which took multiple months we also had to continue working just as hard on developing our service and growing the business. This juggling act was a big challenge for us as a team but ultimately a true testament to our strong partnership as cofounders.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
That early stage of a start-up is exactly what you’d expect – sleepless nights, long hours and being extremely creative in accomplishing a lot with very little. myLAB Box ran off the savings and sweat equity of a couple of co-founders so finding the bandwidth to set time aside to fundraise was extremely difficult. It was incredibly challenging to build and run a business while simultaneously trying to raise money. Getting the first chunk of funding in is the hardest.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
First and foremost, it’s the team. You need to put the best foot forward of each of the founding team members and advisors as most investors are first and foremost betting on the people. Both co-founders had played founding roles and grown companies from the start-up phase to flourishing enterprises in the past. We also both have a track record of success in marketing and e-commerce – both key elements to make a splash in the marketplace.
Establishing credibility for our business concept was also important. myLAB Box is tackling an enormous public health problem – with $110million infections nationwide, less than half of adults 18-44 have ever tested for anything other than HIV leaving the most prevalent infections undetected. Conventional testing has cleared failed. Our pool of potential investors was extremely diverse but once we made our pitch relatable and they could see the enormity of the problem and how we’re clearly solving it, they got it instantly and wanted to be a part of our journey.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Our future goals include growing sales and expanding our product offerings. We’re excited to expand beyond our own sales platform into major online retail outlets, on-boarding affiliates and making sure our customers love what we do and come back to use to test on a regular basis. And of course, we’re always preparing for our Series A round of funding.
What advice can you offer companies in Los Angeles that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Be persistent. Know upfront that you will need to knock on a lot of doors, sometimes more than once, before the checks start rolling in.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Our near-term goal is to own the online STD testing space and establish myLAB Box as the trusted go to brand for home testing in the US. We want to make testing literally as easy as brushing your teeth or buying a condom. Ultimately, our vision is to become the go-to platform for discreet testing solutions across a multitude of health conditions globally.
What’s your favorite LA bar, when you need to kick back and relax?
Relax? 😉 We are both very fond of the old-world vibe of the Library Bar and Spare Room at the Roosevelt Hotel, which are near our office. We go there on occasion to unwind after a long day and. Before we became business partners we were long-time friends so it is important for both of us to nourish that relationship as well.