Impact investor E Squared Investments participated in a HealthTech transaction led by 4DX Ventures in a pre-seed extension funding round into Zoie Health.
According to Roche, 90% of all healthcare decisions are made by women, however, there are limited services to assist working class young women, pregnant women, and mothers to take control of their healthcare needs. These services are often (1) too expensive (private sector), (2) of inferior quality (public sector), (3) fragmented, or, (4) inefficient with no dedicated or centralised focus.
Zoie Health is a holistic women’s healthcare platform, focused on women’s health services with an established community of members and specialists. The platform offers virtual consults, at-home consults, subscriptions for medications, and resources and a community of women to support one another through healthcare seasons.
With the funding, Zoie Health plans to grow Africa’s first digital women’s health clinic by increasing the product offering and expanding to new countries on the continent.
“Not only is the founding team extremely experienced in this field, but what is greatly significant is that the Zoie Health team is 100% black woman-led. This formidable team is building a high-impact tech solution that we believe will be a tremendous addition to our portfolio of companies from a values alignment and returns standpoint. The deal is an extension of E Squared’s initial funding and entrepreneurial support through the E Squared Pathways facility,” says Gladwyn Leeuw, E Squared’s Chief Investment Officer.
Leeuw adds, “Through this deal, we hope to back digital innovation in women’s health care and put quality affordable health care in the hands of working-class women. We believe that the digital component will make traditionally hard-to-reach services more accessible and provide a viable alternative to those that cannot afford to miss work or stand for hours in long queues at government clinics or who find accessing private sector healthcare prohibitively expensive.”
Zoie’s affordable digital solution currently serves more than 5,000 members with an 80% subscriber retention rate by successfully leveraging network effects, relatability and belonging. Although a young business, they have already onboarded 50 health practitioners (with 300 in the pipeline) and have a 9.78 out of 10 consumer satisfaction score.
“We believe that our offering has great potential to scale, and we will be looking to expand to other African emerging markets in the SADC region, and Kenya and Nigeria,” says Thato Schermer, Zoie Health’s co-founder and CEO.
This holistic solution offers virtual consults, at-home consults, subscriptions for medications and includes actual health intervention services such as pap smear, pregnancy tests, contraceptives, fertility etc. In addition, the offering includes a chatbot for general advice, pre- and post-natal care, family care and community support groups and general wellness value adds that are specifically targeted at women.
“There was never a doubt that founder, Thato Schermer (nee Mabudusha), a 2015 Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellow, would go on to build an impactful business, like Zoie Health. Thato won the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s ‘Most Entrepreneurial Fellow Award’ twice – in 2012 and 2013 – and came in as runner-up in 2014,” says Sipho Pilime, Search and Pipeline Head at E Squared.
Thato has a passion for optimised healthcare in South Africa and the continent, which led to her research into unaddressed health needs, and she began to explore how using modern approaches could potentially help elevate health outcomes in Africa during her time in management consulting at McKinsey in 2015. This interest led her intentionally to roles such as chief of staff to the CEO of Life Healthcare (Global) and Discovery Vitality, and Global Strategy and Business Development Lead.
Thato approached E Squared for support in 2019 with a start-up idea. It was at this stage that E Squared began discussions and joined her personal growth and development journey as a young entrepreneur.
Due to an opportunity presented by Uber SA as Territory Manager for two years, Thato was unable to join E Squared’s then full-time accelerator. She later joined an iteration of the E Squared acceleration programme called Pathways in 2020 that provides bespoke support to Allan Gray founders of start-up ventures on both a full and part-time basis, accommodating a founder’s need to continue to earn alternate income whilst validating and refining their business ventures.
Thato has received recognition from the Mail & Guardian as a Top 200 Young South Africa, Inspiring Fifty as a top 50 women in STEM and from AWIEF (Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum) as a top technology entrepreneur finalist.
With learnings from her career in management consulting, healthcare technology, and in successfully combining these personal and career experiences with her natural inclination to matters of women empowerment, she created Zoie Health Technologies with co-founder Dr Nonhlanhla Sitole, a healthcare professional with a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Chief Clinical Officer in the business.
The team is further augmented by Dr Nono Simelela, who is the World Health Organisation’s Special Advisor to the Director General on Strategic Programmatic Priorities and Florah Chuene, their Lead Engineer. This black all-female leadership team share a strong passion for Zoie Health’s vision and bring in deep understanding of the issues as well as clinical and technical expertise.
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