Zit-Zapping Start-Up Prepares to Launch, With Help from Business Plan Competition Winnings
February 4, 2013
About 1,000 unfortunate oily-faced teenagers might be in luck: Monterey-based start-up YoDerm will begin pairing acne patients with dermatologists—online—Wednesday.
"We really do believe an online consultation for acne is actually better than an in-person consultation for the vast majority of people," co-founder Ben Holber says.
Studies show people are terrible at remembering their doctors' instructions at in-person visits, so Holber and business partner Ryan Hambley are banking on the success of photo-based online follow-up, with reminders and notes from the doctor that are stored electronically, rather than on scraps of paper or in forgetful minds.
The 23-year-old Stevenson School grads have been working for nearly a year off of $20,000 in prize money they won from the Monterey Bay Regional Business Plan Competition last year, keeping expenses low by living at home with their parents and never eating out. Last month, they moved out of their living rooms and into a small downtown Monterey office space they get rent-free, covering just utilities.
Holber and Hambley have been courting prospective investors, and following a beta test through this summer, they'll pursue hard cash once they have a working model. (Holber declined to name who it is they're talking to, but says venture capitalists would be "too brutal"—they're after a local angel investor.)
They're planning to relaunch www.YoDerm.com this week, and hope to get 1,000 beta testers signed up by March at a likely starting rate of $79 (the price isn't finalized yet).
Monterey dermatologists Mary Scannell and Aimee Paik will be on the physician side of the business, interfacing virtually with patients through photos.
"We believe there’s a huge value created [for doctors]," Holber says, "if you look at how much more throughput a physician could have. No overhead, no marketing—they’d make twice as much as they usually do."
Hambley and Holber are currently searching for a PR firm, as they develop a marketing strategy—the true test of how successful they are at drawing paying customers to the concept the business plan competition judges believed in.
When asked what Plan B is if YoDerm doesn't succeed, Holber laughs: "Maybe prescribing online birth control. Maybe we’ll call it Plan A."