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Health

A Denver Startup is Raising Millions By Betting on the Health of Your Kidneys

Strive Health aims to fix kidney care by combining data and good old-fashioned personal attention.

In 2015, Chris Riopelle’s best friend called him with a question about his kidneys. The subject wasn’t as weird as it might sound, because Riopelle was an executive at Denver-based DaVita, the nation’s largest dialysis company, at the time. The friend’s doctor had recommended he see a nephrologist about some lab numbers, and Riopelle asked to look at the test results. Within hours, on Riopelle’s advice, his BFF was headed to the emergency room in a race against kidney failure. The friend eventually received a transplant, but the experience reinforced to Riopelle the warped manner in which health care handles kidney disease: Mostly eschewing early detection, the industry focuses on end-stage care (i.e., dialysis). “Of all people, I’m the one who said, ‘Hey, buddy, your kidneys aren’t working,’ ” Riopelle says. In 2018, Riopelle co-founded Strive Health to balance the system. The Denver-based startup uses data-backed analytics to help its customers (insurers and hospital systems) identify kidney disease early and predict the best courses of treatment. We ran our own numbers to find out exactly how it works.

35: Different data models Strive’s analytic technology uses to identify patients who might have kidney disease. Once insurance companies or health care providers hire Strive, the startup combs through medical records, lab results, and other health-related data to predict the best medical interventions—such as finding a nephrologist, examining existing medications to ensure they aren’t further damaging the kidneys, or lining up at-home dialysis—for each person.

$140 million: Amount Strive raised during its Series B round of funding, which closed in March 2021 and included an investment from a growth fund managed by Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Combined, Strive has raised $223.5 million since its inception. Early detection and treatment of kidney disease have become hot investment targets, with Strive competitor Cricket Health announcing an $83.5 million funding round in August 2021.

90%: Percentage of the estimated 37 million Americans with chronic kidney disease who have not yet been diagnosed. (Sixty percent of that population will only discover their kidneys are failing when they wake up in a hospital, Riopelle says.) Although end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients often show early warning signs, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, prior to their diagnoses—and while it sure seems like your general practitioner would connect the two—health care professionals who aren’t kidney specialists can fail to make the link, Riopelle says.

>100: Members of Strive’s care-delivery team, a collection of nurse practitioners, nurses, case managers, and dieticians. These health care professionals are in charge of implementing the interventions the computer comes up with by personally calling or meeting with patients. Strive employed only 30 in 2020.

$410 billion: Amount that Americans spend annually on unmanaged health care related to kidney disease. Most of that money goes toward treating ESRD—when patients’ kidneys stop functioning and they are directed to dialysis centers for treatment—as opposed to early detection and care.

11: Geographic markets (mostly in the Midwest; there are none in Colorado) Strive currently operates in, serving 45,000 patients of insurers and health care providers.

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