‘Viagra of digital therapy’ Kranus Health lands $6.5M Series A

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When Pfizer launched Viagra in 1998, it had one of the fastest prescription fill rates ever of any medication. It’s the kind of meteoric rise that Munich and Berlin Kranus Health hopes to echo with its own erectile dysfunction treatment, a digital therapy app. And the first signs look positive.

Kranus had the most prescriptions after the first five months of launch than any other startup on The German DiGA program – meaning the app can be provided to patients by doctors free of charge and the healthcare system foots the bill.

That pull just helped it raise a $6.5 million Series A round, in a round led by French healthtech-focused VC Karista.

According to some reports, one in three men suffer from erectile dysfunction, but only half of them will get help. This is what makes digital therapy – which can be performed discreetly from a place where the user feels comfortable – so well suited to treating the problem, adds founder and CEO Jens Nörtershäuser.

Despite this, there are few remote and app-based treatments for men’s sexual health issues available in Europe. Fellow Kranus Wellster raised $20m in January – though he will use most of that money to launch a femtech platform alongside his established men’s sexual health offering – and is based in the UK. United Numan raised $40 million in debt and equity in February.

How Kranus Health Treats Erectile Dysfunction Without Pills

What sets Kranus apart from startups like Numan and Wellster is that its erectile dysfunction treatment doesn’t rely on pills like Viagra.

The therapy can be combined with pills, but its core is a 12-week app-based treatment plan that mixes pelvic floor and cardiovascular exercises with sex therapy and mindfulness exercises.

The personalized course takes into account things like weight, age, and physical ability, and its algorithm continually adapts the plan based on patient feedback.

What does the app look like

While US-based Regimen offers a similar course in digital therapy to treat erectile dysfunction, according to Nörtershäuser, there are no other startups doing so in Europe.

He says this treatment targets the root causes of the problem – not just the symptoms – and clinical tests found it to be just as effective as the little blue pill.

“Kranus is a new kind of therapy course,” he adds, and that means it takes “a lot of work” to make people feel comfortable with the product.

This is especially important considering that the average patient age is 52, a demographic less likely to be accustomed to using digital and app-based tools. Although the treatment is entirely app-based, adds Nörtershäuser, before therapy begins, a patient support team is on hand to help and guide new users through the platform.

The importance of DiGA

“[Getting approved on DiGA] was crucial to increase the Serie A round,” Nörtershäuser told Sifted. “The process allows us to make money, so it was very important for growth.”

Approval on DiGA means startups gain immediate access to a market of 73 million Germans, becoming an increasingly attractive proposition for investors overnight.

Last week, gut health startup Cara Care raised $7 million just a few months after its launch on DiGA. So far, 33 digital health companies have become available to be prescribed by the public healthcare system in Germany through the program.

But not everyone is convinced that the program has delivered the promised results two years after its launch.

Nevertheless, many European countries seek to follow in Germany’s footsteps. Last year Belgium and France announced plans to introduce similar schemes to reimburse digital health apps as part of public healthcare, and a number of others are looking to follow suit.

Kranus Health plans to grow in a downturn

While much of Startup Europe is becoming more cautious and backtracking on its expansion plans amid global economic uncertainty, Nörtershäuser isn’t too worried.

“Health care and patient needs don’t change with an economic crisis,” he told Sifted. Kranus will continue with plans to double its workforce to at least 100 this year, and in 2023 aims to move to other geographies.

“We founded Kranus to be an international company,” explains Nörtershäuser. “We want to repeat the success of Pfizer’s Viagra, and we can only do that if we win every major country in the world.”

Nothing is set in stone yet, he adds, and the location of the startup until next year depends a lot on regulatory developments, but Nörtershäuser already has his eye on a few countries.

“We find the United States very exciting because it’s such a big market,” he adds. “But also France, being one of the first followers of the DiGA law.”

Kai Nicol-Schwarz is a journalist at Sifted. He covers health tech and community journalism, and tweets from @NicolSchwarzK

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