The fast-growing Optum unit of the nation’s largest health insuance company is escalating its interest in startup and innovative ventures, launching a $250 million fund to develop early-stage healthcare companies.
Optum Ventures will be a venture fund “focused on investing in startup and early-stage companies whose innovations will help advance the health care system,” UnitedHealth and Optum executives announced at their investor conference in New York.
Optum Ventures investments will include digital health firms “that use data and insights to help improve consumers’ access to health care services and how care is delivered and paid for, and that make the health care system more reliable and easier to navigate.”
The Optum unit of UnitedHealth Group is already a key driver to the company’s overall growth. The insurer’s Optum line of businesses has generated throughout the double-digit percentage earnings growth across all product and service lines.
Optum provides pharmacy benefits management and technology services and also operates clinics and doctor’s offices. Its growth in the last year helped UnitedHealth overcome hundreds of millions of dollars in losses on sales of individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Now, the growth of Optum will expand into new areas to feed the overall parent’s efforts.
“Optum Ventures is uniquely positioned to help develop and grow startups and early-stage companies through capital investment, Optum’s decades of experience in health care, and our access to the health care marketplace,” said Larry Renfro, CEO of Optum who will be the Managing Partner of Optum Ventures. “Optum Ventures will be the partner of choice for companies developing innovations that help make health care work better for everyone.”
Optum Ventures already has a list of early investments that includes: Apervita, which is developing a cloud-based technology to help speed the delivery of healthcare; Buoy Health, which executives say is working on an “artificial intelligence-powered digital health assistant” to help patients; and other health and analytics startups.
Optum Ventures, which will have offices in Boston and Menlo Park, Calif., will operate as a separate independent company funded by Optum under the leadership of partners A.G. Breitenstein and Virginia McFerran, who both have a history of involvement in health and technology. “Breitenstein and McFerran have years of experience in starting, advising and leading innovative health care enterprises,” Optum said in a statement.