Austin-based startup The Helper Bees, which develops technology for the insurance industry, has raised $6 million to accelerate growth, its first significant funding round, the company said Thursday.
The investment was led by Silverton Partners, with participation from Austin Impact Capital, Techstars and individual investors.
The Helper Bees primarily makes a technology platform that helps decentralize long-term care for patients, with a goal of helping them remain in their homes instead of having to go to long-term care residences.
By moving care to a home-based model, the company reduces costs for insurance carriers and patients, said Char Hu, CEO of The Helper Bees. Savings come, for instance, when the company handles all of the back-end operations of filing insurance paperwork while matching caregivers with home-based patients.
“Because we’re technology-enabled, we’re able to charge the insurance carrier less, because we have scalability,” Hu said, adding that the company’s model saves up to $11,000 per claimant per year.
The coronavirus pandemic — which has turned some nursing homes into virus hotspots — has helped the company in its mission, Hu said. But even before the pandemic, in his previous career founding long-term care residences, he met many adults who wanted to reside at home instead.
“Our communities were beautiful, but they would actually tell me this: ’Love you, love what you’re doing, wish I never met you,’ ” Hu said. “People wanted to stay at home but the models of care weren’t there to allow them to do that.”
Founded in 2016, The Helper Bees has rapidly grown, and it now has relationships with about a dozen insurance carriers. Hu said the startup also has the largest care concierge program in the long-term care industry.
The new funding round will go toward potentially expanding into other insurance markets, such as workers’ compensation and disability insurance, Hu said. In addition, he wants to use the money to analyze the “tremendous amount of data” the company has collected through its services.
“Many of the other opportunities we’ve looked at in insurance don’t have the broad market potential that The Helper Bees possesses,” said Morgan Flager, an executive with lead investor Silverton Partners. “In addition, the team has been able to cultivate great relationships with the top insurance carriers in the industry without spending a ton of capital in the process. This success speaks to the resourcefulness of the team, but also illustrates the unmet market need for the solution.”
Currently, the company has about 45 employees in Austin, Hu said. More will be hired as the company grows, especially in the sales, marketing, product and operation teams, said Hu, though he doesn’t expect to add many workers by the end of this year.
Ultimately, amid the pandemic, Hu is only projecting further growth.
“What the pandemic allowed us to do is to really cast a light … on a very strong need for a decentralized, data-driven model,” he said. “That’s why we’ve been able to grow so dramatically.”