Company of the Month: LVNDR Health
LVNDR Health is building a digital platform, aimed at opening up access to healthcare for LGBTQ+ people. We spoke to its Founder and CEO, Christopher El Badaoui, about the passion the whole team has for addressing inequalities in healthcare, particularly sexual health. And their passion is clearly infectious. Under two years into forming the company (in 2020), they are rapidly growing their team, and, last year, successfully closed a funding round of £1.5 million.
Foundation based on personal experience
For Chris, the foundations of LVNDR are rooted in experiences of accessing healthcare as a queer individual. Both Chris and Co-Founder Araxie Boyadjian grew up in the Middle East and experienced barriers in accessing adequate care, but found that there were still challenges after moving to the US, and then the UK:
“I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked questions that were discriminatory when trying to access healthcare – feeling like you’re being judged and shamed at every stage of the process. I now feel that I have a personal obligation to fix this and I’m confident we will succeed. Araxie has had similar experiences as a queer woman, and as founders, we felt a shift was needed to influence this space at scale.”
Those personal experiences are also borne out in the wider community. As Chris shares, there are around 42 million queer and trans individuals in Europe and half a billion globally. Research from Stonewall in 2018 found that 23% of LGBT people had witnessed anti-LGBT remarks while accessing services. Perhaps, in part, as a result of this, 1 in 8 LGBTQ+ people avoid seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination from staff, and that number rises to 1 in 5 for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic LGBT people.
A vision for a safe space to access healthcare
With these alarming statistics in mind, LVNDR’s vision is to provide a digital solution, offering a safe space for LGBTQ+ people to access healthcare. Through a web-based platform for public health and a mobile app for individuals to access services, they want to avoid people falling through the cracks in the current healthcare system. Facilitating remote consultations and record storage, the solution would also remove some of the burden of clinic overheads from service providers, like local authorities.
“Attending face to face appointments and sitting in a clinic can be anxiety inducing for many. A few clinics have done a good job of making their spaces inclusive, but there still is a long way to go. With LVNDR Health, we hope to offer a safe space to seamlessly access highly trained clinicians, via on demand text and video-based consultations.”
Although they are currently testing out routes to market, the aim, broadly, is to enable free access to equitable healthcare, by partnering with public health services and offering an added service to existing solutions.
The team is currently in their discovery phase, before beginning the technical development of the platform. To facilitate discovery, they embarked on a lengthy and detailed user research phase, as well as focusing on hiring a highly experienced team. Recent additions to the team include Medical Director Dr Mark Pakianathan, who has three decades of experience in this sector and is a Senior Consultant Physician in Sexual Health & HIV Medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital where he leads on gender and sexual minority sexual healthcare. Mark is also a former board member of BASHH (British Association for Sexual Health and HIV).
Building a values-driven business
As well as their focus on building a highly experienced team, the founders of LVNDR have been highly conscious of cementing their values into the business. Chris speaks passionately about the changes they hope to bring about, and how that influences company culture and business decisions – from deciding on a name for the business, to every hire they make.
The name LVNDR came from their desire to represent the intersection of power, healing and community. The colour lavender has significance in LGBTQ+ rights movements, and has come to symbolise empowerment in the community. The lavender plant has associations with healing and calming properties. As Chris says, this is all part of their desire to build upon the rich queer history and movements that have brought us to where we are today and infuse it into their plans for addressing the challenges the community is still facing. Overall, they see themselves as campaigners as well as a business. When Chris is asked about this, the response is clear-sighted:
“LVNDR is a movement. There is a drive for social good, for impact and for patient outcomes that we have such a strong desire to address. And I think, more and more, people join companies that have a strong purpose and a strong vision for change. That’s what we’re building, and that’s what excites us.”
When it comes to people joining the company, they have been conscious of hiring a diverse team, and building an inclusive environment for everyone. So much so that Chris has estimated the team collectively speaks around 15 different languages, and is based in multiple locations around the world. They work in a hybrid way, with offices in London and remote workers around the world. As well as this, Chris says:
“We pride ourselves a lot on the fact that we’ve been quite intentional about building a company with predominantly queer, ethnically diverse, majority women, non-binary and trans individuals, and we’ve built a safe space for these individuals to bring their full selves to work. We had a vision for those values and inclusivity, even before the inception of the business, and it’s now cemented in the company.”
Success in funding and support
These strong values, vision and infectious passion for the subject appear to have helped the company find support to build the business. As well as this, Chris was no doubt well-placed to source funding and support for the company, having previously worked with the Techstars seed accelerator and fund in New York.
With this experience in mind, one of the first things the team did upon forming in 2020, was to join the Techstars programme in London. More recently, they successfully applied to join DH.L’s programme, where they were also able to tap into support from MedCity as they seek to identify how they can support existing services.
“When you think about public health, it’s such a heavily regulated market, and it’s difficult to navigate. Being part of DH.L and coming into contact with amazing partners like MedCity has been so helpful. It demonstrates recognition that there is a need for what we’re doing and provides a support system to upscale our offering.”
Their fundraising efforts so far have also been remarkably successful. Their 2021 funding round, led by Will Gibbs at Octopus Ventures, raised £1.5 million. They also cite support from Eleonora Mantovani, Lorenzo Thione (Gaingels New York), Lucanus Polagnoli (Calm/Storm Ventures), Monik Pham (Pact VC), as well as angel investors Pam Garside, Harry Briggs and Alistair Murray, to name a few.
With these successes and their strong vision, LVNDR Health has big ambitions for the potential of its product. For now though, the team are taking a strategic approach:
“Geographically, we are focusing on elevating the standard of care in the UK, though we do also want to build a solution for the future that transcends borders, and, with our multinational team, we think we’re well-placed to do that. In terms of the breadth of our service, we see the most immediate need as sexual health, but we also want to be able to support the need for better services around gender identity, family planning and reproductive health. Underlying all of these three pillars, is mental health. When you wrap all that up together as a unified solution, you start to target what we call queer care. I, for one, am very excited to see where this journey takes us.”
Find out more
Visit lvndr.com to find out more about the organisation and its plans.
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