Health IT Startup: Sherpaa

Elevator pitch

Sherpaa connects employees directly with doctors and insurance guides online to reduce healthcare costs. Founded in 2012, Sherpaa has redefined the healthcare experience for companies and employees across the country. Sherpaa powers its medical practice in the cloud with dedicated board-certified physicians and insurance navigators.  It saves time and money by solving 70 percent of issues without routing them through the traditional healthcare system – fewer interactions with the healthcare system means greater efficiency for the individual and savings for the employer, Sherpaa currently “takes care” of more than 120 companies including Tumblr, Etsy and GLG.

Dr. Jay Parkinson

Sherpaa was co-founded by Dr. Jay Parkinson MD, MPH, trained in pediatrics and preventive medicine at St. Vincent’s and Johns Hopkins. He’s given talks for TED and The Clinton Global Initiative. He’s been referred to as “The Doctor of the Future.”

Marketing/promotion strategy

We are a B2B company selling into the HR and C-suite. Our founders are a doctor and an experienced HR expert leading up a proven sales team. We know firsthand what companies need, how they make decisions, and how to sell into them. As one of the few employer-driven healthcare services actually founded by a physician, our thought leadership in the space enables us to speak at conferences, produce interesting content, and truly have a respected voice in what the future of healthcare looks like.

Market opportunity

Our sweet spot is companies with 100 to 1,000 employees. Every single company of this size is struggling with out of control healthcare expenses without the in house resources to do anything about these skyrocketing costs. They’re being sold wellness plans that don’t work to control costs and traditional telemedicine services that can’t control costs when only 3 percent of a company uses them. They need a better solution that people will actually use. Without meaningful usage, costs can’t be contained. Unfortunately we’re lumped into the telemedicine space and people confuse us as being in competition with TelaDoc, American Well, Doctor on Demand, and MDLive. Sure, they sell into the same HR departments, but offer a service that nobody uses, and therefore can’t move the needle on healthcare costs. Presently, there is no other service in America available to companies that operates like Sherpaa, gets 70 percent of a company to use our services, and delivers the kind of results that we do.

How your company differentiates itself from the competition

It’s all about usage. Our marketing to employees is “Think Sherpaa first.” When people have an issue and think they need to access healthcare, they need an expert, at that important point in time, they can communicate with to diagnose, treat and/or partner with them to determine next steps for potentially accessing in-person healthcare services. We’ve created an elegant, trustworthy experience that truly understands people and how they want to engage with healthcare. Roughly 70 percent of a company’s employees will become regular users of Sherpaa in a given year. TelaDoc states they get a 3 percent usage. And out of that paltry usage, 90 percent of their patient interactions opt for phone, not video. Nobody uses, nor wants to use, video or phone. It’s not how the world communicates every day. So those companies who primarily focus on video, like AmericanWell, MDLive, and Doctor on Demand must suffer from terrible usage rates. People use us because we use full-time doctors and asynchronous messaging, much like email. It’s how we all communicate nowadays, but with a full-time doctor on the other end. We’ve actively decided against video because video adds very little to the combination of messaging + phone + photos. And since we hire our doctors and they know their full-time job is to message patients thoughtfully and effectively, we deliver a speedy, elegant experience. But for Sherpaa, it’s not a quick 10-minute transaction. We own the outcome of the issue from beginning to end. Some issues take 10 minutes and others take 10 months. It’s a relationship built on communication, accurate diagnosis, care coordination, and advocacy. Most telemedicine services are limited to those simple issues that can be treated simply that don’t need follow-up. And if they can’t solve your issue, times up, and you’re again on your own. This means traditional telemedicine services compete with retail health clinics powered by nurse practitioners. Pink eye doesn’t move the needle. And I wouldn’t trust a doctor who wants to treat pink eye day in and day out. That’s really why they went to medical school? Sherpaa can handle the majority of health issues because we’re full-time doctors who can order tests, get the results, diagnose, treat, and, if needed, refer you to the right specialist in your area. And, of course, follow up with you throughout the case to ensure a good experience and outcome. For patients, accessing healthcare is expensive and health insurance is confusing. That’s why we also offer patients the ability to message with our insurance guides who will help them understand their bills and communicate with providers and insurance companies on their behalf to get to the bottom of any issues. Often times, our doctors and insurance guides are working together on cases to solve issues as cost-effectively as possible. Healthcare is so expensive nowadays for patients that a simple misuse of care can be the difference between taking that family vacation this year … or not.

Business model

We’ve had revenue since day one as a bootstrapped company and are currently serving a little more than 120 companies. We currently charge employers $30 a month per employee for our services that give a 3:1 ROI. Sherpaa is free and unlimited for employees.

Current needs

We are currently hiring multiple positions to further grow our capabilities and looking to raise our Series B late 2015/early 2016

When founded

February 1, 2012

Bootstraps or investors? Why? Funders?

To prove out the concept, Sherpaa was bootstrapped. After working alongside our first client for six months, we pursued venture funding to help scale the company to more clients. Sherpaa has raised $8 million to date in two rounds from several investors: Softbank; O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures; First Round Capital; Collaborative Fund; SV Angel; and Draper Associates.

Number of full-time employees



New York, NY

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