How Ash provides critical health diagnostics in the comfort of home 

Ash co-founders David Stein (right) and Nick Sempere (left) after a recent health tech happy hour hosted at Ash’s new office space in downtown Manhattan. Courtesy of David Stein.

Co-founders David Stein, Kyle Waters, Mio Akasako, and Nick Sempere met at Cornell Tech’s master’s programs to launch a D2C company for at-home sexual health testing focused on the queer and LGTBQ+ communities. They were driven by the personal pain points they’d experienced accessing these services as queer individuals.

But when COVID hit, social distancing regulations led to a lack of demand for many of their initial sexual health products, and also created greater demand for at-home testing as many healthcare professionals were unable to reach their patients face-to-face. Ash pivoted to serve these patients as the at-home diagnostics provider for a range of healthcare needs. 

In a lightly edited transcript, we’ll hear the Ash story directly from David. 

How did you navigate a pivot early-on in the business? 

David: We were competing in a pretty crowded D2C space for at-home testing kits — the top 2 players in the space had raised over $200 million (vs. our $200,000) — and we realized that we didn’t have the same firepower to spend on customer acquisition. We decided to do a one-month test to package our services in a B2B, white-label format. In the first month, we won four pilots, including an academic medical center, a telemedicine company, and others.

This was more success than we’d had in the year prior, and thus thought it was a no-brainer for us to pivot into B2B. In our view, we’d found early signals of product-market fit for a white-label remote diagnostics product. 

During our first year in business, the majority of the healthcare organizations we worked with were serving underserved populations — queer health, women’s health, and more — as many of these communities see a dearth of quality, convenient solutions today. In addition, we’ve found a sweet spot around chronic care areas, serving patients who needed regular diagnostics and a kit at their doorstep, as opposed to patients who needed a one-off test. 

What does the next year look like for Ash? 

David: First and foremost, we want to be the leader in remote diagnostics for the sexual health space. We currently run around 120 different types of tests. Only about a dozen are for sexual health, but the majority of tests we process are still for sexual health. We not only see a large market here, but see an opportunity to help solve an epidemic. In almost every part of America, STIs have gone up for every demographic group during COVID-19 (likely due to lack of testing), and we hope to play a role in bringing those numbers down.

Beyond sexual health, we want to become the go-to for at-home remote diagnostics, where our technology and infrastructure enable a healthcare organization to launch everything from a pilot to a full-scale, 50-state program. Longer-term, we want to become the Stripe or Plaid for all things at-home healthcare, powering the full-suite of backend software and logistics that enable market leaders to provide quality at-home services to their patients.

Written by DRF content associate Kevin Wu. Reach him at More updates on our Twitter, Medium, and newsletter. Founders, apply for an investment from us. 🚀

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