Early this year, on an icy cold February morning in New York City, I was heading to what became my last in-person meeting with an entrepreneur in 2020. I was meeting Doug Hudson, the former CEO of SmileDirectClub and a six-time entrepreneur (yes, six), who had started something new. Over eggs and coffee, Doug explained to me just how stagnant the dental industry is, and how he intended to change it with Tend — a dramatically different, patient-centric approach to modern dentistry.
Today, Tend announces its $37 million Series B led by GV. This is the first bet we've made on the dental industry. At GV, we like to invest at intersections that combine disparate fields of study and propel new ways of thinking. Tend recognizes what patients want, and combines that need with a technology-forward approach to the dental industry.
Those of us who are lucky enough to visit the dentist only for twice-yearly cleanings may not have considered the industry as a whole. Not only is dentistry a $138 billion-dollar industry; it's also an incredibly stagnant sector of consumer healthcare. As Doug passionately explained to me at our breakfast, one of the most significant issues is the compensation model. Most dentists are compensated by insurers based on the procedures they do. This incentive structure has created a host of problems for patients, including unnecessary procedures and sky-high out-of-pocket expenses. Voluntary root canal? No, thank you. With Tend, dentists and studio employees are compensated based on a whole host of factors, including patient feedback and reviews, putting cost incentives back into customers' hands.
The experience of dentistry hasn't changed in decades. We call for appointments, fill out paper forms, visit dull offices with coffee-stained paper copies of Highlights, are subject to cleaning tools invented in 1936, and then really hope that our insurance covers the treatment we just had. Tend flips this drab scenario, infusing science-based care with a digital-first patient experience. From booking your appointment online to watching Netflix during your routine cleaning, a Tend dental studio is unlike anything patients are used to. Any insurance questions? Those are always addressed before a patient sees the dentist. In an industry where fear is real and satisfaction is low, Tend might be the most magical thing since the tooth fairy.
Another area where Tend shines is convenient, accessible care. There are 200,000 dentists in the U.S., many of whom have individual practices and fixed office hours. This creates a problem when dental health needs are urgent, or occur in off-times. Tend offers evening and weekend appointments, so patients have greater access to accessible care when they need it most. Right now Tend is operating in New York City with plans to grow to more cities in 2021. With Tend, modern and accessible dental care is finally possible. Surely that's something to smile about.