Sure, he'd known it was coming — he had family members who had lost their hair early as well — but he hadn't expected it to happen in his 20s. Gutentag was working at Google at the time and didn't know how to fix what he was seeing.
Searching the internet was more confusing than helpful, but eventually he was connected to a hair loss dermatologist who recommended the two FDA-approved treatments for hair loss, known by their branded names as Rogaine and Propecia.
The experience sparked his interest in making that process smoother for others, especially for younger men just beginning to lose their hair.
So in January 2018, Gutentag and his co-founder Demetri Karagas launched Keeps, a startup that connects men to doctors who specialise in treating hair loss and then ships medication to those men directly.
The company has raised $7.5 million (about R108 million) from investors including Maveron, First Round Capital, Greycroft Partners and Imaginary Ventures.
Working with dermatologists who specialise in hair loss, Gutentag and Karagas created a questionnaire that evaluates the hair loss a particular man is dealing with. The questionnaire, as well as photos, are used to evaluate the severity of the hair loss. Then, patients consult with one of the doctors in Keeps' network. The first visit's free, but subsequent visits cost $30 (R430-odd) each, according to Keeps' website.
From there, those doctors can suggest the two FDA-approved treatments for hair loss: Finasteride, known by its branded name Propecia, and Minoxidil, otherwise known as Rogaine. Taken as a pill, Finasteride comes with side effects including loss of interest in sex, impotence, swelling and dizziness. Minoxidil is available as over the counter, meaning you don't need a prescription to access it. According to the National Library of Medicine, results can take as much as four months to show up, and scalp irritation, itching, and dryness are common side effects to the medication.
Keeps, in partnership with a pharmacy, will then mail you private label versions of the medications tagged with the Keeps crown logo and prescription details.
It’s an attempt to grow a hair-loss market that’s been in decline over the past decade.
To reach these groups of men, Gutentag said the company has been advertising through TV and podcast ads.
It's part of a new business model that goes more directly to consumers. Instead of seeing a doctor who can then help you get a referral for a dermatologist who could prescribe treatments for male-pattern baldness, Keeps connects you directly to those doctors and in turn connects you to the prescriptions themselves.
There seems to be interest in this kind of approach: Gutentag said the company is growing 50% month over month.
Keeps has some competition. Other men's health companies that have direct relationships with patients have sprung up such as Hims, which addresses hair loss and erectile dysfunction among other areas, and Roman, which is focused on erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra.
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