Concerns over mail order weight loss brands Juniper and Pilot by Australian doctors haven’t dampened investor appetite its parent telehealth company, Eucalyptus, which has raised $50 million on a $520 million valuation.
The round was backed by several existing Eucalyptus investors, including Blackbird Ventures, the Woolworths VC fund W23, and US investor Mary Meeker’s BOND Capital.
Previous raises by Eucalyptus, founded in 2019 by Tim Doyle, Benny Kleist, Alexey Mitko and Charlie Gearside, include an $8 million Series A in May 2020, $30 million in a Series B in July 2021, and 15 months ago, $60 million in a Series C in Jan 2022. The business also counts Airtree among its investors.
The company is the 2020s tech edition of longstanding treatment brands such as the Advanced Medical Institute (of “Want longer lasting sex?” fame) and Advanced Hair Clinic (“Yeah! Yeah!”).
Eucalyptus sells medical products online in four key demographic-focused brands: Pilot (men’s health, including weight and hair loss, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation), Juniper (women’s weight loss and menopause), Kin (fertility), and Software (prescription skincare). The business also started a sex toy brand, Normal, which it has since offloaded.
Rival brand Mosh operates in the same space on a similar online consultation model.
And much like AMI’s bright yellow and red billboards offering “longer lasting sex”, Eucalyptus and Mosh have faced controversy over the business model and marketing of their products.
ABC TV’s Media Watch featured Eucalyptus and Pilot earlier this month after TV station Seven aired a story about former AFL player Dale Thomas, a Pilot ambassador, on its news bulletin in a story about his weight loss that viewers criticised as an infomercial.
Pilot’s tag line is “Men’s health, delivered different” offering potential patients the ability to “connect with Aussie doctors and get proven treatments prescribed online”. Its home page features testimonials such as Mr Jones saying “I get hard now and stay hard…” and Jodie, married for 22 years, saying “I was really starting to miss our sex life. He found Pilot and now it’s like the spark has returned.”
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has raised concerns over Juniper, the women’s weight loss program, involving daily drug injections that are prescribed following a quiz and text-based consultation with a doctor.
The program costs $13 a day for prescription medication, Saxenda, which is approved by the TGA to help with weight loss, alongside follow-up consultations and health coaching.
Advertising medicines to consumers is banned under Australian law and the Therapeutic Goods Administration has been checking social media for potential unlawful advertising of therapeutic goods, but recently told SBS it could not confirm if was taking a closer look at the likes of Juniper and Mosh. Over the past 9 months, the TGA has asked for more than 3,500 weight loss ads to be taken down. There’s no suggestion that Eucalyptus or Mosh have been involved in any of those incidents.
Eucalyptus cofounder and CEO Tim Doyle was interviewed by VC investor Blackbird and was asked how Eucalyptus has evolved as a brand.
“Our ambition has risen. Covid, as well as the impact we’ve had on patients’ lives has shifted our focus from transactional care into much more comprehensive and deep care around chronic disease,” he said.
“One of our women’s healthcare brands Juniper, provides a holistic program to people struggling with their weight globally, and has 20 touch points between patients and their care team (doctors, dietitians, health coaches, patient support) in the very first month.”
Asked about the debate over telehealth and prescribing online being unsafe, Doyle said: “I think ultimately the fear around safety and telehealth comes from a lack of understanding about how these platforms actually operate. It seems that people are associating all telehealth with the quick script models that exist. The reality is much more nuanced than that.”