Tend Raises Another $37M to Expand its Trendy Dental Studios and Move into DTC

As a patient in the healthcare system, you’re the customer but more often than not, it does not feel like. Tend is the modern dental studio that brings a customer-centric experience to dentistry, borrowing practices from the hospitality industry. Whether it’s in-person or through a virtual consultation, Tend places an emphasis on reducing the anxiety associated with a visit to the dentist. For example, patients can drift into their favorite Netflix show while undergoing treatments. In addition to routine cleanings, Tend offers teeth whitening, braces, root canals, veneers, and more. Next year, the company, still less than a year old, plans to expand into direct-to-consumer oral health products for its customers.

AlleyWatch caught up with CEO Doug Hudson to learn more about the experience of building Tend 150-person team, the company’s geographic expansion plans, and most recent round of funding, which brings the total funding raised to $73M.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?

We’ve raised $37M in Series B funding. GV led the round, joined by Juxtapose, Redpoint, Tiger Global, Zigg Capital and Good Friends, the fund formed by the founders of allbirds, Harry’s, and Warby Parker.

Tell us about the product or service that Tend offers.

Tend launched in October 2019 with a new, innovative approach to oral care, infusing hospitality elements into the patient experience with offerings like visit customization and price transparency. Tend offers a full range of dental services utilizing cutting-edge technology such as low vibration and comfortable piezo scalers for cleaning and 30-second X-ray scans for smarter, faster care.

Improving patient experience has been a focal point of our brand. This includes incorporating a simple online booking system that prioritizes convenience and builds positive anticipation including, capturing insurance details pre-visit, confirming benefits and cost/payment pre-visit, as well as allowing patients to input visit goals and customizable preferences like Netflix shows to watch during treatment and polishing paste flavors. Tend offers virtual consults and televisits for emergencies as well.

What inspired the start of Tend?

Tend was created after our team saw a need for change across the highly fragmented dental industry. We all go to the dentist, and yet, people consistently are dissatisfied with their experiences (with an industry average Net Promoter Score of 1.) We built Tend to create a new standard for oral health, starting at the dentist and ultimately extending into daily life.

How is Tend different?

At Tend, we have focused on creating an entirely new dental experience, with every aspect expertly curated to transform dental visits into positive interactions. Utilizing innovative technology, design and a hospitality-driven approach, Tend is reinventing dental and actively changing the way people think about going to the dentist. Tend has also integrated innovation and technology throughout its brand experience that is unmatched in the industry and provides transparency for patients every step of the way.

What market does Tend target and how big is it?

Throughout my career, I’ve been drawn to opportunities focused on bringing innovation to various categories of the healthcare industry, from hearing to diabetes. My time at these companies helped open my eyes to the massive opportunity with general dentistry – a $140B market.

What’s your business model?

We want to completely change the dental industry and have developed a new model that transforms the experience for both patients and providers.

We do this by focusing on design and encouraging patients to care about oral health. Even when patients trust their dentists, they stray because of stress and anxiety, which negatively impacts oral health. Tend believes design can put patients at ease and make dental visits more enticing. We began this in our studios and look forward to bringing the Tend experience to people’s homes with our products in the coming year.

Tend has also redesigned the dentist compensation model and compensates dentists with a competitive base salary and an additional bonus based on overall guest happiness and retention. Our new model helps align doctor and patient interests in a way that builds trust and credibility by removing financial incentives.

How has COVID-19 impacted the business?

In March, as COVID cases began to skyrocket, we limited service to emergencies-only. Then we closed our studios completely. New York City had become the global epicenter of the pandemic. And we had just started a business there that involved putting hands in people’s mouths. But as the city weathered the peak, and cases fell, we realized that perhaps we hadn’t launched Tend in the worst place at the worst time – as dentistry is a vital service and dental environments are well equipped to avoid COVID.

In appointment-only studios, patient volume can be carefully managed, PPE is standard, and our deep investment in technology gave us the ability to provide a safer experience. All of this enabled us to reopen our doors in June.

What was the funding process like?

We raised our Series B with an ambitious mission for 2021. Our objectives are to expand to 20 or more studios in NYC and new metro areas across the country, starting with Boston and Washington DC; scale our operations and our team, which is already 150 employees strong in New York and Nashville; make people look forward to their daily routines with a suite of amazing oral care products; and continue to invest deeply in technology and experience. We’re thankful for the partnership and support of our investors and advisors who will help us drive Tend’s mission of creating a new standard for oral health, starting at the dentist and extending into daily life.

What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?

We raised our capital against the backdrop of COVID-19. After closing in March and reimaging the patient journey to prioritize safety while retaining an elevated experience, we reopened in June. In 30 days, new patient appointments had recovered by 85%. Today, Tend’s revenue has recovered by over 150%, defying the ADA’s 2020 outlook for the dental industry.

What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?

We couldn’t be more excited that this funding round was led by GV. GV has an impressive track record of backing disruptive consumer healthcare companies with experience-oriented, tech-focused brands beloved by patients, like One Medical and Flatiron Health. We are grateful for their belief in our vision for what the future of oral health should be.

What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?

Our Series B will be used to expand Tend from 5 to 20+ studios by the end of 2021, moving outside NYC for the first time to Boston and DC. We will also debut our first suite of CPG products in Q1 2021, reaching national customers through online retail, introducing Tend as an essential part of people’s daily oral health routines. In order to do both of these things, our main goal will be to continue scaling the team and our operations.

What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?

We are in an unprecedented time and there is certainly no simple path towards fundraising in the middle of a pandemic. For us, we are focused on building an experienced, best-in-class team across both dentistry and operations, in order to continue to weather this storm.

Where do you see the company going now over the near term?

While it doesn’t feel like it to us, given how much has happened in the past eleven months, Tend is still less than a year old. There’s still so much for us to achieve and we’re just getting started.

While it doesn’t feel like it to us, given how much has happened in the past eleven months, Tend is still less than a year old. There’s still so much for us to achieve and we’re just getting started.

In this year we’ve found that New York loves how Tend does dental differently, and we think other cities will too. We are confident that we can replicate the magic of our NYC studios in these new metro areas and as we bring our products to people at home.

What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC

We find ourselves extremely lucky that Shake Shack is right around the corner from our Flatiron Studio!

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