March 12, 2020, was always going to be memorable for Jason Feldman, because that was the day his men’s health-focused startup, Vault Health, was set for a major rebrand and national rollout. But now the day is etched in his mind because it set his company on an unexpected trajectory that led to growth beyond his expectations.
On that mid-March Thursday, Feldman stood on the stock market floor in New York and witnessed the chaos as the country’s Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 saw the greatest single-day percentage dip since 1987.
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The founder and CEO was there to pose for photos and provide an interview to announce Vault Health’s next moves, but instead found the market was reacting to the COVID-19 virus. The deadly coronavirus had been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization the day before, and would be branded a national emergency in the United States by then-President Donald Trump less than 24 hours later.
“I was there watching these investors on the floor of the stock exchange freaking out because the market literally was crashing,” Feldman remembered in a recent interview with Crunchbase News. “So we go back to the office, and I thought ‘What are we going to do?’ Because we had literally just launched the brand nine months before and built all this technology and here we are. Now I’m afraid that peoples’ jobs are at risk, and I don’t know how we’re going to live.”
Vault not only lived, but grew significantly over the next year and a half.
The pandemic set in motion a new trajectory for many healthtech startups, particularly those nimble enough to respond to a world crisis that confused and broke traditional public health care systems. And while tech’s contribution during the pandemic was a mixed bag of good and bad, those that figured out how to quickly fill the needs of scared residents, governments and companies have been rewarded.
Investors in the space raced to put money into digital health startups last year. In all, the industry raised $16.6 billion in investments globally while the pandemic raged on, up from $12.5 billion the year before, according to Crunchbase data. So far in 2021, the industry has raised nearly $20 billion in funding, the data show.
Of those that successfully made a pandemic pivot, many lucked out having existing partnerships