RealSelf is getting ready to expand with $40 million in new funding from Elephant Venture Capital.
The community-based web site, which focuses on user reviews and rankings of various cosmetic procedures, from microneedling to facelifts, as well as related doctors, is looking to use the fresh capital to grow in more ways than one, according to founder and chief executive officer Tom Seery.
First, RealSelf is looking to hire more people this year and correspondingly expand its Seattle-based headquarters. But that surge is part of the site’s intention to not only grow awareness of the brand in the U.S., but expand into international markets.
“We’ve gotten the signal that there’s a lot of interest in RealSelf in adjacent markets, as well as international,” Seery said. “Four out of every 10 of our visitors come from outside the U.S.”
The site’s last round of funding was in 2008 when it was only two years old and Seery said it’s been running “very lean” over the last several years, but for the last six, it’s been profitable.
The site has 10 million unique users a month, a number Seery plans to be in the “tens of millions” five years from now, and offers two million procedure reviews from patients. Part of the site’s growth rate is embedded in the increasing popularity of cosmetic or minimally invasive procedures. In 2010, Seery said RealSelf had 150 procedures that patients were reviewing — now the number is around 450.
“In the U.S. alone, the compound growth rate of [people undergoing] minimally invasive or nonsurgical procedures is in the double digits,” Seery noted.
He also admitted to making use of his own site for a couple of procedures. One was Invisalign, which has more than 2,100 patient reviews and nearly 27,000 listed providers on RealSelf. The other was a Fraxel skin resurfacing treatment, which has nearly 7,100 reviews and 12,543 listed providers. During the laser treatment, Seery admitted it was so painful that he cried “the whole time,” provoking his doctor to comment that all men undergoing Fraxel cry.
RealSelf has found itself in a position of facilitating an industry on both sides — prospective patients want to make informed choices based on firsthand experiences and prospective doctors want to be seen as a good option. And it’s this access to a double-sided market that drew Seery to Elephant, which he described as a “strategic partner” and not a firm RealSelf went to only for money.
“Elephant stood out based on their experience in financing models like ours, two-sided marketplaces,” Seery said.
Boston-based Elephant was started in 2015 by Andy Hunt, one of the founders of Warby Parker, where he serves as a director. Seery said Hunt’s experience at Warby Parker and with Allbirds, which Elephant invested in last year, “as brands that have built their awareness in digital is super attractive to us.”
A representative of Elephant could not be reached for comment.
Hunt will be joining the RealSelf board, which includes Rich Barton, the founder of Expedia and a co-founder of Zillow and Glassdoor; Barney Harford, chief operations officer of Uber; Christine Peterson, chief executive officer of TimeOut Online, and Mike Slade, a former Apple Inc. adviser who worked under Steve Jobs and went on to found Second Avenue Partners, one of the first investors in RealSelf.
As for his long-term goals for RealSelf, Seery didn’t seem too interested in being acquired but he didn’t reject the idea of going public, while pointing out that his mind isn’t focused on “how to orchestrate the perfect financial outcome.”
“I want to put the company in a position where, if it makes sense to sell some of the business to the public, the company is in a place where that’s an option, but not a predetermined path,” Seery said.
For More, See: