To help answer the most private questions around sexual health, myLAB Box lets people test at home.
Five years ago, friends and fellow entrepreneurs Lora Ivanova and Ursula Hessenflow met for coffee in Los Angeles, where they both lived. As they were both single, the conversation turned to dating—and how difficult it was to ask potential romantic partners if they had recently been tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
“One thing led to another, and we started talking about sexual health and how awkward it was to have certain conversations,” Ivanova says.
More often than not, Hessenflow says, “You’d ask the question, and the answer would be that the person had never been tested or had not been tested in a while.”
Galvanized by their discussion, each of them began researching what products and services were on the market that allowed people to test for STDs without visiting a doctor’s office. To their surprise, neither found any. Enter myLAB Box, the company they started, which sells at-home testing kits for sexually transmitted diseases.
An online service, myLAB Box promises accurate testing for a full range of sexually transmitted infections in the privacy and anonymity of customers’ homes. Results are generally available in 5-9 days, and people who test positive get a free telemedicine conference and the appropriate prescription.
To make the shift from startup to greater growth, the two have been participating in Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab, an accelerator that provides multicultural and women entrepreneurs with a full curriculum of training and coaching, including mentorship and broad exposure to the financial and investment community, along with a $200,000 investment and office space in the firm’s New York headquarters.
Ivanova and Hessenflow learned about the program while myLAB Box was in the middle of raising funds. “The Morgan Stanley opportunity comes with a very meaningful financial contribution,” Ivanova says. “But, by the same token, they have created a program that addresses the needs of a growing business.”
When the business partners entered the Lab, they felt they had a strong business model but could use additional support and coaching. “We had excellent metrics, and now it was a question of scaling up and dealing with the transition from bootstrapped startup to fast-growing company,” Hessenflow says.
At least as important was finding a peer group of entrepreneurs. “Sometimes it’s good to step outside my own challenges and focus on someone else’s,” Ivanova says. “They’re not alone, and I’m not alone.”
Neither of the myLAB Box founders comes from a healthcare background, and both are amazed at what they have been able to accomplish so far. One of their goals now is to expand their online diagnostic offerings. “We think this could apply to a large variety of conditions,” Hessenflow says.
When they first started out, “We were surprised that there wasn’t something that would help people get tested, that there wasn’t an alternative to the conventional method of going to a doctor or a clinic,” Ivanova says. Particularly with sexually transmitted diseases, “It’s something that has a lot of stigma attached to it. People will avoid dealing with the issue. They don’t want to have an interaction with another person about this subject because it’s awkward.”
Ivanova, who had a strong background in e-commerce, understood the power of home shopping and on-demand delivery. “I was very excited to see how I could apply that to something, like healthcare, how that would change lives and improve outcomes,” she says. “I thought we could really disrupt what we saw as an outdated and inefficient system.”