launching in HOU

Digital pharmacy launches in Houston to address access with same-day delivery

A new pharmacy startup has officially launched in Houston. Photo courtesy of Capsule

A health tech company has officially launched locally to serve as a digital pharmacy platform. The company is aiming to simplify the process for customers.

Capsule has launched in Houston to address access-challenged pharmacy deserts as well as allow for discreet delivery of frequently stigmatized medications. The company also prioritizes better communications than standard pharmacy service.

"Capsule's mission has always been to build a pharmacy that works for everyone," says Eric Kinariwala, founder and CEO of Capsule, in a news release. "We believe that the core pharmacy experience is fundamentally broken for the hundreds of millions of Americans who take medication regularly, so we set out to rebuild that experience from the inside out."

Capsule's custom software prevents common issues out-of-stock medications, long wait times, and lack of price transparency, as well as improves communications. Customers can sign up for the service — which includes same-day delivery within all of Harris County and parts of Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, and Montgomery counties — and have their physician send their prescriptions to Capsule. The company accepts all major insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid.

One problem that Capsule is attempting to solve is access to pharmaceuticals. According to the release, half of prescriptions in America go unfilled resulting in $300 billion in additional healthcare costs. One factor contributing to this problem is access.

"We know that there is a direct link between proximity to a pharmacy and prescription fill rates," Kinariwala says. "And the consequences of failing to fill vital prescriptions can be dire. Capsule is a part of the solution."

In Houston, pharmacy deserts disproportionately affect minorities. Over 40 percent of Hispanic residents and 70 percent of Black residents live a mile or more away from a pharmacy. According to USA Rx data, Harris County has 1.39 pharmacies per 10,000 residents, which is below the national average of 2.4.

"Capsule's long-term ambition is to create a hub where consumers can access all of their healthcare needs in a single, simple, holistic place," says Kinariwala. "We're doing that in a way that brings together everybody in healthcare versus trying to own all of those things ourselves. Just like you buy a cell phone and choose apps, people will be able to access Capsule's digital pharmacy, as well as a best-in-class curated set of products and services to meet all of their healthcare needs from within a single app."

Eric Kinariwala is the founder and CEO of Capsule. Photo courtesy of Capsule

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Building Houston

 
 

Kelly Avant, investment associate at Houston-based Mercury Fund, shares how and why she made her way into the venture capital arena. Photo courtesy of Mercury

Kelly Avant didn't exactly pave a linear career path for herself. After majoring in gender studies, volunteering in the Peace Corps, and even attending law school — she identified a way to make a bigger impact: venture capital.

"VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems," Avant tells InnovationMap.

Avant joined the Mercury Fund team last year as an MBA associate before joining full time as investment associate. Now, after completing her MBA from Rice University this month, Avant tells InnovationMap why she's excited about this new career in investment in a Q&A.

InnovationMap: From law school and the peace corps, what drew you to start a career in the VC world?

Kelly Avant: I graduated from Rice University with an MBA, starting scouting for an investment firm in my first year, and by the summer after my first year I was essentially working full-time interning with Mercury. But, I like to tell people about my undergraduate degree in gender studies and rhetoric from a little ski college in Colorado. If you meet someone else in venture capital with a degree in gender studies, please connect us, but I think I might be the only one. I’ll spare you what I used to think — and say — about business students, but I have really come full circle.

I always thought I would work in a nonprofit space, but after serving in Cambodia with the Peace Corps, working for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and briefly attending Emory Law School with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.I found that time and time again the root of the problem was a lack of resources. The world’s problems were not going to be solved with my idealism alone.

The problem with operating as a nonprofit in a capitalism is you basically always pandering to the interests of the donors. The NFL was a key sponsor of The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The United States has a complicated, to put it lightly, relationship with Cambodia and Vietnam. It became pretty clear that the donor/nonprofit relationship was oftentimes putting the wrong party in the driver’s seat. I was, and still am, very interested in alternative financing for nonprofits. I became convinced that the most exciting businesses were building solutions to the world’s problems while also turning a profit, which allows them to survive to have a sustainable positive impact.

VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems.

IM: What are some companies you’re excited about?

KA: There are a couple super interesting founders I’ve met directly engaging with . To name a few: CiviTech, DonateStock, and Polco.

I’m very proud to work on mercury investments like Houston’s own, Topl, which has built an extremely lightweight and energy efficient Blockchain that enables tracking of ethical supply chains from the initial interaction.
I’m also excited about mercury’s investment in Zirtue, which enables relationship based peer to peer lending to solve the massive problem of predatory payday loans.

We have so many awesome founders in our portfolio. The best part about working in VC is meeting passionate innovators every day. I get excited to go to work everyday and help them to build better solutions.

IM: Why are you so passionate about bringing diversity and inclusion into Mercury?

KA: I love working with exciting, highly capable, super smart people. That category includes so many people who have been historically excluded. As an investment team member at Mercury, I do have a voice, and I have an obligation to use that voice to speak highly of the best people in rooms of influence.

IM: With your new role, what are you most focused on?

KA: In my new role, I am identifying and researching high potential investments. We’re building out a Mercury educational series to lift the veil of VC. We want to facilitate a series that gives all founders the basic skills to pass VC due diligence and have the opportunity to build the next innovative companies. My goal is ultimately to produce the best returns possible for our investors, and we can’t accomplish that goal unless we’re building out resources to meet the best founders and help them grow.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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