Morris Esformes, co-founder of the new startup Malla, first became an advocate for functional medicine because of his own health concerns. Functional medicine focuses on personalizing care and finding the root causes of health challenges by taking into account factors like medical history, mental health and lifestyle. Esformes sought out a functional medicine practitioner about four years ago to treat his anxiety, brain fog and gastrointestinal issues. He learned his ailments were caused by small intestinal bacterial growth, mercury toxicity and vitamin deficiencies.
But it wasn’t until his partner got sick that he realized there was a need for a more accessible functional medicine business. His partner was hospitalized during Covid-19 with pneumonia, a fever and rashes all over her body. She too saw a functional medicine physician, but it was $800 for a single consultation before lab tests and lifestyle changes. It was for this reason that Esformes launched New York City-based Malla on Wednesday. The company’s services are available in 26 states.
“We’re really trying to democratize access to functional medicine, but also a functional medicine-informed lifestyle. … [Functional medicine] is a different approach to treating and preventing chronic conditions where instead of suppressing symptoms with prescription medication, it’s focused on a holistic, root cause-based approach to care,” Esformes said in an interview.
Through Malla, consumers can sign up for a membership that starts at $65 a month. They begin by taking an assessment on their health, followed by a session with their practitioner to discuss a personalized health plan. After that, they can receive ongoing support. The membership includes one-on-one video sessions with a practitioner, messaging with the practitioner, personalized care plans, tracking and lab testing (which costs extra).
Those who aren’t looking to purchase a membership can also shop on its website for supplements for stress support, gut health, immunity and other conditions.
Malla has received some funding through a pre-seed round, including from investors Pareto Holdings and Aliya Capital Partners. Esformes declined to share how much the company has raised.
The startup plans to target younger generations and get its message out through paid social campaigns and influencer marketing, Esformes said. While it is starting in the direct-to-consumer space, the company plans to expand to employer and provider markets in the future.
Esformes said the company’s closest competitor is Parsley Health, though this company’s membership costs about $199 a month. The company also works with employers, whereas Malla is focused on consumers at the moment.
Ultimately, Esformes is looking to make Malla a product that has a true impact on consumers’ health.
“We’re very focused on building a product that people are obsessed with and use religiously to make meaningful changes in their lives,” he said. “That’s really the beauty of direct-to-consumer, we get to stay really close to the customer to focus on nailing the experience and figure out how often we should be checking in, what services they find valuable.”