Just a few weeks after PayGround co-founder and CEO Drew Mercer found out he had testicular cancer, his wife gave birth to their third child.
Mercer says that in a span of two weeks, he and his wife received more than 20 separate healthcare bills, each one a paper statement with a different way to pay. It was 2018 and several bills required check payments.
Not only did Mercer have testicular cancer at 32 and a brand new baby, he also had to make sure the bills were paid. He says that time was emotional and overwhelming, and keeping track of all the bills only made things worse.
Mercer saw an opportunity to solve a major problem, so he founded PayGround that same year.
Mercer’s always had the “entrepreneur itch,” he says, but his experience with paying all those medical bills helped him realize he could create a better way.
Now, Mercer is in remission, his wife just had their fourth baby and he wants to make a difference.
“Coming out of cancer, you look at life with clearer eyes,” Mercer says. “I wanted to do something more than I was doing before.”
Mercer teamed up with Kashif Masood, who he knew from another company, to build an easy and efficient way to pay out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Mercer comes from a background in business development, while Masood brings technical expertise. Mercer won’t say much about their proprietary technology, except to call it “advanced architecture.”
The Gilbert-based company announced the close of its $4 million seed round on March 2. The two biggest investors were Triventures, a venture capital fund that invests in healthcare startups, and SixThirty, which invests in early-stage fintech and insurtech enterprise technology companies.
The mission of PayGround, says Mercer, is to “simplify healthcare payments for individuals and families so they can spend their sanity on more important things.” He says that the $4 million seed money they just raised will help accelerate fulfilling and expanding that mission.
According to Mercer, an average family of four pays about $2,500 in out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, and it takes between 60 and 90 days to pay healthcare bills. This process is a headache for both patients and providers, and PayGround is meant to ease the pain for both.
Mercer hopes that if the payment process is more straightforward and convenient, patients will pay and pay faster and providers won’t have to spend months trying to track down payments. He believes that ultimately, if this is the case, healthcare costs in general will decrease.
Less than 500 providers use PayGround currently, but Mercer is optimistic about expanding the company’s reach. PayGround has been focused on working with smaller practices of no more than 10 doctors, but the company plans to integrate into major hospitals this year. Mercer acknowledges that getting doctors and practices on board can be challenging because it is a matter of changing behavior. It’s about coaxing them to leave behind the old billing systems they’ve used for years.
Still, he believes it can be done. He hopes PayGround becomes the payment engine for all of healthcare.
Mercer’s got other big plans for this year and beyond. He hints that the company will make a big announcement in early summer and in the meantime, they’re hiring five new positions, including engineers, a customer success team and a marketing director.
Patients can go to the company’s website to find out how to add their provider to the network.