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Homecare startup Cera raises $17m amid reports of fake online reviews


Tech-enabled startup Cera has announced the closure of a $17m Series A round days after reports suggested it had posted fake reviews online.

According to Bloomberg, which cited anonymous sources, Cera did not hold partnerships with some of the firms it claimed to do so. Additionally, the outlet said that approximately a dozen of reviews on third-party websites had been crafted by either Cera’s employees or people close to them.

A Cera spokesperson told UKTN: “We have looked into this, and TrustPilot have removed unverified reviews. We pride ourselves on delivering outstanding, high-quality care, which is demonstrated through our platform’s automated customer feedback, which remains at a 95% satisfaction rate* [*as of 27/4/18].

“Contrary to certain statements in recent press articles, we have partnered with several NHS organisations over the past year, successfully delivering NHS-funded and referred care services. In 2018 we have delivered NHS CCG funded care with the following CCGs: Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Haringey, Enfield, and previously had partnered with CCGs including Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon, and East London Foundation Trust, in addition to marketing in NHS hospitals including: Central Middlesex, West Middlesex, Northwick Park, Royal Marsden, Whittington and Barnet & Chase Farm. We note that at the time the articles were written, our website was not fully up to date with these materials and have since rectified it – this was in part due to variable contractual expiry dates.”

Today, the startup, which launched just over a year and half ago, says it’s raised from Guinness Asset Management, which oversees $1.7 billion, through its EIS fund; Yabeo, who are the lead investor in Germany’s biggest care supply company Pflegebox; and Kairos, who aim to transform broken industries, such as elderly care, using technology.

Several investors from Cera’s Seed round, including Peter Sands, formerly CEO of Standard Chartered and chairman of Davos, have also followed-on.

The startup says it will use the cash (equity and available debt) to expand across the UK; specifically targeting Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham through a ‘buy and build’ strategy – essentially, Cera will look to purchase struggling homecare agencies.

Although Cera is not disclosing the breakdown of equity versus debt, the startup has confirmed it will also use the money to continue investing in AI, following the announcement of its artificial intelligence assistant, Martha, last year.

Dr Ben Maruthappu, co-founder and CEO of Cera, commented on the round: “Our funding will allow us to transform the accessibility and affordability of homecare for thousands of vulnerable people like never before, all at the touch of a smartphone. It’s an incredibly exciting time for the business as we grow our team, expand internationally and, with CeraFlex, embark on arguably the biggest change to elderly care provision in a century – offering care that’s always there, at a fraction of the cost”.

The funding announcement comes shortly after the firm revealed that former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg had joined as chairman of its advisory board.

Other influential new hires include director of product development Ankur Jain, who was formally Global VP of product at Tinder; and Philip Young – previously senior legal counsel at Liberty Global, who joins as general counsel to lead on Cera’s ‘buy and build’ strategy.  

Clegg went on to say: “The confidence shown by Cera’s investors, and the launch of a ground breaking new social care package shaped flexibly around people’s daily needs, shows how Cera is emerging as one of the most innovative social care providers in the country. I am confident that as we continue to strike the right balance between technology-enabled innovation and affordable, high quality care, the company will go from strength to strength.”