Partnering with Co:Helm: The Co-Pilot for Health Care
Abdel, Zahid and their team are giving clinicians a second set of hands—and fixing one of the biggest pain points for patients.
When your doctor orders a scan, prescribes a new medication, or tells you you need a surgery, you usually want to move as quickly as possible. But you also want to know it will be paid for, which for many patients in the U.S. means first getting your insurance company to sign off. In this “prior authorization” process, the insurer’s clinicians review your medical records—often a massive amount of different kinds of information, from test results to doctors notes, PDFs to imaging files—and compare them with a set of care guidelines to make a decision.
It is a time-consuming, manual process—and not just for the insurance company’s doctors and nurses, but for those on the provider side, as well, who sometimes spend hours responding to requests when they would otherwise be treating patients. Meanwhile, those patients have to wait for even the simplest approvals; in some cases, care is delayed as much as a month. And the problem is not just about speed, but also cost: One-quarter, or $950 billion, of U.S. health care spending goes to administrative expenses, with as much as $570 billion lost to inefficiencies that don’t improve patient outcomes.
We at Sequoia have seen again and again, across industries, that AI can be a powerful tool for solving just such challenges. But in this case, the trouble has been that while people with expertise in health care or AI are relatively easy to find, people with both are quite rare.
Luckily for us, though, Co:Helm co-founders Abdel Mahmoud and Zahid Mahmood applied to Arc.
Born in Libya, Abdel came to the U.K. as a refugee at 8 years old. By 15, he had his own software business—and by 18, he had joined the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where he became the youngest infantry officer in the U.K. Then Abdel became a doctor. He loved helping patients, but grew frustrated with the mountains of paperwork that kept him from spending more time with them, and eventually left medicine, returning to University College London for a master’s in computer science and going on to work in product at Facebook and Google.
Zahid, too, founded a company as a teenager—the first of his now-four founder journeys. He started the other two as side projects during a successful run as a software engineer building payment platforms for large insurance companies, which gave him deep expertise in the industry. He and Abdel became friends at UCL, and now they are teaming up to give doctors and nurses the extra set of hands that Abdel, when he was treating patients, always wished he had.
Co:Helm is an LLM-powered co-pilot for administration, handling all the work that comes before the clinical decision-making. Where it might take a nurse several hours to track down, organize and summarize hundreds of pages of records they need, Co:Helm can do it in seconds, allowing clinicians to increase their output tenfold and focus on what matters most: helping patients.
With partners including one of the top U.S. health plan administrators, Abdel, Zahid and their team will soon be making a difference for millions of patients, and the waitlist is growing quickly. We are proud to lead this seed round and help them hit the gas pedal as they hire across engineering, sales and GTM, and regulatory roles. And while they are starting with prior authorization, there is a long list of pain points Co:Helm will ultimately be able to address, from case management to underwriting and beyond.
Fixing these problems will take grit, imagination, and both high IQ and EQ—but as we’ve seen ever since meeting Abdel and Zahid, those are defining qualities of the Co:Helm team. Throughout Arc, they also proved themselves to be great students: humble, eager for feedback, and serious about continuously improving their product. They have truly been a joy to work with, and we look forward to the joy of helping them build better health care.