Six Mental Health Tech Teams Thriving in a Post-COVID World

Sharon Steel · August 5, 2020
mental health
Editorial Credit: Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

The challenge of turning a smartphone into a source of calm predated the arrival of COVID-19. But now, in the age of social distancing, the mental health tech industry is both a robust sector and an important bellwether for the future of caregiving: According to a recent Rock Health report, digital health startups raised over $7.4 billion in 2019. The pandemic confirmed that individuals seeking treatment found mental health apps to be a valuable resource, often using them as a gateway or supplement for traditional treatment. The marketing firm Sensor Tower reported that the world’s top English-language mental wellness apps generated 2 million more downloads in April compared to January.

The rapid proliferation of these free or reasonably priced apps continues to make therapeutic telehealth services more accessible, portable, and cost-effective. We took a closer look at six companies focused on improving the mental health and happiness of their customers.

Headspace

Meditation and sleep app Headspace was founded in 2010 by Andy Puddicombe and Rich Pierson. Today, the mental wellness giant boasts more than 65 million users in 190 countries, 2 million paid subscribers, and more than 600 corporate customers. The company raised a total of $215.9 million in seven rounds; their most recent Series C round raised $93 million. blisce/ led the round, with participation from Waverley Capital and Times Bridge, as well as existing investors The Chernin Group, Spectrum Equity, and Advancit Capital. In May 2018, Headspace hired Paddy Hannon and Punnoose Isaac as the CTO and Head of Data and Analytics, respectively. This April, new President and COO CeCe Morken brought her extensive operational experience to Headspace. As the team works to transform the company into a brand with global scale, Headspace continues to develop new commercial and clinical products, led by VP of Product Alex Linares.

Talkspace

Co-founders (and husband-and-wife team) Oren and Roni Frank launched mobile therapy business Talkspace in 2012 in order to make therapy more accessible. The app claims to serve over 1.5 million people, and has raised a total of $110 million. A Series D round raised $50 million in May 2019, with financing led by Revolution Growth. Existing investors, including Norwest Venture Partners, Omura Capital, Spark Capital, and Compound Ventures also participated. In February, Talkspace appointed Mark Hirschhorn as President, CFO, and COO; and Andrew Moers as CMO. These hires closely followed the April 2018 appointment of Chief Medical Officer Neil Leibowitz and Deb Adler as Senior VP, Network and Quality. The leadership team announced they’d like to offer new pharmaceutical options this year, with the aim of making Talkspace a national name in the behavioral health sector. A recent partnership with Cigna also gave an additional 14 million people access to Talkspace’s network of therapists.

Sanvello

Dale Beermann and Chris Goettel started Pacifica Labs in 2014 with the mission to create an effective behavioral healthcare solution using mindfulness skills and mood tracking tools. Pacifica was acquired by Sanvello Health after an undisclosed, early stage funding round in 2017. LEO Innovation Lab led the financing; other investors included PHS Capital and HealthX Ventures. Sanvello has seen massive growth since then: The app is ranked #1 for stress and anxiety, and now has more than 3 million users. The company also expanded its leadership team, adding CEO Brian Sauer, COO Carrie Rutstein, CFO Krista Dusil, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Monika Roots. Beermann, formerly CEO at Pacifica, is the CTO. Sanvello is now part of UnitedHealth Group, and serves more than 37 million people total across the app and its clinician dashboard, Sanvello for Clinicians. In April, Sanvello made Sanvello for Clinicians free for all U.S. mental health professionals, in order to further support work with patients during the pandemic.

Happify

When Tomer Ben-Kiki, Ofer Leidner, and Andy Parsons founded Happify Health in 2012, they wanted to help people improve their emotional well-being through science-based activities and games. To date, the company’s digital platform, which includes an app, benefits 3.5 million users who believe happiness is a skill that can be strengthened. Six investors currently fund the brand, which has raised a total of $45.7 million over eight rounds. TT Capital Partners and Mangrove Capital Partners are the most recent and lead investors from a 2017 round raising $9 million; other investors include Bridge Builders Collaborative and Founder Collective. Ben-Kiki and Leidner continue to lead Happify as CEO and President, respectively. In 2017, the company promoted early employee Rick Held to Chief Experience Officer; he now heads Happify’s consumer experience and growth strategy including analytics and reporting. Last year, Happify announced a collaboration with Sanofi to develop digital therapeutics specifically for people with MS.

Unmind

Unmind is a U.K.-based workplace mental health program that began selling mental wellbeing solutions directly to businesses in 2016. Since then, major brands including ASOS, WeWork, and British Airways have partnered with the company. This suggests the ability to scale faster than mental health tech that targets individuals, and investors are paying attention: Unmind raised $10 million in a Series A round in February, which is one of the largest for a European mental health tech business. Project A Ventures led the round, with additional support from Felix Capital. To date, the company has raised a total of $16.2 million. Unmind was co-founded by CEO Nick Taylor, who is also a clinical psychologist. Co-founders Ry Morgan and Steve Peralta sit in the C-suite as COO and Chief Content Officer, respectively.

Big Health

Another U.K.-based startup, Big Health entered the scene in 2010, and the digital therapeutics company quickly garnered attention across the pond as well. Big Health’s two digital offerings are Sleepio, a sleep improvement program, and Daylight, which combats worry and anxiety. In 2019, CVS Caremark began offering Sleepio to its benefit management formulary, and added Daylight a year later. Target, Comcast, and Home Depot employees also have access to the Big Health platform. To date, Big Health claims more than 12 million people in 60 countries have access to its services. The company raised $39 million in a Series B financing in June, and a total of $54.3 million in over three rounds. Gilde Healthcare led the latest round of funding, joined by Morningside Ventures and Samsung NEXT, as well as existing investors Kaiser Permanente Ventures and Octopus Ventures. In 2017, Big Health co-founders Peter Hames (CEO) and Colin Espie (Chief Medical Officer) welcomed Kelvin Kwong and Dr. Jenna Carl as VP of Product and VP of Clinical Development & Medical Affairs, respectively. Brandon Paluzzi was the company’s first employee; as Founding Engineer he now oversees security, privacy, and compliance programs.

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