Health, Wellness & Biotech Startups Venture

Startups Get Hip To Hypnotherapy

Illustration of man with mental issues looking at smartphone.

It’s long seemed like our connected devices are conspiring to hypnotize us.

They goad us into wasting untold time scrolling through mindless content, keep us hooked on shows that always deviously end on a cliffhanger, and ply us with listings of stately homes we can’t afford but keep looking at anyway.

This raises the question: If they’re so effective, why can’t our devices hypnotize us in a good way? You know, get us to quit smoking and drinking, exercise, eat well and embrace positive thinking. And while we’re at it, maybe they should get us off our screens.

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Turns out, a number of hypnotherapy-focused startups think there’s merit to at least some of this idea. Investors do too. Over the past couple years, they’ve backed seed- and early-stage rounds for multiple startups offering tech-enabled hypnosis and hypnotherapy platforms.

Who’s getting funded

Two of the larger funding rounds came this year. Mindset Health, a Melbourne, Australia-based provider of digital hypnotherapy programs, picked up $12 million in Series A financing in March. And Oneleaf, a French startup offering an assortment of self-hypnosis tools, landed a $5.1 million seed round in January.

Using Crunchbase data, we put together a list of six companies formed or funded in the past few years, that list hypnotherapy or hypnosis as a focus area:

Hypnosis business models

Companies are pitching online hypnosis tools to heal ailments of both mind and body. Mindset Health, for instance, currently has hypnotherapy apps addressing irritable bowel syndrome, menopause and smoking cessation. Oneleaf’s programs aim to help us lose weight, reduce stress, build confidence and alleviate pain, among other goals.

It looks like early days when it comes to determining the optimal business model. Oneleaf is taking the all-you-want subscription approach, charging U.S. customers $68 a year for access to its offerings. Mindset, meanwhile, offers subscription plans for each of its programs, and also works with clinicians to incorporate its offerings into treatments.

Another player, Los Angeles-based WellSet, is going the employer-covered route. Earlier this year, the company launched a self-care benefit package that includes self-hypnosis among its offerings. It’s pitching the package as a tool to help employers “address the burnout epidemic.”

VR and visualization

Several other startups, including some heavily funded names, are marketing offerings that share some similarities with hypnotherapy apps but go by different names.

Meditation app and venture-backed unicorn Headspace, for instance, offers guided imagery, a healing practice it says is often interchanged with self-hypnosis and guided meditation, but with its own set of techniques.

Nashville, Tennessee- and Oxford, England-based BehaVR, a provider of virtual reality mental and behavioral health therapeutics, is another one to watch. The company pulled in $13 million in Series B funding in December, in conjunction with a merger with another startup in the space, Oxford VR. Its focus areas include anxiety regulation, pain management and addiction recovery.

More broadly, startups are scaling a number of digital therapeutics offerings with an eye to wellness and mental health. While questions remain about whether health insurers will cover treatments — as evidenced by this year’s bankruptcy by startup pioneer Pear Therapeutics — it’s still clearly a space that’s not going away.

You are your best medicine

Should self-hypnosis and self-guided hypnotherapy apps gain real traction, it’ll give a big boost to proponents of the idea that one’s own mind can sometimes provide more effective therapy than drugs or other, more invasive, treatments.

What’s also interesting about the assortment of early entrants is the degree to which they’re mixing both physical and mental ailments in their hypnosis-focused treatment plans. This may seem a bit surprising to some of us, who could envision hypnotizing our way to lower anxiety, but not, say, less irritated bowels.

If these startups are right, however, our minds could be capable of more powerful acts of healing than we’d previously imagined. Of course, getting our brains fully engaged will first require us to cut out the mindless scrolling.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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