Health, Wellness & Biotech

Wysa Puts $5.5M Series A To Work Targeting ‘Missing Middle Of Mental Health’

Boston-based conversational mental health platform Wysa took in $5.5 million of Series A funding Thursday to focus on employee mental health.

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Co-founders Jo Aggarwal and Ramakant Vempati first started the company in the elder care space, but their idea didn’t find a product market fit and ultimately failed.

Aggarwal recalls falling into a depression over not being able to solve that problem. She decided that if she was going to feel like a failure, she would rather fail doing something she was passionate about.

Wysa began as a side project, looking at using artificial intelligence to detect mental health issues, Aggarwal told Crunchbase News. The company as it is today was founded in 2015, and the platform launched in 2016 offering cognitive behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness, and coaching exercises in just five to 10 minutes.

“We felt Wysa was needed to target the missing middle of mental health,” she added. “Most companies either target the wellness space or the 1 in 4 people that deal with depression. We are targeting the 60 percent of people who can manage on their own, but need techniques that are only taught in therapy.”

Landscape

The mental health landscape has grown over the past year due to the global pandemic. The behavioral health market is predicted to reach $240 billion by 2026, according to a 2019 report by Acumen Research and Consulting.

Wysa joins a long list of startups in this space that have gained attention from investors in recent years. Among a Crunchbase list of global startups focused on mental health, investors pumped nearly $4.5 billion into 576 deals since 2016. Among those investments, nearly $1.3 billion of that has been handed out so far in 2021, according to Crunchbase data.

At the core of Wysa is a chatbot function to create a safe space for users where they can be heard, feel validated and be guided without stress, Aggarwal said. There is also a catalog of more than 170 mindfulness exercises, techniques and sleep stories.

“Interestingly, a chatbot can create that safe space, and it won’t judge you or feel bad if it can’t help you,” she added. “You can also complete CBT techniques in minutes that would take a couple of sessions with a therapist.”

W Health Ventures led the Series A round and was joined by the Google Assistant Investment program, as well as existing investors pi Ventures and Kae Capital. Including the new funding, Wysa has raised $9.4 million in total venture-backed investments, according to Crunchbase data.

Pankaj Jethwani, executive vice president at W Health Ventures, said he is a digital-health investor and looked at more than 100 companies in the mental health space. When he came across Wysa, he saw the company was getting thousands of new users each day and was impressed with the founders.

“For decades, mental health was only about the 20 percent who need therapy, but mental health should be about everyone,” said Jethwani, who is also a physician. “Wysa is targeted toward everyone and providing everyday mental health using technology in a way regular therapy can’t.”

Next steps

Meanwhile, Wysa’s HIPAA-compliant platform has facilitated more than 100 million conversations with more than 3 million users and covers over 10 million lives in more than 65 countries worldwide. It is being used by 20 enterprise partners, including Accenture, which rolled out Wysa to 500,000 employees across 53 countries this year.

Wysa will use this capital to support its offering to employers who want to expand their mental health benefits, as well as scale up Wysa’s sales team and therapist network.

Aggarwal said the company will also continue setting up its U.S. operations in Boston. Wysa is already in London and Bangalore and is hiring a sales team and rounding out its local licensed therapist network. Next up, the goal is to develop Wysa’s full stack toward being able to offer reimbursable therapy. In addition, the company will begin offering assistance in Spanish.

“We will add more resources to our corporate program, such as comprehensive wellness exercises and workshops, and will provide corporate insights,” Aggarwal said. “We will be able to tell companies how employees are doing in each office. There will now be a cycle of accountability that they can do something about and show how Wysa transforms an organization looking at well-being.”

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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