Dn her undergraduate years at Yale University, April Koh learned firsthand how frustrating and expensive it can be to find effective help for mental illnesses. Her best friend and roommate saw several doctors and medications for an eating disorder and eventually needed time off for treatment; Meanwhile, Koh was struggling with his own mental health issues and struggling to find the right treatment.
“The costliest problem in mental health is trial and error,” says Koh. “There was this crazy proliferation of all these apps and solutions that purported to help people with their mental health. And there was no indication of which resource, application, or therapist would work best for you.
Convinced that there had to be a better way to match patients with the best treatments, Koh partnered with Adam Chekroud, a doctoral student at Yale who, in 2016, published peer-reviewed research on how the machine learning could help match patients with the best healthcare providers for their needs. That same year, Koh and Chekroud founded Spring Health, a platform that would use “precision mental health care” to solve the very problem that Koh and her best friend had faced.
Five years later, Koh (CEO of Spring) and Chekroud (President of Spring) guided Spring to unicorn status: The company announced Thursday that it had secured $ 190 million in Series C funding at a valuation of $ 2 billion. dollars. The cycle was led by health investor Kinnevik; Insurer Guardian Life joined as a new investor, while existing investors including Tiger Global, Rethink Impact and Work-Bench also participated.
The increase also means Koh, 29, is now the youngest female CEO of a multibillion-dollar startup. (Koh narrowly surpasses Shippo CEO Laura Behrens Wu, a Forbes Former student under 30, who is six months older.)
“It was an incredibly competitive tour,” Koh said. Forbes, noting that she had higher valuation offers from some of the world’s largest funds, but turned them down because she preferred Kinnevik’s healthcare expertise. “And that reflects our incredible growth over the past year, especially, but also over the past few years.”
The growth Koh is referring to has been slow and steady for most of the company’s existence: after joining Spring in 2016, Koh and Chekroud spent two years working on the science and developing the business plan. ‘business. By 2018, the Spring team had published 15 peer-reviewed articles on their science and were starting to roll out their services to large employers; Koh’s theory was that offering Spring’s algorithms and matching services as a benefit to employees would be the best way to reach most of the people who needed help with their mental health. Later that year, Koh, Chekroud, and their third co-founder, Abhishek Chandra, landed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Between 2018 and 2020, Koh’s hypothesis that spring would be an attractive social benefit proved correct, with companies like Whole Foods, Equinox, and Gap signing up as customers. In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic and associated mental health epidemic boosted the business: in early 2020, Spring raised a $ 22 million Series A funding round, which it followed with a Series B of $ 76 million in November. And now a $ 190 million Series C.
Koh said Forbes of its intentions for the new round of capital are twofold: to take Spring global and offer its services to the entire family of an employee. “We have relationship counseling, we have pediatric mental health care, we have coaching for, for parenting. We already have all of these different pieces in place, so we’re creating a platform where families can experience spring health together, ”she explained.
The costliest problem in mental health is trial and error. There was this crazy proliferation of all these apps and solutions that purported to help people with their sanity. And there was no indication of which resource, application, or therapist would work best for you.
While Spring doesn’t publicly disclose its full pricing model, Koh says employers can generally expect to pay $ 100 to $ 150 per employee per year. What individual employees end up paying for the treatment depends a bit on what that treatment is – Spring’s algorithms can match people to everything from meditation and self-guided cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to therapists. and drug management – and their health plan coverage. . Spring works with employers to understand these insurance plans so that when an employee seeks treatment, the options they see are largely in the network, not out of their pocket. This is a crucial step towards expanding access to mental health care, as some 112 million Americans live in areas where mental health care is already scarce and only 56% of psychiatrists accept. commercial insurance.
“Technology for the 99% is big business. And in that case, employers care because it matters to their bottom line, ”says Jenny Abramson, Founder and Managing Partner of ReThink Impact, which has invested in Spring’s A, B and C funding series. “We found that 7% of employees were hospitalized due to stress at work – this number can vary from year to year, but give or take – and 50% of employees are short of time from work to cause of stress. It is a huge problem.
Chris Brunson, vice president of total rewards at General Mills, has also seen these statistics and knows that traditional employee assistance programs are used very little by the workforce (in some cases only 1% to 5%). That’s why, in January, he and his team introduced Spring to the company’s 35,000 employees. Brunson said employee interest in Spring was “immediate” and pervasive in all types of jobs at General Mills.
“You know, it’s easy to focus on a head office footprint, but we’re a manufacturers organization; the vast majority of our employees are off manufacturing sites. We needed a scalable and deployable solution across our entire employee network, ”he said. Brunson said General Mills advertised Spring via direct mail with QR codes, allowing workers to sign up for Spring on their own and without needing to go through a manager or HR. Once a worker is matched with a care or treatment provider, they can see that person within two days. (Koh says Spring has never exceeded a two-day wait time to see a vendor, which is a significant improvement over the typical 20-30 days wait in this space.)
Koh gives herself a brief moment of reflection after completing Series C – “It’s an extraordinary privilege, and I’m proud of it,” she says of her new honor as Unicorn’s youngest female CEO – but it also focuses on the laser. the future. In the short term, she says, her goal is an IPO.
“It’s less about IPOs,” she said, “and more about establishing Spring Health as a sustainable and important company that has the greatest possible impact on mental health.”