Ginger, an MIT spinout providing app-based mental health coaching to workers, raises $35M – gpgmail


Mental health issues are thought to impact one in every five people in the US, and the stress of working life can be an exacerbating factor. Now, one of the startups that’s using technology to build ways to support this population has raised a significant round of funding to expand its platform to aid in getting them the help they need.

Ginger, a startup that works with organizations and their healthcare providers to provide employees with an-app based way to connect with coaches to talk through their issues and suggest ways forward, is today announcing that it has raised $35 million in a Series C round of funding, money that it will use both to expand the data science behind its therapy programs and the variety of its clinical programs; as well in terms of its business opportunities. The plan is to grow its service internationally and to more touch points beyond the employer channel, including those who access healthcare through health plans (which might include, potentially, countries with nationalised health services).

The funding is a Series C being led by WP Global Partners (an investment firm that backs both companies — for example, it also is an investor in Postmates — as well as other funds) with participation from some of a number of other new and previous high-profile investors that include City Light Capital, Nimble Ventures, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Khosla Ventures, Kaiser Permanente Ventures, and Kapor Capital.

“As the global mental health crisis intensifies and access challenges increase, employers are searching for solutions to address the shortage of affordable, available providers,” said Russell Glass, CEO of Ginger, in a statement. “In building the world’s first virtual behavioral health system, we are reinventing the approach with instant access to care. This latest round of funding accelerates our ability to expand high-quality care — any time of day or night — to millions of people around the world.”

It brings the total raised by Ginger to $63 million, and the company is not disclosing valuation (we’re asking), but it has been growing at a very steady clip and says that over 200,000 people are able to access the service by way of their employers’ Ginger plans. Ginger says that customers include CBS, Netflix, Pinterest, Sephora, Twilio, Yelp and BuzzFeed, and it’s now active in 25 countries outside the US, including major markets like the UK, Japan, Australia, Canada and India.

Founded nearly a decade ago as a spinout from the MIT Media Lab, Ginger started life initially with a platform that would monitor a user’s smartphone interactions to detect potential mental health issues and help connect that user with someone to talk to. This lean-forward approach appears to have been retired in favor of a service that relies on the users themselves making the first move.

That first move comes in the form of text message, which an employee can send 24/7 and receive an immediate response. That in itself is notable: the traditional way of going about speaking to a counsellor or therapist that you might get through your work’s health insurance can take up to 25 days for your first appointment, Ginger notes, by which point the problem that got you interested in speaking to someone in the first place may have become significantly worse.

While some users keep their coaching — this is the word used by Ginger itself, and I think the reason is because it helps to differentiate this from in-person, more classic therapy sessions, and because the people who are trained to work with you might not actually be doctors — to texts, others may get referred up the ladder to other mediums, such as video therapy and video psychiatry with licensed clinicians.

The latter is a route that applies to some 8% of Ginger’s users, the company says, with the rest resolving issues through the text-based coaching. Time with clinicians is guaranteed to be provided within a 72-hour window.

On the other side of the issue of getting to speak to someone, Ginger also offers options for people to reach out and book coaching and therapy sessions outside of work hours (which presumably is a bonus both to the employer as well as to employees who are less keen to disrupt work or keep their therapy to themselves).

The approach seems to work: Ginger says that some 70 percent of members surveyed that have used Ginger reported “a significant reduction in symptoms of depression within 12 weeks.”

Overall, app-based and other health services that do not require a person to physically be in the same room as his/her therapist still face a perennial problem that is a hallmark of many a mental health service: they still require a person to “turn up” so to speak — that is, a person at some point needs to make the proactive effort to reach out for help, and usually continue to work on resolving the problem on a persistent and regular basis.

Tele-therapy solutions have both an advantage and disadvantage: being something you can pick up wherever and whenever makes it something that maybe we are more likely to use; but the lack of physical presence may well make it much easier for problems to be less apparent. In a sense, the mandate is even more on the likely vulnerable patient to be even more proactive as a result.

But the cost to employers of rolling out wide-scale, physical programs with licensed clinicians, as well as of having too many people off work due to mental health issues, are the rock and hard place that will likely continue to fuel significantly more development of services like Ginger’s and those of its competitors.

And that list is a long one, with other startups like Lyra Health (founded by the former CFO of Facebook Dave Ebersman), Unmind, Pacifica, Huddle, Modern Health, and Eliza all also closing in on the challenge.

Ginger’s investors believe in the mission and that its horse is one that will run the course.

“We have significant experience investing in healthcare and believe that technology is the key to solving the global mental health crisis,” said Donald Phillips, Chairman and CEO of WP Global Partners, in a statement. “As we looked to expand our portfolio, it became clear to us that there is no other company in the world that provides emotional and mental health support as quickly and effectively as Ginger does.”


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Torch CEO and Well Clinic founder Cameron Yarbrough on mental health & coaching – gpgmail


There has long been a stigma associated with therapy and mental health coaching, a stigma that is even more pronounced in the business world, despite considerable evidence of the efficacy of these services. One of the organizations that has set out to change this negative association is Torch, a startup that combines the therapeutic benefits of executive coaching with data-driven analytics to track outcomes.

Yet, as Torch co-founder and CEO Cameron Yarbrough explains in this Breaking Into Startups episode, the startup wasn’t initially a tech-oriented enterprise. At first, Yarbrough drew on his years of experience as a marriage and family counselor as he made the transition into executive coaching, even referring to the early iterations of Torch as little more than “a matchmaking service between coaches and professionals.”

In time, Yarbrough identified a virtually untapped market for executive coaching — one that, by his estimate, could amount to a $15 billion industry. To demonstrate to investors the great potential of this growing market, he first built up a clientele that provided Torch with sufficient recurring revenue and low churn rate.

Only then was Yarbrough able to raise a $2.4 million seed round from Initialized Capital, Y Combinator, and other investors, convincing them that data analytics software could enhance the coaching process — as well as coach recruitment — enough to effectively “productize feedback,” as he puts it.

For Yarbrough and Torch, “productizing feedback” involves certain well-known business strategies that complement traditional coaching methods. For instance, Torch’s coaching procedure includes a “360 review,” a performance review system that incorporates feedback from all angles, including an employee’s manager, peers, and other people within an organization who have knowledge of the employee’s work.

The 360 review is coupled with an OKR platform, which provides HR departments and other interested parties with the metrics and analytics to track employee progress through the program. This combination is designed to promote the development of soft skills, which in turn drive leadership.

Torch has achieved considerable success, landing several influential clients in the tech sector through its B2B approach. But Yarbrough is clear that his goal with the company is to “democratize” access to professional coaching, in hopes of providing the same kind of mental health counseling and support to employees in all levels of an organization.

In this episode, Yarbrough discusses the history and trajectory of Torch, his experience scaling a company many considered unscalable, and the methods he uses to manage his own emotional and mental health as the CEO of an expanding startup. Yarbrough offers insights into the feelings of anxiety and dread common among entrepreneurs and provides a close look at how he has found business and personal success with Torch.


Breaking Into Startups: There’s a difference between a mentor and a coach. Today, I want to talk about that difference and in addition to the intersection between business and psychology, What Cameron Yarbrough, CEO of Torch and Founder of Well Clinic.

If you’re someone that is looking for a mentor or a coach as you break into tech, or if you just want to be surrounded by peers, make sure you download the Career Karma app by going to www.breakingintostartups.com/download.

On today’s episode, you’re going to understand the importance of therapy, mental health and coaches, as well as how historically, it has been inaccessible to people and how Cameron is using his background to democratize this for the world.

If this is your first time listening to the Breaking Startups Podcast, make sure you leave a review on iTunes and tell your friends. Listen to it on Soundcloud and talk about it on Spotify. If you have any feedback for us, positive or negative, please let us know. Without further ado, let’s break-in.

Cameron Yarbrough is the CEO of Torch. He’s one of the best executive coaches in the world. Not only are we going to be talking about coaching and mentoring for executives, but we’ll also be talking about coaching in general for everyone. We’re going to go into how he created his company.


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