As I’ve written about before, the mental health startup landscape is growing rapidly. Society is more willing to be vulnerable about mental health and addiction, so we have seen founders flocking to the mental health space. There is an increasing willingness among entrepreneurs to tackle something so intensely personal and previously, “not talked about.”
Though very few investors have a clearly-defined focus on mental health investing, we have seen a surge in investors funding mental health startups. Leveraging our initial research on the startup landscape, I have compiled a list of the most active investors in the space.
I found 831 investors who have invested in mental health startups. Of those, only 113 have invested in two or more mental health startups. I’ve broken down the landscape in detail below, including a list of the 113 repeat investors (unlike most clickbait articles that don’t actually have a list in the text — I hate it when they do that!). But first, I want to explain a few things about the analysis.
Defining “Mental Health Startup”
By “mental health,” I mean behavioral health, mental health, emotional wellness, addiction and sobriety, or anything associated with improving emotional or mental well-being as the primary goal of the product. I excluded medical solutions where mental health is not the primary focus, even if it could potentially be a byproduct of the solution.
I’ve defined “startup” as a for-profit business built with the intention of scaling, where traditional venture investors can foresee a possible risk-adjusted venture return. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a “tech” company in the traditional sense, as there are many technologies that have nothing to do with 1s and 0s (by my definition, the wheel, was cutting-edge “tech” when it was invented).
I first compiled a list of all the mental health startups I could identify (which I wrote about here), and that list currently contains 816 startups. You can find the detailed list of startups within this Google sheet. You can submit your company’s name to be added to the list via this link.
While compiling the list of startups, I made a note of who invested in each of those businesses. Later, I researched each investor to identify other mental health investments they made (and I uncovered more startups that I hadn’t noticed before). I continued to iterate until I had the current list, which is unlikely to ever be perfect due to the dynamic nature of venture investing.
To conduct this search, I used numerous databases including PitchBook, Crunchbase Pro, CapitalIQ, and CB Insights. These databases were not enough, though, as many of these startups and many of the investment rounds in this space have not been reported anywhere. To fill out the rest of the database, I spent the last 12 months networking with founders and investors in the space.
831 Investors Have Funded Mental Health Startups
I found 831 VCs, angels, accelerators, family offices, and companies (strategics) that had invested in mental health startups. Of the 831 total investors, most of them (718 or 86%) have made only one investment in the space. I am not considering the one-time investors to be true mental health investors; many early-stage investors have invested in sectors that are not focus areas, but ended up in a deal for one reason or another (other than a thesis about the space).
Of the investors on the list, 113 (or 14%) have invested in more than one mental health startup. That 14% includes quite a few notable names (see the list of the most active at the bottom of this post). Some of the repeat investors are angels or accelerators (some notable, such as 500 Startups, Y Combinator, etc.). The angels are often partners at large VC firms; these funds sometimes later invest in the same company at a later stage, or perhaps do another deal in the space.
Investor Geographic Breakdown:
113 Repeat Investors in Mental Health Startups
To qualify for this list, an investor had to invest in more than one mental health startup — that’s it. My own fund doesn’t qualify for this list yet as we have only closed one investment as of the time of this writing. However, we have three deals in syndication now, so maybe we can join the list next month.
Of the 113 investors who have made more than one mental health investment, 90 of those are VCs (the rest are: 13 accelerators, 4 angels, 5 strategic, 1 PE firm). The list of these repeat investors is below; if I’m missing someone, please let me know and I’ll update the list.
I have included a sample of the investments made by each investor in parentheses next to their name. It is not meant to be an all-inclusive list of investments, but rather a representative one.
Here are the 113 investors that have invested in more than one mental health startup. The names are sorted alphabetically:
Y Combinator (7Cups, Simple Habit, Quartet Health, Papa, RideAlong)
The list of investors is going to change over time. I am working with many VCs, family offices and angels who are actively looking at early- and late-stage investment rounds in mental health businesses. More investors will end up on the list in the coming months and years.
Compiling this list was a lot of grunt work, so it is likely that I missed something. The list isn’t perfect, but with feedback from the ecosystem (contact us here), we can make it a useful resource for founders and investors in the mental health space. I will update this list and the corresponding statistics when new information becomes available.
Conclusions and Observations
There is far more attention from investors in this space than most people, including myself, would have thought. When I ran a very unscientific poll on Twitter, I received the following expectations about the number of investors in the space.
Just because an investor has made two or more investments in the space doesn’t mean they have a thesis or even a grasp on the problem set. However, this list is still a good place to start if you’re a founder looking to raise money.
In my opinion, there is a high correlation between the best portfolios in this space and investors with some kind of personal experience with the problem set, whether it’s dealing with their own anxiety or depression, living in sobriety, or maybe even having a loved one who has lived through a challenging time.
I don’t think a founder needs to reach out to all of these investors, unless you want to. If you look closely, you can see trends and themes among the most active investors, which can help you narrow your outreach as you see fit.
There is a clustering of the top investors in the world around the best-known startup names in the space. This indicates to me that well-known VCs are making a concerted effort to invest with very little competition for access to the best deals. This is likely because VCs know they need to be in this space, but don’t really have any domain expertise. The good thing is that domain expertise will come as each VC makes more investments in this space, leading to a healthier ecosystem.
A handful of consistent themes have emerged among the companies that have raised the most money, and within the portfolios of the investors who are the most active in this space. I intend to dedicate an entire post to summarizing these themes soon. Some of these concepts include whether or not mental health care will be addressed “within” versus “outside” of the current health care system, the relationship between profit and purpose, the relationship between science (clinical) and tech (move fast and break things), and specific components of the problem sets and solutions in this space such as stigma, dopamine, isolation, and vulnerability.
Startup Community Slack Channel — We have created a slack channel for founders, investors, and supporters of the mental health startup ecosystem. Here’s the invite link. Please join the conversation and don’t forget to introduce yourself when you join.
About What If Ventures — What If Ventures exists to invest in mental health and addiction focused startups. The fund was launched in 2019 by Stephen Hays.
About the Author: Stephen Hays — After decades of addiction and struggling with bipolar disorder, Stephen was fortunate to receive help and has focused his attention on funding solutions to the problems he lived with. You can read more about his story here.