"Our real focus is on democratizing mental healthcare," says SonderMind co-founder chief executive, Mark Frank.
His company, founded back in 2017, is having a moment. With the restrictions and economic stresses caused by the government's efforts to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic in the U.S., demand for mental health services is soaring. And it's compounding what was already a mental health crisis in the U.S.
A 2019 article from Bloomberg Businessweek laid out the scope of the problem in stark terms. In 2017, 47,000 people died by suicide in the U.S. and there were 1.4 million suicide attempts -- a suicide rate that's the country's highest since World War II, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drug overdoses, another measure of the nation's anguish, killed 70,000 people in 2017. Another 7% of U.S. adults reported suffering at least one major depressive episode in 2018.
Taken together, the data points to a tremendous health problem. One that the current healthcare system is only now grappling with.
SonderMind's chief executive sees his company as part of the solution.
Most mental health practitioners don't operate within a healthcare network or take insurance, which means that the only folks with access to care are the ones that can afford the high price of therapy. SonderMind changes that equation by offering practitioners a toolkit and back office services so they can bill insurance providers and take care of the operational side of running a healthcare practice. It also acts as a funnel, gauging the needs of potential patients and connecting them to the therapists that are best suited to provide them the care they need. That lets practitioners focus on seeing patients, the company said.
The company currently counts 500 providers on its marketplace, which operates in Colorado, Arizona and Texas, and has raised $27 million in its latest round of financing to extend its services to other parts of the U.S.
The San Francisco-based investment firm General Catalyst led the financing, which also included additional new investors F-Prime Capital and participation from previous investors like the Kickstart Seed Fund, Diōko Ventures (managed by FCA Venture Partners) and Jonathan Bush.
“This financing provides the fuel to support our growth objectives and advance our mission to make behavioral health more accessible, approachable and utilized by building a modern marketplace that holds great appeal to both clinician and patient,” said Frank in a statement.
The investment extends General Catalyst's funding into healthcare services in recent years and represents a continued emphasis on healthcare services for the firm. "Healthcare is obviously a really important thesis for GC as a whole," says Holly Maloney, a managing director at General Catalyst. "This is going to be one of the largest value drivers for VC this decade."
General Catalyst already had a robust portfolio of healthcare-focused companies -- including Livongo, OM1 and Oscar Health.
For Maloney, the investment in SonderMind grew out of the firm's exposure to mental health investment through another portfolio company, Mindstrong Health. "Mindstrong forced us to explore... access to care and finding care," says Maloney.
The General Catalyst investor sees the investment in SonderMind as also helping to open doors for more people to join the profession.
"It helps people to start their business for sure. It helps more people pursue it as a career path," she said. And that's good for a country where more mental health professionals and better access to care are desperately needed.