Mental healthcare startup Ginger raises $50M Series D funding

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-s

Many investors are betting big on the future of mental health care, as it appears to be gaining interest with the increasing number of people suffering from the lockdown blues and other mental issues triggered by the pandemic.

Ginger, which provides on-demand mental health care, announced Thursday morning it closed a $50 million Series D funding round led by San Francisco-based Advance Venture Partners (AVP) and Bessemer Venture Partners.

Karan Singh, the co-founder and COO of Ginger, began the journey in 2011, after learning of a loved one’s suicide attempt. That is when he decided to reinvent the way mental healthcare is delivered around the world.

He realized an unexplored area where there was a gap and took up the opportunity to build the world’s first mental health technology platform. Through smartphone-based technology, the platform was designed to identify patterns of anxiety, stress and depression, and alert patients and their healthcare providers to deliver care.

The funding — included participation from Cigna Ventures, Kaiser Permanente Ventures and Jeff Weiner, executive chairman of LinkedIn — brings the company’s total to more than $120 million.

Ginger raised a $35 million Series C round in September 2019, and CEO Russell Glass said he didn’t expect to raise again this year. But then Covid-19 came, and demand for its digital behavioral health coaching, therapy and psychiatry went through the roof.

During the last four months of the pandemic, Glass said Ginger saw an 80% uptick in daily active use and a 150% increase in members accessing services with therapists and psychiatrists. Ginger’s revenue and the number of clients both have tripled since the beginning of the year.

“We saw it as an opportunity to grow much faster and help more people more quickly,” said Glass, who joined Ginger as CEO in 2018.

The startup delivers behavioral health coaching, therapy and psychiatry from a smartphone, and millions of users now have access to Ginger through its partnerships with more than 200 companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100s, including Delta Air Lines, Sanofi, Chegg, Domino’s, SurveyMonkey and Sephora. Ginger members can also access virtual therapy and psychiatry sessions as an in-network benefit through the company’s relationships with regional and national health plans, including Optum Behavioral Health, Anthem California and Aetna Resources for Living, the company stated.

“At Cigna Ventures, we are committed to investing in bold, new ways to make high-quality healthcare simpler and more affordable,” Sahil Choudhry, managing director of Cigna Ventures, said in a statement. “We believe that Ginger is well-positioned to make this a reality in mental healthcare and look forward to supporting their efforts to expand access to this innovative model.”

The company’s model is different from some other up-and-coming Bay Area digital health startups, namely systems that bypass health insurance altogether by going direct to the customer, such as Lemonaid Health, which recently secured a $33 million Series B financing round. Digital health care companies Truepill, PlushCare, Carbon Health and Vida Health have also nabbed sizable funding rounds since the coronavirus pandemic began.

“Our mental healthcare system has long been inadequate. But in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and a tumultuous sociopolitical climate, we’re facing uncharted territory,” Glass said in a statement. “People are demanding better care, and the largest payers of healthcare are recognizing the need to respond. Ginger is uniquely able to reverse the course of this crisis at scale. With this investment, we can accelerate our work to deliver incredible mental healthcare at a fraction of the cost to the hundreds of millions of people around the world who deserve it.”

In the long run, Karan believes the great opportunity centers around preventative mental health. The ability to catch people early, before they have a crisis, leveraging technology, will allow Ginger to provide a higher level of care than what has traditionally been achievable, without technology.

With the funding round, Ginger also announced two new board members: David ibnAle, founding partner of Advance Venture Partners, and Steve Kraus, partner and head of the health care investment practice at Bessemer Venture Partners.

“AVP invests in companies that are using technology to tackle large-scale, global challenges and transform traditional businesses and business models,” ibnAle said in a statement. “Ginger is doing just that. We are excited to partner with an exceptional team to help make high-quality, on-demand mental healthcare a reality for millions more people around the world.”

Ginger will invest the new capital into research and development, building partnerships with health plans and increasing the number of enterprise clients.

Ginger was originally a spinout from the MIT Media Lab to provide on-demand mental health services, but the company then evolved to become a virtual behavioral health care system with online and app-based services.