On Tuesday, therapy startup Talkspace has raised $9.5 million in Series A round led by Spark Capital along with Softbank. Current investors Metamorphic Ventures and TheTime also participated in the round.
The New-York based startup Talkspace offers therapy sessions via the web and mobile phones. The app simplifies the process of connecting the users who need help with the therapist who can help them. it aims to eliminate the social stigma that comes along with the therapy and also removes the friction of meeting a therapist. “There is a massive need for therapy on-demand. One can be in middle of eating disorder episode, or a marriage dispute and you can literally be communicating with your therapist in minutes,” said Alex Finkelstein, a general partner at Spark Capital.
More than 45 million Americans are affected by mental illness in 2011, but the percentage who sought is just mere 39%. The factors that come between the patient and the therapy is the cost, stigma and time commitment. The co-founder of the startup, Roni Frank says that many are intimidated by the traditional therapy which demands face-to-face interaction. Frank claims the service is like WhatsApp chat with the therapist. She adds, “It is always easier to text. There is a healthy distance when you are texting.”
The system of the app makes use of the data and the analysis to pick out the right therapist based on an introductory consultation. The platform, powered by IBM’s Watson, uses semantic analysis to have in-depth insights about a user’s personality, thinking style and emotional stress to choose the right therapist to work with the right patients. Finding the right therapist to suit one’s need from the pool of therapist means the problem is half solved. Also the app makes the communication very simple rather than sitting with the therapist in his office for hours.
“Watson’s technology will allow us to deliver better mental health care treatment to millions of people,” said Nicole Amesbury, head of clinical development at Talkspace. “For the first time, therapist will have access to powerful tools that can analyze and extract key insights about a client’s mental state. This is transformative for the way therapy is practiced today and we are excited to work alongside Watson to help people lead happier lives,” she added.
The therapists of Talkspace are qualified, licensed and certified. The communication is mostly via texts. The app charges a flat fee per week or per month for which they can send unlimited messages and receive feedback and guidance in return from the therapist. The app benefits the users as they are no longer held with making appointments to meet them on a specified date and time. Also they get the immediate response to the issues that are affecting them.
For the therapist, the app offers them a platform where they can deal with many clients without having to work on filling paperwork and setting up an office space to meet the clients. Also, the therapist can communicate with each other and get support, through a tool in the app. As a result of efficient platform, there are more than 250 licensed therapist on board helping the clients through mobile apps and web platform.
With the help of the new fund, the startup plans to expand the business local and abroad mainly markets like China which has the social stigma attached with the therapy. It is also planning to take-in more full-time employees to the current team of 20. Apart for this, they are also looking out for investors, non-profits and other startups to team up with. With many college students as users, the startup is working on to target universities where the therapy with small fees can help students suffering from depression and substance abuse.
The Android and iOS app claims that Talkspace is not competing or being called as alternative to person therapy, but it acts as a path to deal with real life issues that may be an element in our lives, but may not necessarily require the full clinical psychiatric process.