About 8 million teenagers suffer from signs of depression, yet only 20% of them are receiving treatment, according to online therapeutic platform Big Health.
“It’s an enormous issue coming out of the pandemic,” Big Health Chairman and Chief Executive Arun Gupta told the Business Journal.
“The vast majority receive no care.
“A lot of adolescents are suffering in silence.”
Big Health, a provider of non-drug digital treatments for mental health, announced July 14 that it’s expanding into the teenage market through the acquisition of San Francisco-based Limbix. Terms of the deal were undisclosed.
The acquisition will permit Big Health to offer Limbix’s digital application called SparkRx, which treats teens with symptoms of depression. Both organizations have built applications tested in clinical trials that can help users without medication.
“This is a match made in heaven,” Gupta said. “They’ve done something similar but in the adolescent space.”
Big Health Idea
The idea for Big Health was born when co-founder Peter Hames had trouble getting anything other than medication for his insomnia. He discovered Dr. Colin Espie’s book on cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and realized what had worked for him could work for millions. Espie then became Hames’ co-founder.
The company says 82% of patients treated for mental health receive medication.
By contrast, Big Health offers self-guided, cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT.
It’s built two applications that have been clinically tested for treatments without medication: Sleepio for insomnia, and Daylight for anxiety.
Users download Big Health’s app that teaches skills such as mood tracking, behavioral activation, problem solving and mindfulness. The company says it has 80 published papers and 15 randomized controlled trials to support its thesis. It says that Sleepio use “was shown to lower health care costs by $1,677 per employee.”
Big Health’s customers include large companies like Citibank, Google and Home Depot that offer the plan as a benefit to their employees.
Gupta, who first joined the board in 2019, was named CEO last year. While Big Health’s headquarters is in San Francisco, Gupta works out of an office in Newport Beach.
Gupta has a long history involved in startups, including as a general partner at Accretive LLC, a N.Y.-based VC and PE firm where he participated in the building of over 10 industry-defining technology companies including several IPOs such as Accolade and R1 RCM Inc.
The company’s raised $100 million, including a $75 million Series C funding round a year ago led by new investor SoftBank Vision Fund 2.
While he declined to reveal revenue, he said the company this year is “exceeding” its goals.
Limbix was co-founded in 2016 by Ben Lewis, who has worked at Google and Facebook and started two other companies, and Jon Sockell, who has worked at startups.
They saw a problem of depression among teenagers; Limbix noted that suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers and the latest figures show up to 80% of young people don’t receive adequate treatment.
The pair have raised $30 million from well-known Silicon Valley investors like Sequoia Capital, Storm Ventures and NextGen Venture Partners.
The company says it pairs clinical expertise with product designers, researchers, and engineers to give providers immediate, safe, and evidenced based treatment options they can prescribe to their patients.
Using experts in adolescent psychology, they developed the SparkRx app that has been put through clinical trials.
“Limbix and Big Health share significant alignment in our cultures and in our focus on delivering first-line digital therapeutics for a range of mental health conditions,” Limbix CEO Lewis said in a statement.
“As the industry leader, Big Health is a natural home for SparkRx, our upcoming product pipeline and our team to accelerate giving young people tools they can use themselves to meaningfully benefit from clinically-proven digital depression treatments,” he added.
Big Health currently has 200 employees with plans to hire more, such as engineers and sales people, Gupta said.
It’s had 300,000 patients in the past decade, including 100,000 alone last year.
The company is positioning itself so that it can grow globally in a total addressable market of $100 billion by 2030. It has four products with plans to add more in the coming year.
It could go public, Gupta said.
“We’re building a business that has a nice profile to succeed as a public company,” he said.
“We see this company as having the bones to be a great public company with an enormous TAM (total addressable market).”