advertisement
advertisement

Amid the pandemic’s mental health bump, this startup is worth more than $2B

Lyra Health, a mental health care provider of both telehealth services and in-person counseling, is quickly becoming a Silicon Valley darling.

Amid the pandemic’s mental health bump, this startup is worth more than $2B
[Photos: Baloncici/iStock; Anthony Melone/Unsplash]
advertisement
advertisement

It’s unusual for a mental health care company to achieve unicorn status—let alone a $2 billion-plus valuation.

advertisement
advertisement

But Lyra Health has raised $187 million in funding, garnering it a $2.3 billion valuation. The company hopes to bring more technology to its platform. It will also be expanding internationally.

Lyra Health offers its mental health platform to companies as a benefit for their employees. While it provides both in-person and online therapy, it’s telehealth-first. Lyra onboards patients online and uses artificial intelligence to match them to therapists, psychiatrists, and coaches. Patients can choose whether to go to an office or book an online appointment. The platform also provides out-of-the-chair mental health resources such as worksheets, reading material, quizzes, and access to the Calm app.

To ensure patients are improving, Lyra records their progress. The company also tracks the performance of its practitioners, a fairly uncommon practice (though one that seems to be gaining in popularity).

The company focuses on providing evidence-based care, which the American Psychological Association defines as “empirically supported” with published randomized clinical trial data. Much of what Lyra dispenses is skills-based therapy that helps patients to develop coping mechanisms and emotional regulation. It also includes methods for dealing with trauma and fear.

The company says 80% of patients experience meaningful improvement of symptoms once they start using the platform—which is really high. The only other therapeutic platform that comes close to reaching these metrics is the U.K.’s National Health Service program Improving Access to Psychological Therapies. That program, which has been connecting patients with evidenced-based therapies for 12 years, reports that it has been able to get 66% of patients into a state of reliable improvement. Lyra’s technology platform—and its various extra online offerings—may be helping patients get that extra boost in success rates.

advertisement

Governments like evidence-based practices because they know they’ll deliver results for the majority of patients, which makes them cost effective. So, it seems, do companies such as Lyra’s clients.

More need than ever

Like other telehealth companies, Lyra has gotten a pandemic bump over the last year. “In March, we were talking to a company we were excited to work with, but assumed there would be a long process,” says CEO David Ebersman. “And they came back to us and said we want this for our employees and we want it right now.” By June 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 40% of adults were struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. Ebersman says he’s seen a similar uptick in the severity of patient symptoms during the pandemic, such as higher rates of suicidal thoughts.

The prevalence of conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse is one in five in the United States.”

David Ebersman, Lyra Health
Channing McCabe, a Google employee who has been using the Lyra platform since March 2019, says that the pandemic has been an emotional roller coaster for her. But her therapist has helped prevent her long-standing anxiety and depression from interfering with her day-to-day life.

“I’m learning coping skills, I’m learning grounding techniques,” she says. “[My therapist] gives me books and resources that have been so painful to read because, yes, they resonate,” she says.  

Along with Google, Lyra’s current clients include Genentech, Morgan Stanley, and Zoom. Ebersman, who previously served as the chief financial officer of Facebook and Genentech, has ambitions to not only grow Lyra’s customer base but also move into other categories. He says he sees opportunities to work with healthcare payers in the future—and maybe even the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

advertisement

“The prevalence of conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse is one in five in the United States, and traditionally we haven’t done a good job getting those tens of millions of people care,” Ebersman says.

Lyra’s core mission is to bring mental health care to anyone who needs it. To that end, the company will be working with ICAS, a global employee health and wellness organization, to extend Lyra’s treatment platform around the world. ICAS operates in 43 countries. The partnership will allow companies that use the Lyra platform to offer its full package of services to their global workforces as well as within the U.S.

About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of health and technology.

More