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Startups

Mental health app Spring Health emerges amid pandemic

Co-founder and CEO's next goal is an IPO, with a plan to enter the family-focused mental health market

By Nov 29, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Spring Health co-founder and CEO April Koh
Spring Health co-founder and CEO April Koh

Spring Health, a US-based mental health care provider, has emerged stronger in the prolonged pandemic era, with the five-year-old startup valued at $2 billion in its recent fundraise. 

The platform, co-founded by Chief Executive April Koh of Korean origin, secured $190 million in a Series C funding round last September, bringing the total raised since January 2020 to $300 million. Koh has become the youngest female unicorn CEO.

The business-to-business company aims to provide mental healthcare tailored to each individual. Its treatment programs range from meditation to online-based cognitive behavioral therapy, coaching and self-directed exercise through artificial intelligence-based data analyses. 

Its goal is to supplement or replace companies' traditional employee assistance programs with its personalized healthcare services, with a focus on reducing the trial and error in finding solutions to illnesses.

Koh said that companies are willing to spend $100-$150 per employee a year for their workforce's mental healthcare. According to the World Health Organization, every $1 spent on an employee's mental health treatment resulted in $4 worth of health improvement and productivity growth.

Spring Health's customers include apparel maker GAP, online education platform TED, Whole Foods Market and a US grocery delivery app Instacart.

FROM FASHION APP TO HEALTHCARE PLATFORM

Prior to launching Spring Health, she co-founded the shopping app Sprite as a student at Yale University alongside a friend she met at a coding camp in 2013. The app allows consumers to buy clothes and fashion items that have appeared on TV programs. The platform attracted $5 million in funding.

After running the fashion app for two years, she returned to Yale and saw her roommate suffering from an eating disorder. To treat her illness, the roommate took seven types of antidepressants and sometimes had to wait for up to 21 days to receive treatment at a clinic or hospital.

In search of treatments for her friend, Koh came across a research paper from Adam Chekroud, a doctoral student at Yale on machine learning that could help match patients to the best treatments. They co-founded Spring Health in 2016.

In 2018, Koh was listed among Forbes' 30 entrepreneurs under 30. The following year, she was chosen among Goldman Sachs' 100 most intriguing entrepreneurs. At age of four, she immigrated to the US with her parents.

Spring Health's mobile app
Spring Health's mobile app

Last year, Spring Health posted a sixfold rise in revenue on the back of a sharp increase in depression cases since the start of COVID-19. In the US, the prevalence of depression reached 23.4% in 2020, compared with 6.6% before COVID-19 struck, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Koh's next goal is to take the company public. She said mental illnesses caused by COVID-19 will persist longer than the global pandemic. Over the long term, she hopes to establish the startup as the most helpful mental health provider.

In the US, a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 18- to 24-year-olds reported the highest levels of symptoms of anxiety and depression, and a quarter of them said they had seriously considered suicide, according to a New York Times report last month. The data also showed their stress levels were high, with 40.9 percent overall reporting at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition.

The US mental health market is forecast to grow to $99.4 billion by 2028 from $68.8 billion in 2020, according to Fortune Business Insights. In tandem with the market growth, Spring Health is planning to provide family-focused healthcare programs.

Write to Jin-gyu Maeng at maeng@hankyung.com

Yeonhee Kim edited this article
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