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Investor Perspectives on Scaling Mental Health Innovation

Going Digital: A Hot Topic at HLTH

While investment in mental health has fallen from the heights of 2021, enthusiasm and interest in digital health solutions to improve mental health don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. With almost $8 billion invested in this space since 2020, mental health tech was a hot topic at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas. Even on a Sunday morning, passionate entrepreneurs, investors, and advocates packed a room for the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech session.

panelists at HLTH on stage Liam Donohue of .406Ventures, Marissa Bertorelli of Polaris Partners and Laura Veroneau of OptumVentures joined me on stage to discuss the future of venture investments in mental health solutions. At Hopelab, we’ve been lucky enough to invest alongside these funds and individuals in companies like Equip, InStride, and Hurdle.

Five key takeaways emerged:

1. Moving Mental Health into the Mainstream
Despite the early hour and the free mimosas outside in the conference hall, we faced a room full of passionate mental health founders, investors and advocates. Nearly every panelist on ours and the other two session panels – payers, pharma and venture – shared personal stories about their own mental health challenges or those of a loved one. Only a few years ago, this conversation wasn’t on the map. Now, conference attendees along with so many others across the country are demanding and supporting action, innovation and progress.

2. Scaling Customer Acquisition and Creating Patient Centric Models
All noted customer acquisition as a huge challenge – with particular difficulty reaching the patients who would most benefit from services offered. Patients on the other hand, are incredibly frustrated by the challenges they face in being connected to appropriate, covered services. Consistent feedback and adaptation of acquisition strategies is necessary to meet the needs of patients and models are shifting at a large scale to provide better covered services to those in need.

3. Better Traversing the Regulatory Environment
The overly opportunistic market of the past few years has brought about some of the high profile failures in the space. Many non-healthcare investors underestimated the challenges of the regulatory environment and the imperative of patient privacy. Collaborating with regulatory bodies at the outset and understanding privacy laws throughout innovation is essential for ensuring compliant products that keep patient information safe.

4. Pinpointing Meaningful Impact
Finally, back to data and outcomes: after a few years of experimentation, payers and investors are looking for signs of impact, quality improvement and cost reduction. It’s likely time for both some consolidation in the market and for point solutions that can show real impact to move to greater scale.
HLTH panelists on stage with red carpet and purple background
The group also anticipated continued pressure on employers to support mental health services; more attention to the serious mental illness space; and consolidation, both due to market conditions and the proliferation of new companies.

I remain determined to continue on this mission to co-invest with these friends and partners to make mental health care more accessible, equitable and effective. Please visit Hopelab Ventures to learn more about our work and check out the fantastic companies in our investment portfolio. Thank you to Solome Tibebu at Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech for a thoughtful program and Twill and Ellipsis Health for co-sponsoring!

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