Mental health startup wayForward raises angel funding
Photo Credit: Shah Junaid/VCCircle

Wayforward Health Pvt. Ltd, which offers mental healthcare solutions through its mobile platform wayForward, has raised close to $1 million in angel funding from a clutch of individual investors, a top company executive told VCCircle.

Some of the investors who participated in the round include Harsh Mahajan, a radiologist; Farhan Naqvi, a technology investment banker with Deutsche Bank; and Sreepathy Viswanathan, senior vice president of M&A and partnerships at Hinduja Global Solutions Inc, Ritvik Singh, wayForward’s co-founder and chief executive, said.

The startup, which was founded in 2015 and incorporated in the US as PsyInnovations, will use the funds to build its technology and the US sales team, Singh said. “We will also be investing on integration with our partners in the US,” he added.

Mumbai-based investment bank Polymath Advisors Pvt. Ltd was the financial adviser to the company on the transaction. “The total round size is greater than $1 million for which we have raised most of the capital. However, a part of it is still left open and we are still actively looking for funds to close the round,” said Kabir Malhotra, business analyst at Polymath Advisors.

wayForward is an app-based programme that uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness and other techniques to treat anxiety, depression and stress. It offers both self-guided and coach-guided programmes, with prices ranging from Rs 100 to several thousands depending on the level of service.

wayForward was founded by the trio of Singh, Navya Singh and Stan Miroshnikov. Navya holds a master’s degree in Psychology from Columbia University and a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Albert Einstein Medical College, Yeshiva University. She is also a Harvard-certified specialist in global mental health specialising in mass trauma. Ritvik, her husband, is an alumnus of IIT Delhi and Columbia University and has over a decade’s experience as a manager and markets expert on Wall Street at major investment banks. Miroshnikov is also an alumnus of Columbia University and serves as chief technology officer (CTO) for wayForward.

wayforward is currently tapping into the $200-billion mental health industry in the US, where it competes with companies such as Lantern and Joyable, Singh said.

In the US, it manages a little over 100,000 lives through partnerships with various organisations and, in India, 200,000 lives. The startup’s key focus has been the US, where the mental health and emotional wellness market is more mature, Singh said.

The company has partnered with Fortis Healthcare hospital in India and is working with other companies as well. It aims to expand beyond its existing pilots in the country, Singh explained.

In India, mental health is one of the few healthcare spaces where, beyond the reputable government institutes, there are not many established organisations or players of scale. While many private psychiatrists offer services, there is simply not enough human resource to handle the mental health needs of the population.

At least 150 million Indians are in need of intervention for mental health, according to an extensive study released last year by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. However, only 30 million Indians have access to mental health facilities. The World Health Organisation says India has 0.301 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people.

Mental health startups have seen some investor interest of late. In March, Mumbai-based Davman Technologies Pvt Ltd, which operates Juno Clinic, an online and offline mental health startup, raised $1.2 million (Rs 8 crore) in pre-Series A funding from a clutch of angel investors.

In February, InnerHour, an online psychological wellness platform, raised $450,000 (nearly Rs 3 crore) in its first round of funding from financial advisory firm Batlivala & Karani Securities, investment firm Venture Works and others.

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