The are times that everyone needs someone to talk to. Whether you need professional help or you feel like you are overburdening your friends, having a professional to help sort out your goals and how you want to progress in life is crucial. But wouldn’t that mean you would have to jump through all the hoops with insurance and expensive fees? Not anymore, thanks to Talkspace, the app that puts you in touch with a real therapist at your fingertips 24/7. With the amount that we are texting in the first place, this can easily turn into the most productive use of your smartphone for something that matters – your mental well being.
We spoke with cofounder and CEO of Oren Frank about the startup that is revolutionizing the space, and how they plan to make therapy even more accessible on the heels of their latest funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Talkspace raised $15 million in Series B funding in a round led by Northwest Venture Partners, with participation from existing investors, Spark Capital, Soft Bank, Metamorphic Ventures and TheTime.
Tell us about your product or service.
Talkspace is a web and mobile platform that connects people directly with licensed therapists. Currently, we have >1,000 therapists in the United States and over 300,000 have used Talkspace. Through our Unlimited Messaging Therapy program, people can get 24/7 access to a licensed therapist right from their phone for just $100 each month.
What inspired you to start the company?
After having a great experience with counselors that helped save our marriage, we were inspired to reimagine psychotherapy for the way people live today — making it more convenient, accessible and affordable. With technology, we were able to create a way for people to receive therapy in ways that were never before possible, and we are passionate about making therapy an equal right for all, not just those who are privileged.
How is it different?
Talkspace’s unique value proposition through the Unlimited Messaging Therapy program provides the most comprehensive way for people to communicate with licensed therapists – via text messaging or asynchronous audio and video messaging, all for $100 per month. Also, our direct-to-consumer approach for delivering mental health care helps to address the 60 to 70 percent of people who could benefit from therapy, but can’t afford it or fit it into their lifestyles.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Mental health services in the United States make up a $179.3B industry, and one in four adults−approximately 61.5 million Americans−experiences mental illness in a given year. However, approximately 60 percent of adults with a mental illness receives no mental health services. At Talkspace, we aim to help address the major barriers that prevent people from getting the care they need: cost, accessibility, and stigma.
What’s your business model?
Talkspace introduced a new business model where practitioners and patients both benefit from the flexibility and convenience enabled by technology.
Patient and therapist relationships are often very personal and intimate. How do you ensure that this same relationship can be fostered through the use of technology?
For starters, messaging is the way people communicate today — forty-nine percent of smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 use messaging apps. Millennials have been reported to spend 114 minutes on average text messaging during the week and 115 minutes texting on the weekends. Since messaging has become such a natural way for us to communicate with our friends, family and colleagues, we see it also as a great medium to deliver therapy. There’s a wealth of research around the efficacy of online therapy.
Given that a level of trust between patient and therapist is the basis for effective psychotherapy, the deeper level of communication with the use of audio and video functions puts Talkspace in a more dynamic position when competing with traditional therapy.
What was the funding process like?
The process was outstanding; we were lucky enough to have multiple terms sheets for this rounds, all from investors that share our passion and commitment to the wonderful profession of Therapy.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
For us the challenge was to find and choose a partner who we felt shares authentic affinity with our vision. Yes, like most startups Talkspace is a for-profit organization, but we also define ourselves in through our societal mission and we are unwilling to compromise on it.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
By redefining how therapy takes place and providing unprecedented access to licensed mental health care counselors, Talkspace is democratizing therapy and stands at the forefront of the tele-health movement.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
The new funds will enable Talkspace to accelerate the growth and expansion of its online therapy services. We hope to double the number of users and therapists as well as increase the number of employees in our NYC office.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
You can call it “determination” “Smarts” or other fancy names, but at the end of the day, building a startup is all about stubbornness. Keep pushing against the wall until it gives in.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Impactful scale: We want every American to be able to have access and try Therapy at least once, and see if it helps them to better deal with life’s challenges, and have a path for a fuller, happier lives. With every person that tries Talkspace we get closer to this goal.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?