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Handspring Health: Announcing our $6.2 million seed financing

We created Handspring Health to make quality mental healthcare accessible to all families and children. Over the last eight months, we’ve brought together a diverse and incredible team, built a care model that puts patients first and prioritizes our clinicians, and launched in New Jersey. Today, we’re excited to announce our $6.2 million seed financing. 

Before making the jump to entrepreneurship with my friend and colleague, Kwasi Kyei, we spent years working as venture capital investors focused on digital health. Like many, we invested across several healthcare verticals, including companies that focused on chronic conditions, telehealth, value-based care, and payment infrastructure, to name a few. In 2018, we turned our attention to mental health and our work led to investments in a few incredible companies that have drastically improved the way adults access mental health resources in the country. As we continued to look for ways to make a bigger impact on the state of mental healthcare, we realized the all-too-common healthcare problem of emphasizing treatment over prevention is relevant in mental health as well. Studies have shown that 50% of all mental illness begins by age 14, with 75% starting by age 24. Untreated mental illness often worsens over time, escalating to more serious illnesses. To make an impact on adult mental health, we had to start much earlier.

Today, 1 in 5 children in the US have a diagnosable mental health disorder. The healthcare system is failing our children, as systemic barriers have made it impossible for most families to find timely or high-quality mental healthcare. When seeking care, families often face unaffordable rates that are not covered by insurance or waitlists that are several months long. This is why we built Handspring. Handspring is a vertically-integrated and omnichannel behavioral health center for children and families that includes both virtual care and modern clinics. By combining experienced clinical teams, modern clinics, a virtual health platform, and health plan partnerships, Handspring will provide higher quality and affordable mental healthcare to children, empowering them to lead resilient and fulfilling lives. 

As we set out on this journey last year, we agreed to always abide by one principle: do the right thing. In the decades we’ve spent working in the healthcare industry, we saw how often and easily the healthcare system is exploited. We set out to build a model that 1) puts patients first by providing evidence-based high-quality care 2) treats our clinicians as our most important asset and 3) contributes to a more sustainable healthcare system. 

In healthcare, the right thing is often also the harder thing, especially when viewed from the lens of growth-at-all-cost principles that some have adopted. We made several choices based on this principle that may be harder over the short term but will set us up for success over the long term:

  • Virtual-first, but not virtual-only: Because many young children need more hands-on care, we chose to build a hybrid model that integrates digital and in-person care instead of a virtual-only model. In-person care will be key to producing better outcomes and delivering care to those who need it the most;
  • Serve the clinicians: Because clinician satisfaction is essential to providing high-quality care, we chose to invest in our clinicians and provide salary, benefits, and quality and training programs. These may sound trivial, but unfortunately are not common in the industry. What is always top of mind for us is how to build a company where clinicians want to work. We are a tech-enabled services company; technology is a key enabler, but our care providers are the most important asset;
  • A model for all families: Because we want to make a difference for families that have the most difficulty accessing this care, we chose to work directly with health insurance companies rather than targeting the affluent through employers. When we enter a market, we want to be able to care for the most kids in that market, regardless of their socioeconomic status or the level of benefits provided to their parents;
  • Transparency: Because we believe the rate dance between providers and payers is big a reason for high healthcare costs in this country, we’re pursuing a more transparent relationship with payers that pays us for quality rather than quantity;
  • Therapy-first: And because we believe in scientific evidence, we are taking a measured approach to prescribing medications and building a psychotherapy-first model.

We are grateful for partners that believe in the same principles. This round was co-led by Newark Venture Partners and NextView Ventures, with participation from 25madison Ventures, Arkitekt Ventures, Quantum Angels, and other prominent healthcare operators. We are also indebted to our early advisors and industry experts including Dr. Andrea Auxier (President, Aware Recovery), Doug Ghertner (CEO, IVX Health), and Dr. Gary Henschen (former CMO of BH, Magellan Health).

The Handspring team has laid the foundation to provide the care families deserve. If you or a loved one is in need of mental health resources, visit us on our website. If you are someone who is passionate about this problem and driven to make an impact, join us. If you have any questions or thoughts, reach out to me.