Health tech startup Circles raises $16 million in funding to stop the mental health pandemic
May is a mental health awareness month, a month to educate the public, remove the stigma, and support people with mental illness and their families. We’ve been writing about mental health startups in recent years to raise awareness of the mental health pandemic plaguing millions of Americans and how these startups are using technology to reverse the trend.
To put the pandemic into perspective, In 2019, 20.6 percent of U.S. adults experienced mental illness (51.5 million people), according to a study by the National Alliance on Mental Health. This represents 1 in 5 adults. The same study also found that 5.2 percent of U.S. adults experienced serious mental illness in 2019 (13.1 million people), which represents 1 in 20 adults. Now, one startup wants to help people with mental health with its emotional support platform that ensures no one has to cope with life’s challenges alone.
Enter Circles, a subscription-based platform where people experiencing similar life challenges such as divorce, grief, infertility, etc. are matched into cohorts and meet weekly via group video chat to give and receive emotional support, guided by trained and vetted mental health professionals.
Today, Circles announced it has raised $16.5 million in funding in a Series A round led by Zeev Ventures, with participation from Lior Ron, Head of Uber Freight, along with existing investors NFX, Flint Capital, and Sir Ronald Cohen. The funds will be used to support the company’s growth through scaled R&D efforts to improve group matching algorithms and expansion of its offerings.
Circles is a subscription-based platform where people experiencing similar life challenges such as divorce, grief, infertility, etc. are matched into cohorts and meet weekly via group video chat to give and receive emotional support, guided by trained and vetted mental health professionals.
Circles fills the market gap between expensive 1:1 therapy and free online forums or Facebook groups by combining the best of both: professional, guided attention as well as genuine support of peers sharing the same unique human experiences.
Circles supports thousands of members across the U.S. with hundreds of groups. The platform launched in 2020, and in the last half of 2021 alone, the number of paying members has increased by 500%, with the company recruiting four times the amount of mental health professionals to facilitate the growing increase in the new groups.
“There’s something truly incredible that happens when people who are coping with similar challenges get together – and the better the match, the more powerful the group experience. With this new round of funding, we’ll strengthen our matching technology to match with more accuracy, increasing each group’s predisposition for success. This will bring us closer to our goal of making everyone, everywhere feel less alone,” says Irad Eichler, co-founder of Circles.
The pandemic increased global prevalence of anxiety and depression by 25% as well as deepened an epidemic of loneliness. Due to its negative economic consequences and the stress from global shakedowns, people turn to mental health apps for their benefits in coping with mental health problems escalated by these and other adverse life challenges. The global mental health apps market size is expected to reach USD 17.5 billion by 2030 expanding at a CAGR of 16.5% from 2022 to 2030. Group support has been proven to be an effective measure in coping with depression, lowering reported negative psychosocial outcomes, improving overall physical and psychosocial health conditions of patients and their families.
“Circles is addressing a gap in the market with the powerful yet simple principle of human connection. Propelled by leadership with proven experience in successful social impact initiatives, Circles has positioned itself to be a market leader, pioneering accessible group support within the mental wellness space. I’m genuinely thrilled to be a part of this unique opportunity,” says Oren Zeev, of Zeev Ventures.
Founded by Irad Eichler and Dan Landa in 2020, Circles offers individuals who are going through similar experiences to give and get support in small online groups, guided by mental health professionals. Awarded the 2021 Best Platform for Group Therapy by VeryWell Mind, Circles’ members support each other through weekly video sessions and online chat that’s accessible anytime through the Circles’ app. Circles’ members can also access personalized content, including self-help exercises, blogs, and webinars at no extra cost.