#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: How the venture capital market is tackling the UK mental health crisis


This article is featured as part of our week-long series dedicated to raising awareness and practical tips to support the mental health of people working in the financial services industry.

Hayley Hand, Chief Investment Officer, Big Society Capital

The venture capital market is turning to impact. A growing number of investors, venture capitalists, and startup founders are supporting and building organizations driven by a social mission. At Big Society Capital, we define an impact startup as:

“A startup whose purpose is to contribute to solutions that create positive change – and over time enable and highlight high-impact performance through proportionate impact practice”

In 2021, we reviewed almost ten times more impact venture fund proposals than in 2018. And at the market level, data from Dealroom shows impact startups now make up more than 15% of the total. European venture capital investments, i.e. three times more than in 2018. 2010.

The onset of the pandemic accelerated this trajectory. As the UK has become increasingly aware of the social inequalities at play; the desire to channel resources to deal with it has grown stronger. In response, many impact startups have scaled up and adapted to the crisis in areas such as greater financial inclusion, eradicating educational skills gaps, and improving health.

Need now more than ever

Mental health has become an area where startups like these are needed more than ever. One in six children had mental health issues last year, up from 1 in 9 before the pandemic. And mental health issues are said to be the leading cause of disability in the UK.

We have seen many examples of startups in the portfolios of funds we invest in to effectively address these issues. For example, Togetherall, backed by Lightrock, is a digital service for people with a variety of mental health and wellbeing issues – from anxiety, depression, stress and trauma to relationship issues and related challenges. to lifestyle. It is a secure online community where people anonymously support each other to improve their mental health and well-being. Millions of people in the UK have access to it through their employer, university, college, NHS provider or participating local council. All members of the armed forces, veterans and their families (16 years and older) also have free access. Eight in ten members found support from Togetherall professionals helpful, and 71% found Togetherall more helpful than other supports they had accessed.

Early-stage technology for a good venture capital firm Bethnal Green Ventures has backed a range of companies tackling mental health issues. For example, Betwixt, which is a guided interactive smartphone adventure that helps people build mental resilience in an accessible and exciting way. And Helsa, a platform that educates people about their mental wellbeing and uses proprietary matching technology to connect LGBTQ+ people to the most qualified therapists to support them. TalkLife is a peer support network for young people to talk about the challenges of living with a mental health issue. During the pandemic, they have rolled out their product to universities on five continents and in 25 languages ​​to support students with their mental health and wellbeing.

We’ve also seen growth in the number of startups providing mental health support through online partner platforms. For example, Spill, which raised a £2m seed round led by Ada Ventures, provides all-in-one mental health support and is delivered through Slack. Spill is currently used by over 100 companies. Among people who took a course of six sessions on Spill, the reduction in depressive and anxious symptoms was 41% and 52% (compared to 33% and 45% for antidepressants over the same period). One of the challenges of the mental health market is to make support accessible to those who need it most, but in a way that does not prevent them from receiving it due to affordability constraints. By selling subscriptions to employers, Spill has been able to provide assistance to people who otherwise would not be able to pay.

A powerful combination

As the examples above show, the combination of the best academic research, technological innovation and investment via the impact venture capital market offers enormous potential to unlock new opportunities for mental illness prevention. And through technology, these opportunities can be scaled up to help large numbers of people – in ways that can continue to deliver strong financial and social results for investors.

We know impact can be a source of value for startups and investors and with the nation’s sanity reaching breaking point – there has never been a more critical time for the capital ecosystem- risk to invest their capital, ideas and expertise in this space.

To learn more about our work in Impact Venture, visit: https://bigsocietycapital.com/our-approach/impact-venture/


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