Mental health care startup Real has raised $10 million in Series A financing, with support from U.S. Women’s National Team soccer star Megan Rapinoe and Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks. The round, led by venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners, is Real’s second raise since its launch last year, when the annual amount spent on mental health care in the U.S. reached nearly $240 billion.
Details of Rapinoe’s and Kendricks’ investments were not disclosed. The company has now raised $16 million to date after closing a $6 million round of seed funding in July 2020. Last year’s raise was led by Forerunner Ventures, known for investments in companies including Glossier and Dollar Shave Club, and included a personal investment from actress and wellness brand Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow.
Founded by 26-year-old CEO Ariela Safira, the membership-based company is focused on delivering affordable and accessible on-demand digital therapy to people across the country. With subscription prices starting under $30 a month, Real offers members access to specialized, topic-based mental health programs called “pathways,” and on-demand self-serve therapy modules.
“There are so many hurdles to getting care,” said Rapinoe, who will join Real as an advisor as well as an investor. “It takes dozens of clicks—literally—to book an appointment, and the decades-old system means moving your life around to show up for an appointment often in the middle of the workday, in a neighborhood far from where you are. Real is the first true innovative solution to mental health care.”
Organized around themes like depression, career anxiety, body image, relationships, communication and sexuality, each “pathways” series has eight sessions supplemented by proactive self-check ins, live community-building sessions with the therapy team and events. Demographic-based models are also part of the Real approach.
“Real is making both the space and the tools for seeking mental health care tangible, accessible and authentic,” Rapinoe added.
Accessibility was a big part of the sell for Kendricks as well, especially in light of COVID-19, the 2019 Pro Bowler explained in a phone interview, but it was ultimately a gut decision.
“Normally I go over the return on investment, the numbers aspect of it, and things like that with my financial team before making a decision like this, but this was one where I truly just felt it was right because I believe in what [Real] is trying to do,” Kendricks said. “I believe they’ll find ways to help all types of people. People who aren’t willing to go out and ask for help but will accept it if it’s available, or people who don’t have access to [therapy] because of economics. This is a tool everyone can use in their day-to-day if they’re looking for [this] kind of help.”
Real launched amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, which ultimately brought conversations relating to mental health to the foreground. As Rapinoe emphasized, reported rates of mental health struggles (depression and anxiety in particular) and substance abuse have skyrocketed over the last year, according to the CDC. Some 40% of adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use last summer. Real doesn’t believe those residual effects will end with the vaccine, which is why the company is using its new capital for technology and platform development for its digital membership and to grow its team of employees.
While its digital offering remains at the company’s core, Real also plans to use the funds to open its first in-person mental health clinic in New York City—the product the company initially planned to launch with last April before COVID-19 forced a digital-first pivot.