A Genius Bar for Mental Health: Announcing Our Investment in Advekit

Advekit Raises $2.6M in Seed Funding Led by Moment Ventures to Grow the Market for its Mental Health Platform

Published on June 11, 2020 by Clint Chao, Moment Ventures

Credit: Shutterstock/Paul Craft

Have you ever taken in your computer or phone in for a general check up? You know, everything works but there’s a few quirks and dings, but you just decide that even though you’re running at 100mph with a bazillion things in your schedule, that today, you’re going to schedule an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar or with the Geek Squad and tell them that you just want to give your device the 24-point Jiffy Lube treatment?

Yeah, I didn’t think so — no one does that.

If you’re like me, even though your computer or phone is likely one of your most important worldly possessions, you endure and even start to get used to the quirks and weird things that happen for months or years on end, until one day it hits the wall and is D.O.A. when you try and boot up. And when that happens, your world turns upside down. Everything comes to a screeching halt and you’re desperately on the hunt for help from anyone who can help you figure out what’s wrong.

Hitting the Mental Block

Oddly enough, we sort of treat our minds in the same way. Even though our mental health well-being is likely the most important thing for us to make our way through life, we’re usually pretty dismissive of the little quirks and oddities swirling around in our subconscious and just plow ahead with our daily lives. Sure, there are countless numbers of ways to help us keep things under control: yoga, the Calm app, exercise, texting a hotline, talking with a friend, and many more, but if it ever gets to the point that we hit that proverbial wall — the green screen of death in our brains — that we finally decide that it’s time to get some professional help. And by that point, you’re desperate to talk to someone, anyone to help you figure out what’s wrong, except that in your most vulnerable state, you have no idea how to go about finding help. Who do you call, where do you find someone who’s available ASAP, and how do you know that they’re qualified to deal with what you’re experiencing, and how much is this going to cost? There’s no Yelp for therapists and asking for recommendations from your Facebook friends seems like a non-starter. Believe it or not, until recently the most popular way to find a therapist was sifting your way through a Yellow Pages-like directory (see photo) where you get to do all of the leg and paper work.

Introducing Advekit: A Genius Bar for Mental Health

In 2018, I met Alison LaSov and Arielle Garellek, the co-founders of a young LA-based startup called Advekit. Alison was a former licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and Arielle was a former K-12 school principal, and together they formed a technology company to make it easy for people in need of mental health help and licensed mental health therapists to find each other. I was intrigued, but I had a lot to learn about how the inner workings of the mental health industry worked as I figured there needed to be more to nirvana than just Match.com for therapists.

First, the numbers are startling. There are over 46 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with some form of mental illness, and many millions more that go undiagnosed but suffer from the pressures of every day life (and likely many more millions during the COVID-19 crisis). For those that are diagnosed with any mental illness, a recent survey showed that the median number of years that it took for someone to seek treatment for that ailment was 11 years. I know that sounds crazy, but the bottom line is that people are very reluctant to seek medical treatment for mental health disorders for any number of reasons. They typically wait until they get the green screen of death before they look for some professional help.

Credit: Shutterstock/HAKINMHAN

A Genius Approach

Back to our electronics comparison, while there’s always been a way to get your computer fixed, the experience has been anything but easy. In fact, it used to be one of the most painful things to have to go through from experience, cost and lost productivity standpoints. Thank goodness Apple’s Genius Bar came into existence to make that a significantly less arduous experience!

I spent the past year or so getting to know Alison and Arielle to learn more about why their business would make things different for the mental health world, and I also had the opportunity to speak to a number of licensed therapists to gain a better understanding of their needs.

While Advekit has many future aspirations for their platform, I became very impressed that amidst the scores of mental health related startups that attracted millions of VC dollars, Advekit was the one company that cut through the mental health industry fog to clear the path that people and therapists needed to make to find each other, and I could trace it directly back to the fact that Alison previously lived in the trenches as an LFMT and knew how to smooth out the friction points that therapists face in managing the paperwork surrounding their practice, which are extensive as the administrative life of a therapist is far from glamorous. So, rather than just match people with a list of therapists, Advekit sought out to completely simplify the process of finding the best match and then making the transactions related to a session to be brain dead simple. Genius Bar for mental health therapy.

The Company recently announced Advekit’s Series Seed raise, which we led, and we’re super excited to work with Alison and Arielle in their quest to make it easy, fast and affordable for anyone find the right mental health therapist to serve their needs. Also super cool that CTO Mark Florian who brought his tech expertise from ZocDoc to build the platform. And while there are definitely differences between how the Genius Bar and Advekit works, they both aim to break the log jam for us when we’re at our most desperate, vulnerable point, and in the case of Advekit, that’s to help us find the right professional who is available to help us rebuild or supercharge our mental operating system without breaking our bank.

Credit: Shutterstock/Gorbach Elena

Smart Algorithms and Push Button Simplicity

By asking a few smart questions up front, Advekit enables you to cut through the clutter of directory-based alternatives using data and intelligence to match you with three therapists that are best suited and available to help you with your current situation. Because insurance coverage is often the great unknown, patients often abandon their quest for help given the confusion associated with medical plans, what’s covered and who pays for what, and if you’re dealing with a therapist that doesn’t accept insurance (many do not), how do you calculate the out of pocket cost you’d be on the hook for. With Advekit, you know exactly how much the deductible is for your session as the platform figures out your out-of-network coverage (often a fraction of the cost of a list price therapy session), and that’s all you will be responsible for paying. Since patients could potentially have many sessions with a therapist to manage an issue, some Advekit clients even try out multiple therapists in introductory sessions at less than the traditional cost of a single therapist session.

And we’re super excited that Advekit works well with many of the other mental health related platforms that have raised funding recently. Many of those companies are building solutions to chip away at the stigma that’s been associated with mental health wellness over the years, and that’s really important. We just know that at some point in a person’s journey to mental health wellness, they’re likely to need to speak to a licensed professional, and when that happens, the search needs to work like an Easy Button.

Credit: Shutterstock/Sushiman

Advekit and Moment Ventures

As you may know from our previous posts, Moment invests in the Future of Work, where we look to invest in entrepreneurs who can bring the efficiencies of technology to transform the operations or labor infrastructure of large traditional industries such as healthcare, food, logistics, education, e-commerce and more.

Ammar, Matt and I are thrilled to partner with Advekit, as well as Paul from Amplify, Umair from the Mentors Fund, and the other investors that made up this round to help Alison and Arielle build the preeminent vertical labor platform to become the simplest, most effective and affordable way for people to find the perfect mental health therapist for their needs. At the same time, Advekit aspires to make a therapist’s life and the associated paperwork that’s currently burying them a much more manageable thing.

I’d like to thank the professional mental health therapists that I had the opportunity to speak to throughout this process. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and for offering me a glimpse into your world Hillary, Tracy, Hildy, Amy, Kate, Aline and more!

Clint Chao is a General Partner at Moment Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund based in Palo Alto, CA. You can reach/follow him on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Early stage VC with Moment Ventures, investing in Future of Work startups. Investor at Flowspace, Pod Foods, Advekit, TARA AI, Swing Ed., Validere, twine & more