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Big Health, the startup behind Sleepio, raises $12M to scale delivery of non-drug mental health solutions

ICE Graveyard 27/07/2016 Steve O'Hear

London and San Francisco-based Big Health pitches itself as a provider of “evidence-based, non-drug” solutions to tackle various mental health disorders, including via the digital delivery of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

The startup’s first product is Sleepio, a digital sleep improvement program that claims to help users overcome poor sleep, and has already deployed to over 750,000 employees at companies including Comcast, LinkedIn, Boston Medical Center, and Henry Ford Health System.

Today Big Health, which is already backed by Index Ventures, is disclosing that it has raised $12 million (£9.15m) in new funding led by Octopus Ventures. Also participating are Kaiser Permanente Ventures, Index, Sean Duffy (CEO, Omada Health), and JamJar Investments (the UK-based investment fund of the innocent drinks founders). Noteworthy is that Esther Dyson, and Peter Read are also previous backers.

We first took an in-depth into Big Health’s digital health delivery proposition back in 2014, rightly questioning whether or not CBT-related therapy could really be effective without face-to-face consultation. At the time, the startup’s co-founder Peter Hames was adamant that it could, citing early trials of its Sleepio programme.

A few years later and Big Health is presenting more evidence that this is the case, citing what it claims was the first placebo-group randomized controlled trial (RCT) for a digital sleep program that shows Sleepio comparable in effect to in-person CBT, with 76 percent of insomnia sufferers achieving healthy sleep (Espie, 2012).

Meanwhile, more recent studies appears to show Sleepio to be effective in helping anxiety sufferers reduce their symptoms (Pillai, 2015), and demonstrating significant improvements in sleep and productivity for users (Bostock, 2016).

To date, Big Health says there have been 14 published peer-reviewed papers, providing what it claims is the largest evidence base of any digital therapeutic addressing mental health. For those readers with a medical or scientific background, links to the cited research can be found here.

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