Temasek’s Sheares Healthcare backs Asia-focused mental health startup Thoughtfull

Southeast Asia’s mental health startups are getting more investor attention. Last week, Intellect announced a strategic investment from IHH Healthcare, Asia’s largest private healthcare group. Now Thoughtfull, another digital mental health platform focused on Asia, has raised $4 million in a pre-Series A round led by Sheares Healthcare Group. Sheares is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Temasek.

The round, which Thoughtfull said was oversubscribed, also included participation from returning investors Vulpes Investment Management, The Hive Southeast Asia, global family offices and founding members of companies like Grab and Zalora. TechCrunch last covered Thoughtfull in October 2021 when it raised its seed round.

Thoughtfull marks Sheares’ first investment in mental healthcare in Asia. Sheares’ other investments include its latest exit, a U.S.-based senior care company called Iora Health that was acquired by One Medical.

Called ThoughtfullChat, the startup’s platform includes personalized self-guided content and progress tracking, and access to mental health professionals through video calls and text-based coaching.

Thoughtfull claims that since its launch in 2019, its revenue has grown 30x in total. Over the past year, revenue grew 10x year-over-year despite economic downturns. Its mental health professional network now includes 57 locations in Asia and it has users in 95 locations around the world. Its app is available in 11 languages.

The startup tackles challenges like fragmented mental healthcare systems and the lack of coverage in insurance policies, which makes it difficult for employers to include mental well-being programs in their benefits packages.

Thoughtfull says in 2022, it became the first mental health startup in the region to partner with insurers like AIA Malaysia to give corporate customers access to mental health support through AIA’s Corporate Solutions portfolio. It also launched a similar partnership with FWD, another insurer, to provide access to affordable mental healthcare in Hong Kong and Thailand. One of the reasons it works with insurers is to make mental healthcare more affordable for both corporate employers and individuals.

In a prepared statement, Sheares Healthcare chief corporate development officer Khoo Ee Ping said, “Thoughtfull’s approach to scaling seamless, end-to-end mental healthcare aligns with Sheares’ mission to invest in companies that are shaping the future of healthcare through innovative and patient-focused care. Their successive payor partnerships clearly indicate the demand for their proposition and attest to the strength of their team.”

In addition to Intellect and Thoughtfull, Southeast Asia’s nascent mental healthcare startup ecosystem includes MindFi, a corporate mental health and wellness platform backed by Canva, Global Founders Capital and M Venture Partners.

Temasek’s Sheares Healthcare backs Asia-focused mental health startup Thoughtfull by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

ThoughtFull gets $1.1M seed to make mental health support more accessible in Southeast Asia

Depression and anxiety were taking a serious toll on peoples’ well-being even before COVID-19, and the pandemic prompted more interest (and venture capital) in mental health startups. While many of the highest profile mental health startups, like Calm or Headspace Health, are based in the United States, more attention is also being paid to emotional wellness around the world. In Southeast Asia, for example, a growing list of startups is increasing access to mental healthcare and support. One of them, ThoughtFull, announced today it has raised $1.1 million USD in seed funding, which it says one of the largest seed rounds raised by a digital mental health startup in Southeast Asia so far.

Founded in 2019, ThoughtFull’s ThoughtFullChat app connects users to mental health professionals for coaching sessions or therapy, and also has self-guided tools. The startup’s app for mental health professionals, called ThoughtFullCare Pro, enables them to manage and scale their online practices. ThoughtFullChat is available for download through the App Store and Google Play, or through insurers and employee benefit programs.

Investors in its seed round include The Hive SEA, Boston-based Flybridge and Vulpes Investment Management, along with family offices and angel investors in the Asia Pacific region.

Before launching ThoughtFull, founder and chief executive officer Joan Low was an investment banker, including six years at J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong. Low told TechCrunch in an email that she felt compelled to leave finance after observing how difficult it was to access mental healthcare in Southeast Asia, compared to “the breakneck speed of digital mental health innovations happening places such as the U.S. and Europe where I have spent time living, working and studying.”

ThoughtFull’s main operating markets are Singapore and Malaysia, but it now has users in 43 countries. Its app, which launched in 2020, is available in five languages: English, Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia, Mandarin and Cantonese, along with coaches who are also fluent in Tamil, Thai, Vietnamese and Tagalog.

Low said ThoughtFull works closely with local healthcare systems to ensure that its services are tailored to each market. For example, it will partner with The Hive Southeast Asia and Penjana Capital, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance, to digitize the country’s mental health ecosystem after the pandemic made access to care, including in-person consultations, more difficult.

“Healthcare systems are inherently complex given the various stakeholders, structures and outcomes that are involved. That said, healthcare in Asia is particularly intricate because of the diversity in not just culture, but also systems—from care delivery to payor and research models,” said Low. “This is why you see less of the foreign players coming into Asian healthcare in a big way as barriers to entry are high.”

Other apps in Southeast Asia that provide digital access to mental health professionals include Intellect, which also recently raise venture funding. Low said ThoughtFull differentiates from other mental health startups by focusing on end-to-end services, giving its users personalized preventative and curative options and creating “an entirely closed feedback loop for better quality mental healthcare delivery.”

ThoughtFull’s seed round will be used for product development, including deep tech developments and clinical research.