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Headway raises $70M at a $750M valuation to help connect therapists with people and insurance schemes



Mental health, and how it is getting addressed, has been one of the major leitmotifs of the past year of pandemic living. Covid-19 not only has led to a lot of people getting ill or worse; it has increased isolation, economic uncertainty, and led to a lot of other kinds of disappointments, and that all has had a knock-on effect on our collective and individual state of mind.

Today a startup called Headway, which has been working on building a better way for people to attend to themselves — by way of a three-sided marketplace of sorts, by helping a person to find and afford a therapist via a free-to-use portal, by making it possible for those therapists to accept a wider range of insurance plans, and by helping those insurance plans facilitate more therapy appointments for their patient networks — is announcing a major round of funding on the heels of strong growth.

The startup has raised $70 million, money that it will be using to continue expanding its platform with more partnerships, more hiring for its team (it wants to have 300 people this year) and opening up in new regions, aiming to be nationwide this year in the U.S.. This round, a Series B, has a number of big names attached to it: it is being led by Andreessen Horowitz, with Thrive, GV and Accel also participating. (The latter three are repeat investors: Thrive and GV led its Series A, while Accel led its seed.) This Series B is coming in at a $750 million valuation.

The rapid pace of funding, the backers, and that valuation all underscore the timeliness of the concept, and also the traction that Headway is getting for its approach.

When we last covered Headway — it raised $26 million just last November, six months ago — it said it had registered some 1,800 therapists on its platform in the New York metro area, where it is based. Now that number is up to over 3,000 with its network now covering not just NYC, but also New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Michigan, Virginia, Washington, Illinois and Colorado. It has over 2,000 patients joining the platform each month and has so far helped facilitate 300,000 appointments, with a current average of 30,000 appointments each month. Revenues have in the last year, menawhile, grown nine-fold.

The approach that Headway is taking — creating not just a vertical search portal for therapists, but building a back-end system to help those therapists grow their business by making it easier for them to accept insurance coverage — comes directly out of the experiences faced by one of the startup’s co-founders.

Andrew Adams, the CEO of Headway, told me last year he came up with the idea after he moved to New York from California several years ago to take a job. In seeking a therapist, he found most unwilling to accept his insurance plan as payment, making getting therapy unaffordable.

This is a very typical problem, he said. Some 70% of therapists do not accept insurance today because it’s too complicated for them to integrate, since about 85% of all therapists happen to be solo practitioners. So something that should be accessible to everyone becomes something typically only used by those who can afford it, or have entered into social care programs that might provide it. But that leaves a massive gap in the middle.

“This is the defining problem in the space,” he said at the time. “Health insurance is built around a medical world dominated by billers and admins, but therapists are small practitioners and don’t have the bandwidth to handle that, so they don’t. So we thought if we could make it easier for them to, they would, and they have.”

And indeed, if you are needing to see a therapist, the very last thing you need or want to be doing is spending your time trying to work out the economics of doing so: you need to be focused on finding someone who you feel you can talk to; someone who can help you.

The problem is a huge one. In the U.S. alone it’s estimated that there are some 82 million people who have treatable health conditions. Headway was founded on the premise that most of them currently do not seek that treatment because of cost or accessibility.

A lot of therapy has traditionally been about seeing people in person — and arguably the fact that we’ve had so much reduced contact with people has contributed to mental health issues this past year — but in the event, Headway has definitely adapted to the current climate.

The company says that some 89% of its appointments at the moment are being carried out remotely. This is down from 97% at the peak of the pandemic in the U.S., and has been slowly starting to taper off, the company said. Some of the increased volume, meanwhile, is a direct result of therapists working remotely: they can fit more people in to a daily schedule as a result.

In terms of insurers, the company currently works with Aetna, Cigna, United Healthcare, Oscar and Oxford and says the list will be growing. On interesting detail is that Headway has not only built out a bigger funnel for these insurers in terms of the practitioners that they work with and individuals who can subsequently use insurance to pay for therapy, but conversely has served to be a conduit for those insurance groups in bringing more patients through to those therapists, who are now a part of their networks, by way of Headway’s platform.

Headway says that using its system can help a patient get an appointment within 5 days, versus the the 30-day average you typically face when using an insurance directory.

It’s the kind of scale and “software eating the world” efficiency that has attracted Andreessen Horowitz to backing companies before, with the added detail of this being particular relevant to the time we are living in.

“By getting the mental health provider community on the same page with insurance companies for the first time, Headway unlocks affordable mental healthcare for millions of Americans,” said Scott Kupor, managing partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “We’re incredibly excited to work alongside the Headway team.” Kupor is also joining Headway’s board with this round.

Cherry Miao, a former Partner at Accel and Headway’s lead seed investor, is also joining as Head of Finance & Data.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the world’s most influential startups, and know that being part of Headway’s meaningful mission, robust business model, and incredibly talented team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be helping rebuild America’s mental healthcare system for access and affordability.”

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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If you don’t want robotic dogs patrolling the streets, consider CCOPS legislation



Boston Dynamics’ robot “dogs,” or similar versions thereof, are already being employed by police departments in Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York. Partly through the veil of experimentation, few answers are being given by these police forces about the benefits and costs of using these powerful surveillance devices.

The American Civil Liberties Union, in a position paper on CCOPS (community control over police surveillance), proposes an act to promote transparency and protect civil rights and liberties with respect to surveillance technology. To date, 19 U.S. cities in have passed CCOPS laws, which means, in practical terms, that virtually all other communities don’t have a requirement that police are transparent about their use of surveillance technologies.

For many, this ability to use new, unproven technologies in a broad range of ways presents a real danger. Stuart Watt, a world-renowned expert in artificial intelligence and the CTO of Turalt, is not amused.

Even seemingly fun and harmless “toys” have all the necessary functions and features to be weaponized.

“I am appalled both by the principle and the dogbots and of them in practice. It’s a big waste of money and a distraction from actual police work,” he said. “Definitely communities need to be engaged with. I am honestly not even sure what the police forces think the whole point is. Is it to discourage through a physical surveillance system, or is it to actually prepare people for some kind of enforcement down the line?

“Chunks of law enforcement have forgotten the whole ‘protect and serve’ thing, and do neither,” Watts added. “If they could use artificial intelligence to actually protect and actually serve vulnerable people, the homeless, folks addicted to drugs, sex workers, those in poverty and maligned minorities, it’d be tons better. If they have to spend the money on AI, spend it to help people.”

The ACLU is advocating exactly what Watt suggests. In proposed language to city councils across the nation, the ACLU makes it clear that:

The City Council shall only approve a request to fund, acquire, or use a surveillance technology if it determines the benefits of the surveillance technology outweigh its costs, that the proposal will safeguard civil liberties and civil rights, and that the uses and deployment of the surveillance technology will not be based upon discriminatory or viewpoint-based factors or have a disparate impact on any community or group.

From a legal perspective, Anthony Gualano, a lawyer and special counsel at Team Law, believes that CCOPS legislation makes sense on many levels.

“As police increase their use of surveillance technologies in communities around the nation, and the technologies they use become more powerful and effective to protect people, legislation requiring transparency becomes necessary to check what technologies are being used and how they are being used.”

For those not only worried about this Boston Dynamics dog, but all future incarnations of this supertech canine, the current legal climate is problematic because it essentially allows our communities to be testing grounds for Big Tech and Big Government to find new ways to engage.

Just last month, public pressure forced the New York Police Department to suspend use of a robotic dog, quite unassumingly named Digidog. After the tech hound was placed on temporary leave due to public pushback, the NYPD used it at a public housing building in March. This went over about as well as you could expect, leading to discussions as to the immediate fate of this technology in New York.

The New York Times phrased it perfectly, observing that “the NYPD will return the device earlier than planned after critics seized on it as a dystopian example of overly aggressive policing.”

While these bionic dogs are powerful enough to take a bite out of crime, the police forces seeking to use them have a lot of public relations work to do first. A great place to begin would be for the police to actively and positively participate in CCOPS discussions, explaining what the technology involves, and how it (and these robots) will be used tomorrow, next month and potentially years from now.

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Bird Rides to go public via SPAC, at an implied value of $2.3B



Bird Rides, the shared electric scooter startup that operates in more than 100 cities across 3 continents, said Wednesday it is going public by merging with special purpose acquisition company Switchback II with an implied valuation of $2.3 billion. The announcement confirms earlier reports, including one this week from, that Bird intended to go public via a SPAC.

Bird said it was able to raise $106 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE, by institutional investor Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, and others. Apollo Investment Corp. and MidCap Financial Trust provided an additional $40 million asset financing.

The transaction will enable the combined entity to retain net proceeds of up to $428 million of cash, according to Switchback, which brings $316 million cash-in-trust to the table. The announcement also provided new information about a previously undisclosed $208 million, which Bird raised privately as part of an April 2021 Senior Preferred Convertible equity offering led by Bracket Capital, Sequoia Capital and Valor Equity Partners.

When and how Bird would go public has been an item of speculation after Bloomberg reported last November that the company received “inbound interest” from SPACs.

Bird’s ride has been bumpy at times. In 2020, revenue dropped to $95 million, or 37% from the previous year. That year the company also laid off around 30% of its workforce – 406 people – for cost-saving reasons. The company may use this new access to cash to expand its European operations and pay off debt.

Most importantly, the new injection of cash may help the company finally achieve profitability. It’s a rarity amongst scooter startups, who face notoriously high overhead.

Special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, have become a popular route for going public amongst transportation startups. Already this year, scooter company Helbiz, which is based in Europe and the U.S., went public via SPAC in a merger with GreenVision Acquisition Corp. SPAC shell corporations allow companies to list on the NASDAQ without doing a traditional initial public offering.

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Only three days left to buy $99 passes to TC Disrupt 2021



The countdown clock keeps on ticking, and you have just three days to secure your $99 pass to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021. You read that right — $99 is all that you’ll pay, $99 is all (everybody sing)!

Silly Minions aside, you’ll snag serious savings if you buy your Disrupt 2021 pass before the deadline expires on May 14 at 11:59 pm (PT).

TechCrunch Disrupt is a massive gathering of the tech startup world’s top leaders, innovators, makers, investors, founders and ground breakers. The all-virtual platform means more global participation and exposure. It’s all designed to help early-stage founders — and the people who invest in them — build a thriving business.

The Disrupt stage features in-depth interviews and panel discussions with a who’s-who of tech talent. The Extra Crunch stage is where you’ll find a deep bench of subject-matter experts sharing practical how-to content. You’ll take away actionable insights you can put into practice now — when you need it most. Check out our roster of speakers — we’re adding more every week.

Granted, we might be a tad biased about Disrupt — of course we think it’s awesome. But your contemporaries recognize its value, too. Here’s what a few of them told us about their experience at Disrupt 2020.

There was always something interesting going on in one of the breakout rooms, and I was impressed by the quality of the people participating. Partners in well-known VC firms spoke, they were accessible, and they shared smart, insightful nuggets. You will not find this level of people accessible and in one place anywhere else. — Michael McCarthy, CEO, Repositax.

I loved the variety of topics and learning about recent technology trends as they’re happening. Disrupt gave me a whole new perspective on the ways innovation happens in big companies. — Anirudh Murali, co-founder and CEO, Economize.

Watching the Startup Battlefield was fantastic. You could see the ingenuity and innovation happening in different technology spaces. Just looking at the sheer number of other pitch decks and hearing the judges tear them down and give feedback was very helpful. — Jessica McLean, Director of Marketing and Communications, Infinite-Compute.

If watching Startup Battlefield is thrilling (and it is), imagine what it would feel like to compete — or to win. We’re still accepting applications but not for long. Want to take a shot at winning $100,000? Apply to compete in Startup Battlefield before May 13 at 11:59 pm (PT).

There’s so much more opportunity waiting for you at Disrupt 2021. Explore Startup Alley, our expo area. Better yet, exhibit there yourself and, in addition to a bunch of other perks, you might be one of only 50 exhibiting startups chosen to participate in the Startup Alley+ VIP experience. Read more about Startup Alley+ here. TechCrunch will notify selected startups at the end of June.

Time is running out, and $99 is all that you’ll pay — if you buy your Disrupt 2021 pass before Friday, May 14 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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