Mental Health Startup Lantern Raises $17 Million Series A Round

Lantern, a mental health startup that offers tools to deal with stress, anxiety and body image has raised a $17 million Series A round led by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s venture arm with participation from previous investors such as Mayfield and SoftTechVC.

UPMC Enterprises, the hospital’s venture arm, has invested large sums of money in 12 other health startups to date, including health care software system dbMotion, which had a $235 million exit in 2013, and Evolent Health, a population health management services organization that went public last year.

“As one of the leading integrated healthcare provider and insurance systems, UPMC was attracted to Lantern’s widely accessible, cost-effective behavioral health platform,” UPMC Enterprises President Tal Heppenstall told TechCrunch. “By working with our clinical experts, who are leaders in the mental health field, and our vast network that covers the entire continuum of care, we think that we can add value to Lantern’s technology.”

Lantern plans to do a couple of things with the funding. For starters, it wants to focus more on integrating Lantern into employer insurance plans, so that employees can access Lantern as a benefit. The first step in that process would be to deploy Lantern within the UPMC health system.

Lantern also wants to invest more into research studies to show the economic proof that symptom reduction positively affects the bottom line for employers in terms of health costs. That’s because, Foung said, people don’t access as many health resources (ER visits, involuntary psychiatric holds) if they have preventative tools to manage their symptoms along the way.

This month, Lantern plans to launch a program around mood, as an addition to its programs on stress, anxiety and body image. Eventually, Lantern wants to broaden the set of categories, Lantern co-founder Alejandro Foung told me. For example, while lantern offers tools around stress, it would like to deepen and broaden that to differentiate between workplace stress and relationship stress.

Lantern has been very deliberate and thoughtful in the way it conveys what its product can do, Foung says. Lantern maintains that it does not serve as a replacement to therapy, nor can it cure anyone of anxiety or stress. That’s because anxiety is not curable, but there are proven ways to reduce anxiety and better manage it.

“The point is not to solve all your problems — it’s to feel better,” Foung said.

Lantern is still a very small company, with just 17 full-time employees. By the end of this year, Foung says, Lantern will likely double in size. Prior to this $17 million round, Lantern had raised $4.4 million.