Biotech & Health

Therify hopes to build a more diverse and inclusive therapist network with $1.3M seed round

Comment

Online psychotherapy concept, sad young girl in depression
Image Credits: Alisa Zahoruiko / Getty Images

Finding the right therapist is never an easy task, but it gets even harder when, as a person of color or someone with disabilities, there are few or no people sharing your experience available. Therify hopes to change that with a network of providers from and catering to marginalized populations.

“It just makes a ton of sense,” co-founder James Edward Murray told me. I felt the same way after seeing Murray pitch his company during Y Combinator’s Summer 2021 demo day. The problem is super simple: Not everyone can find therapists they feel comfortable with, since the process of finding one isn’t particularly convenient to begin with, and when you add in some important personal preferences, it can be nigh impossible.

Murray, who is Black, said his instinct in looking for a therapist was to find a Black woman, like those who raised him and with whom he feels comfortable and vulnerable. But after accounting for other factors, like timing, availability and therapeutic approach, he ended up with only a handful of options. It didn’t feel right to him that there should be so few people that shared his background available to him through the system he was working in.

“I talked with other people, co-workers of color, co-workers with disabilities … it became clear that there was a gap here,” he said — and he immediately got to work on filling it. “I didn’t originally want to start a business — I just had a Google form and was matching people, over a hundred, with culturally sensitive therapists. My company came to me and said, hey, can we build this into our benefits?

“That was when I thought, ‘hmmm … ‘ this has value.”

Murray teamed up with CTO Warren Sadler, who worked in machine learning in the health sector, after “begging” him to start the company together.

Our favorite startups from YC’s Summer 21 Demo Day, Part 2

Therify essentially aggregates the supply of providers, usually those with large group practices and who belong to or specialize in working with people who might find it hard to find a therapist like themselves.

“When I started the company, because I’m Black, I wanted to serve my community, but as I started the work I saw that the opportunity is so much broader than that,” Murray said. “So we focused on anyone who feels underrepresented. It’s not just Black and Latinx employees, it’s Asian employees, it’s LGBTQ+ employees, veteran employees, everyone with marginalized identities.”

“So someone can log into Therify and say they focus on anxiety and CBT in LA and are South Asian and understand the South Asian family experience,” he explained. “They understand your identity and particular experience — without that piece, it’s incomplete.”

Screenshot of Therify's sign-up page describing the service.
Image Credits: Therify

Therify works with employee-provided benefits as a layer in between the users or members and covered providers, connecting people with specific needs or wants to therapists who can provide that. They also cover the first few sessions to ease the process of matching and provide additional group formats to overcome obstacles felt particularly by some groups.

“Therapy is stigmatized in some communities,” Murray pointed out. “A group-oriented format you can join anonymously, focused on overcoming imposter syndrome at work or dealing with race-related trauma … it works in favor of people with marginalized communities who are super impacted by that stigma. It provides an alternative to actually going into a room for a one on one.”

Co-founders James Edward Murray (center) and Warren Sadler (right) with first employee Jessie Wooten (left). Image Credits: Therify

Therify signed up hundreds of providers in the first six months, partly due to the company’s modern payment stack — therapists and other providers often have to wait weeks or months for payments, and as Murray pointed out many in marginalized communities work on a sliding scale as well, but Therify guarantees market rate and direct deposit.

Of course the huge digital shift in the therapy industry has helped make this possible. But companies are also realizing that this kind of benefit is an important aspect of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, which helps with buy-in.

“Mental health is a DEI problem: Employees from underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to leave their jobs, to report mental health symptoms, to report work-related mental health issues. It’s a leaky bucket,” Murray explained. “Companies are putting all this effort into DEI but not building the infrastructure needed not just to attract but to keep a diverse group of employees. I experienced this myself at Facebook, and I’m not the only one.”

The $1.3 million seed round is led by SoftBank’s SB Opportunity Fund, Looking Glass Capital, Y Combinator of course, Flexport, True Culture Fund and K5 Global, plus a raft of individual investors including former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao.

Murray said the money will power the buildout of Therify’s provider network and sales channels. In addition, the 18-month plan involves moving into Canada, Europe and Southeast Asia. That naturally involves a lot of legal and compliance work, but fortunately the product itself will translate fairly easily. Video call therapy has gone from niche to default and systems to support it are widely available — good news for a company hoping to scale globally.

As the company grows and serves more populations the hope is it will also serve those populations better. The more providers and customers join the system, the more easily and accurately it can match them together. Everybody should be able to get the kind of mental health treatment they deserve, and this is a step in the right direction to make sure that’s not just possible but easy and simple for all involved.

More TechCrunch

Ahead of the AI safety summit kicking off in Seoul, South Korea later this week, its co-host the United Kingdom is expanding its own efforts in the field. The AI…

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

8 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities