Mental health has been the focus of attention over the past year, and startup Real is looking to shake up the room with a product that makes group therapy available on-demand.
Founded by CEO Ariela Safira, Real is inspired by a longstanding methodology in the mental health world: group therapy. AA, for example, has been around for decades and has proven incredibly effective for some. However, this format is not as readily available for a wide variety of topics beyond addiction disease.
To provide this service, Real raised $ 10 million in Series A funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners with the participation of existing and new investors including Megan Rapinoe and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Real employs full-time therapists to lead group therapy in a variety of areas, including exploring sexuality, anxiety, dealing with anger with family members, and other real-world problems. With Real, users pay $ 28 per month to access these paths (as Real calls them), so users can view these group therapy sessions as needed and receive journal prompts and other resources.
One of the advantages of this platform is that it allows users to get more tactical advice on these things instead of trying to investigate the issues. They also feel less alone as they see others struggling with the same things.
Perhaps most importantly, with Real, users can get the conversations and therapies they need when they want.
Safira explained that on Wednesday at 11 p.m. she could be deep in her thoughts and feelings, but could not have a one-on-one therapy session until 2 p.m. on Monday. Your condition may have changed. With Real, she can go online and access the right path at the moment.
Interestingly, Real’s research shows that most people who go through one-on-one therapy have opted for general anxiety, relationship problems, and career counseling. At Real, sexuality, motherhood and intimacy are the most important paths. The bottom line is that the things people want to work on most are not always the things they feel most comfortable about when working in a one-on-one session.
By scaling group therapy sessions to an on-demand audience, Real has been able to significantly reduce the cost of this type of service, especially when compared to individual therapy.
Real is the result of many years of work in the field of mental health. Safira’s friend attempted suicide while studying at Stanford. It was her first time looking into the mental health system and she wondered why the system was designed the way it was. She threw herself into it.
“I’ve worked for two to three years to reshape the mental health system,” she said. “This includes visiting and flying to rehab centers, therapy offices, and architecture firms that built these spaces to learn why we make the mental health care decisions that we make. Things like: Is there research going on behind the crisp white walls in inpatient mental health facilities, and if not, is it based on legal or financial hurdles? I really wanted to learn the basics of building a system. “
She left Stanford, then returned to Stanford, went to Columbia for her Masters, and left Columbia to start Real. And the time finally seems to be right. Real has attracted investment from big names in institutional VC and big names in general.
“[Ariela] I looked at something that had been around for so long, therapies in the traditional sense, and turned it upside down to break the status quo, and I found that really interesting and innovative, ”Megan Rapinoe said in an interview with .. “There are obviously many barriers to accessing mental health services for many different reasons. Hopefully this platform can make it easier for people to get the help they need. “
Rapinoe is just one of the big names invested in Real. She is accompanied by Gwyneth Paltrow and Eric Kendricks.
Kendricks stated that he was never averse to therapy, but that he learned a lot after meeting his fiancé and hearing about her struggles and the struggles of her family who have dealt with a variety of mental health issues.
“Everything went well for me,” he said. “I’ve always played well on the field and financially I make more money than when I was a child. But I’ve had moments when I’ve questioned myself and in my head a lot and it’s a strange feeling. I had to take a step back and realized that I was going through something. But based on the conversations I had with my fiancé, I used my resources to find the help I needed and it was amazing. “
He stated that the changing mentality of society regarding mental health has paved the way for a product like Real, which is a more proactive and preventive approach to mental wellbeing.
But Real was also able to react quickly to major events in our world. The company has launched a product called Real to the People, which provides free access to the platform in times of crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic, George Floyd’s murder and, most recently, the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.
Nicole Quinn, partner at Lightspeed, said the company has had a longstanding interest in the mental health field. In fact, LSVP is an investor in Calm.
“The ‘aha’ moment for me was when I was looking at the alcoholism disease,” said Quinn, who calmly led the group. “You can go to Alcoholics Anonymous and you really benefit from groups. Can we use the same group method by scaling it to other areas? We firmly believe that you can. “
Real has raised a total of $ 16 million since launch.