Posted on December 11, 2019 by staff

UK’s first ‘virtual psychology’ start-up secures £4.2m


My Online Therapy, which claims to be the UK’s first virtual psychology start-up, has secured £4.2m in funding.

The firm, which connects its users with psychologists via video or web chat, will use the new funding from the Lighthouse Investment Group to grow the business as it prepares to announce new projects currently in the works.

“We have had a number of B2B conversations, and these conversations include insurance companies, health care platforms, other providers of digital therapy options and the NHS of course,” said Vasileios Touronis, COO and co-founder of the firm.

The new funding will support its next phase of growth, which includes enhanced customer operations, and an expanded product and engineering team to build in-app self-help therapy tools and psychological well-being skills.

The London-based start-up was founded in 2018 by Touronis and sister Dr Elena Touroni, alongside Dr Tom Pennybacker and Elettra Bianchi Dennerlein.

It hopes to meet the needs of the approximately one in four people in the UK who struggle with their mental health every year, according to mental health charity Mind.

He told BusinessCloud that the company does not consider itself a tech firm, but a health firm which utilises tech to better serve people in need.

“We consider ourselves a heath-first company which has gone into tech. We put health first, and then use tech to facilitate the delivery,” he said of the company; co-founders Pennybacker and Elena Touroni have both previously worked for the NHS.

This is why the firm’s service has not been created as a simple intermediary platform between psychologists and patients.

Instead the firm said it ‘hand picks’ the psychologists itself, after providing them with training, and the time saved by conducting the sessions through video chat frees up the time needed.

“Our roadmap doesn’t have any psychologist targets right now,” he said.

“In the UK there are all of 40,000 psychologists. Each one of them is able to offer ten to twelve hours per week, that’s what we’re asking of them. It gives us the chance to scale with our existing personnel.”

He said the firm is not attempting to replace in-person therapy. In fact the firm is itself considering the addition of in-person sessions to its currently tech-first services.

“Part of our thinking to potentially offer in-person therapy is because it’s a way of creating a strong relationship with a user.

“Many times users want to first meet in person, build a relationship with them and then move to the online environment.”

Elettra Bianchi Dennerlein, co-CEO and co-founder of the firm said in a statement that the firm hopes to establish easier access to mental health services.

“This £4.2m in funding will accelerate our mission to provide convenient, reasonably priced, high quality care at the click of a button to those in the UK and beyond,” she said.

“By applying ground-breaking technologies, we plan to revolutionise the mental health space for those who have previously been restricted by salient barriers, such as cost, access and stigma.”