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Houston superstar Simone Biles snags C-suite position in SoftBank-backed company

Houston's favorite gymnast is the chief impact officer on a California-based tech company that's raised $462M. Photo via getcerebral.com

Less than two months after Olympic gymnastics star Simone Biles of Spring joined mental health startup Cerebral as chief impact officer, the company has raised $300 million in venture capital — a sum that vaulted it to a valuation of $4.8 billion.

San Francisco-based Cerebral announced the $300 million round December 8. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the Series C round, with participation from Prysm Capital, Access Industries, WestCap Group, and ARTIS Ventures.

Launched in January 2020, Cerebral has raised a total of $462 million from investors, including an undisclosed amount from Biles.

Biles, a 4-foot, 8-inch gymnastics powerhouse, has won 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. But it was her off-the-mat moves at this year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo that drew worldwide attention. Biles contended in just one event in Tokyo after withdrawing from all other competition to concentrate on her mental health.

Two months after the Olympics, Biles agreed to become Cerebral’s chief impact officer, serving as the face of the brand.

Cerebral was an official sponsor of Biles’ Gold Over America Tour, which took place from September to November, and is an official sponsor of the 2022 Simone Biles International Invitational, a gymnastics competition that will be held January 27-30 at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center. The Spring-based World Champions Centre, Biles’ home gym, stages the invitational.

“Mental health is just as important as physical health, but for far too long the stigma of mental health has prevented too many people from seeking help,” Biles says in a Cerebral news release. “I have my own challenges with mental health, and therapy has been very empowering for me as I try to be the best person that I can be. I believe everyone should have access to mental health resources, and Cerebral gives me the ability to personalize my mental health care experience.”

Cerebral bills itself as a one-stop online shop for mental health care and wellness. The company offers counseling, therapy, and medication delivery and management online for conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Cerebral boasts that the $300 million round makes it the world’s largest and fastest-growing online provider of mental health services.

“Cerebral’s growth in the last year shows just how much the world needs affordable and accessible mental health care. It’s important to us that we not only improve access to mental health care through a convenient platform and affordable plans, but to also improve patient outcomes,” says Kyle Robertson, co-founder and CEO of Cerebral.

The pandemic ramped up the use of telehealth services, including those delivered by Cerebral. According to Fortune Business Insights, the U.S. market for behavioral health grew 11.3 percent in 2020, with pandemic-fueled mental health concerns helping drive up demand. Fortune Business Insights estimates the U.S. market will expand from $77.62 billion in 2021 to $99.4 billion in 2028.

Globally, the mental health market is projected to jump from $383.31 billion in 2020 to $537.97 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research.

Digital health startups like Cerebral are benefiting from the mushrooming market for mental health. Rock Health, an investment and advisory firm, says that through the first nine months of 2021, investors pumped $21.3 billion into U.S. digital health startups. That compares with $14.6 billion in all of 2020.

Cerebral says its $300 million cash infusion will enable it to undertake a global expansion, as well develop strategic partnerships and explore M&A opportunities. Today, Cerebral comprises a network of over 2,300 clinicians practicing in all 50 states.

“Roughly half of the American population is affected by mental health issues. However, obstacles like cost, limited provider availability, and fear of judgment remain in the way of getting the treatment they need,” says Priya Saiprasad, a partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, which manages SoftBank’s venture capital funds.

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Building Houston

 
 

Here's your latest roundup of innovation news you may have missed. Photo via Getty Images

It's been a new month and a few Houston startup wrapped up November with news you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, three Houston startups across health care, space, and sports tech have some news they announced recently.

Houston digital health company launches new collaboration

Koda Health has a new partner. Image via kodahealthcare.com

Houston-based Koda Health announced a new partnership with data analytics company, CareJourney.

"This collaboration will aim to develop benchmarking data for advance care planning and end-of-life metrics," the company wrote on LinkedIn. "Koda will provide clinical and practice-based expertise to guide the construction of toolkits, dashboards, and benchmarks that improve ACP programs and end-of-life outcomes."

Koda Health announced the partnership in November..

“Beyond the checkbox of a billing code or completed advance directive, it’s important to build and measure a process that promotes thoughtful planning among patients, their care team, and their loved ones,” says Desh Mohan, MD, Koda's chief medical officer, in the post.

CareJourney was founded in 2014 in Arlington, Virginia.

"I'm hopeful next-generation quality measures will honor the patient’s voice in defining what it means to deliver high quality care, and our commitment is to measure progress on that important endeavor," noted Aneesh Chopra, CareJourney's co-founder and president.

Sports tech startup raises $500,000 pre-seed investment

BeONE Sports has created a technology to enhance athletic training. Photo via beonesports.com

Houston-founded BeONE Sports, an athlete training technology company, announced last month that it closed an oversubscribed round of pre-seed funding. The company announced the raise on its social media pages that the round included $500,000 invested.

Earlier in November, BeONE Sports completed its participation in CodeLaunch DFW 2022. The company was one of six finalists in the program, which concluded with a pitch event on November 16.

Space tech company snags government contracts

Graphic via cognitive space.com

The U.S. Air Force has extended Houston-based Cognitive Space’s contract under a new TACFI, Tactical Funding Increase, award. According to the release, the contract "builds on Cognitive Space’s work to develop a tailored version of CNTIENT for AFRL to achieve ultimate responsiveness and optimized dynamic satellite scheduling via a cloud-based API.

The $1.2 million award follows a $1.5 million U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovation Research award that the company won in 2020 to integrate CNTIENT with commercial ground station providers in support of AFRL’s Hybrid Architecture Demonstration program.

“The TACFI award allows Cognitive Space to continue supporting AFRL’s vitally important HAD program to help deliver commercial space data to the warfighter,” says Guy de Carufel, the company’s founder and CEO, in the releasee. “CNTIENT’s tailored analytics platform will enable HAD and the GLUE platform to integrate modern statistical approaches to optimize mission planning, data collection, and latency estimation.”

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