flipping into tech

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

 
 

Catch up on two big pieces of news landing at the Houston Spaceport. Image via fly2houston.com

The Space City is starting 2022 off strong with news launching out of the Houston Spaceport — a TK-acre space in TK Houston.

The two big headlines include a unicorn company releasing the latest details of its earthbound project and fresh funds from the state to support the space ecosystem in Texas.

Governor Abbott doles out $10M in spaceport grants

Texas has launched fresh funding into two spaceport projects. Image via fly2houston.com

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced $10 million in funding to two Texas spaceports as a part of the state's Spaceport Trust Fund. The Houston Spaceport Development Corp. received $5 million and the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. received $5 million.

The fund is administered by the Governor's Office of Economic Development and Tourism and was created to support the development of spaceport infrastructure, create quality jobs, and attract continuing investments that will strengthen the economic future of the state, according to a news release.

"For decades, Texas has been a trailblazer in space technology and we are proud to help cultivate more innovation and development in this growing industry in Cameron and Harris County," says Abbott in the release. "This investment in the Cameron County and Houston Spaceport Development Corporations will create even more economic opportunities for Texans across the state and continue our legacy as a leader in space technology."

Axiom Space hires Dallas-based architecture and engineering firm

Axiom Space has made progress on developing its 14-acre headquarters. Image via axiomspace.com

Houston-based unicorn Axiom Space has announced that it awarded Dallas-based Jacobs the architecture and engineering phase one design contract. The firm will be working on the 100,000-square-foot facility planned for the 400-acre Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport.

Axiom Space's plans are ro build the first commercial space station that will provide a central hub for research, to support microgravity experiments, manufacturing, and commerce in low Earth orbit missions, according to a news release.

"This is an exciting and historic moment for Axiom and the greater Houston area," says Axiom CTO Matt Ondler in the release. "For the first time, spacecraft will be built and outfitted right here in Houston, Texas. This facility will provide us with the infrastructure necessary to scale up operations and bring more aerospace jobs to the area. With this new facility, we are not only building next generation spacecraft, but also solidifying Houston as the U.S. commercial industry's gateway to space."

Axiom Space, which raised $130M in venture capital last year, is building out its 14-acre headquarters to accommodate the creation of more than 1,000 high-paying jobs, from engineers to scientists, mathematicians, and machinists.

"Houston is a city built on innovation and is becoming a next-generation tech hub in the United States," says Ron Williams, senior vice president at Jacobs. "Privately funded infrastructure will drive U.S. leadership in space. Jacobs is committed to providing integrated solutions to accelerate the future of commercial space operations."

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