Mental health startups in Europe mapped

Manuel Antunes
MSM fund
Published in
5 min readSep 22, 2021


(thanks Sofia Queiroz for the heavy editorial hand with this mapping work)

Source: Unsplash, Fakurian Design.

It is widely accepted that we have a mental health problem, and it is no coincidence that VCs have invested 1.7x more dollars into European mental health start-ups in 2020 than in 2019. This preliminary data for the 2020 VC-backed investments into mental health ventures compares to a roughly flat year in terms of VC-money invested into the broader European tech scene. And while the ecosystem saw about 20% fewer transactions than in years prior, the mental health space saw a transaction uptick of 12%.

What is far less clear is which approach towards improving mental health is going to work, and it is natural that we should approach proposed solutions with a healthy degree of scepticism. We have grouped the mental health tech space into 3 core groups, based on the main actors in the support provided to the patient:

  1. Gateways to mental health — Ventures helping connecting individuals to mental health sessions (appointments, therapy, coaching, courses, etc.).
  2. Tech-enabled therapy providers — Ventures providing software infrastructure specifically to mental health providers (patient monitoring tools, biometric diagnosis, therapeutics with VR/AR, etc.).
  3. Providers of ongoing mental support — Ventures helping users stay on top of their mental health (e.g. focusing on self-monitoring, virtual content, etc.).

See the full list here, with the geographical distribution and growth stage of each venture.

In our attempt to map the space, we have discussed at length with other European investors and have garnered some of the following investment insights.

Broader access to mental health becomes an enabler of power function gains. This market augmentation thesis fits ventures building Gateways to mental health and Providing ongoing mental support (from the mapping above), and can do so through any one of the following:

  • Technology. As in many other fields (taxi services, home rentals, education, etc.), technology will broaden access to mental health services, meaningfully increasing its market size. This will be the case either through price decreases or by increased demand supported by individuals that would not access mental health services otherwise.
Springhealth for instance quotes a customer within its homepage on how it provided therapy to a customer which has never been able to afford it before.
  • The prosumer impact of covid-19. “Due to a rising problem and increasing awareness about mental illness, especially during the pandemic, we have seen a shift in the market from being phycologist led to consumer driven — consumers are pro-actively searching for solutions to control their mental health. Examples of this are the great rise of meditation guidance but also less obvious solutions like Not Less But Better & Opal focusing on healthy relationships to our smartphones. Norrsken Foundations’ non-profit initiative 29K is also an example, enabling users to take control of their personal mental health and growth by self-guidance exercise.” Fabian Erici, Norrsken.
  • End-to-end offerings. “At Northzone, we believe that the most attractive investment opportunities in the next 5 years lie in scalable, proven, holistic, end-to-end healthcare providers. Looking along the value chain, prevention will become increasingly interesting, as the stigma around mental health decreases. And we are definitely already seeing early signs of this in Europe.” Harriet Hamblin, Northzone.
  • Product adaptation to wider patient profiles. From a market augmentation approach, it is equally interesting to look at what tech ventures are doing to address the more conservative set of consumers within the mental health awareness spectrum. The increasing offering for low-complexity solutions (e.g. oriented towards meditation, sleep, nutrition, daily habits) expands the market beyond the already-diagnosed, or rather solely mentally-challenged users.
  • Seamless matching and integrations. “Winners are companies solving matching, access and payments/reimbursement schemes, opening up for cross-border and intra-city utilisation of therapists and broader access for patients. Our investment in Likeminded reflects this thesis — Likeminded developed a digital platform for mental health that gives people fast, low-threshold access to psychological support, together with a strong focus on community.” Björn Nilsen, Heartcore.
Likeminded seamless user experience.

Insurance coverage as the enabler of venture scale. Gateways to mental health and ventures Providing ongoing mental support will benefit from insurance coverage.

  • Immediate cost-barrier reduction for the end-consumer. Similarly seen in the wider digital healthcare space, insurance coverage of digital consumer tools is set to play a key role in the wider adoption of these products.
Take the example of talkspace (US, SPAC IPO), togetherall (UK, Series B), or Quartet (US, Series D), which make clear statements on their website on how insurances cover their service.

Science and digital efforts will improve diagnostics, treatment and management. Tech-enabled therapy providers benefit from these scientific and digital advances.

  • Improvement of the patient experience. “There have been many D2C mental health businesses started over the past few years, spearheaded by the awareness Headspace and Calm brought to the market. The logical next step was the growth of B2B businesses like Unmind, PSYT and Everymind app. Now, we are excited about the evolution of software tools into digital therapeutics in the clinical setting. Using traditional treatment alongside companion apps to prevent relapses, provide peer support and access advice on a 1:1 basis on demand should help health systems deal with the growing prevalence of mental health issues without overburdening resources or, in some cases, resorting to pharmacological intervention.” Seb Wallace, Triple Point.
  • Biotech as a driver for efficacy. There’s also the more scientific approach, led by teams looking into investments that can materially improve the assessment and treatment processes through biotech such as Oura or Meru Health.

At MSM it is still unclear what are the most promising approaches towards improving mental health but it is obvious it is a space we want to remain attentive to. The pandemic improved mental health awareness and initiated important and promising shifts: more power to consumers, new scalable end-to-end healthcare providers, software tools that bring innovation into digital therapeutics in the clinical setting, and probably most importantly, the pandemic highlighted the importance of community to mental health. It is in the latter we see the bigger promise as community sits at the core of ‘lock step’ impact — whereby impact (community) inherently lends itself to venture economic returns (scale), in an exponential and mutually reinforcing dynamic between impact and return.

If you would like to share your view, drop us an email or get in touch via LinkedIn.

Thanks to Alistair at Venture Friends, Charlotte at Paua Ventures and Oliver at 4Impact for help and support with mapping, and Björn at Heartcore, Fabian at Norrsken, Harriet at Northzone, and Seb at Triple Point for investment thesis discussions and brainstorming.