Understanding Venture Capital Trusts
16 January 23
16 January 23
Christopher Lascelles, Investment Manager - Venture
Investing in early-stage companies is high risk; if there is one absolutely cast-iron guarantee, it’s that every company’s financial projections will be wrong. What’s more, almost all forecasts are touched with excessive optimism. But then again you have to be an optimist as a founder or you wouldn’t start a company. After all, the founder journey is a stressful one and we all know that most companies, sadly, end up failing.
So part of the job of an investor in early-stage companies is to take a measure of both the opportunity and of the founders. If the numbers can’t be relied on for an investment decision, what can? For starters, the business clearly needs to have potential — at the very least the back of the envelope calculations need to make sense; the market needs to be big enough to warrant a venture scale business; and it has to be solving a problem for which the company offers a clear solution. One also needs to have confidence that the team can take the opportunity and run with it. There are various heuristics we use for this; for example, if founders are unable to succinctly explain the above, then it’s unlikely that they will be unable to convince customers to buy their product and service. Let’s face it, there is no shortage of companies out there trying to sell their product or service, and I for one, don’t want to spend half an hour trying to understand what I am being sold. We are all just too busy these days.
Which brings me to MyMynd. There are plenty of mental health plays in the market, so investing in another mental health company may, on the face of it, seem like an odd thing to do. So why did we invest? Well, there were many reasons, but the principal ones in this instance were the team, testimonials, the product and the market size.
Team — I was immediately impressed with the CEO and co-founder and his vision of the company. He struck me as commercial, experienced and very well well-networked. A PhD and an MBA, he knew the market well, was on top of his metrics and unit economics and seemed open to new ideas. He was clearly a great communicator. That was a good start; it’s amazing the amount of founders who are unable to explain their product and the vision.
Testimonials — Rarely had we received such glowing testimonials from customers. In this case not from a small POC client but from NHS England. Here are three of them.
“You have exceeded the expectations you had already surpassed. You have gone over and above anything we imagined”
“Any one of these outcomes makes this worth its weight in gold”
“MyMynd has been transformative for our team — honestly, it is amazing. Thank you so much for all your hard work”.
It’s always a very positive sign when customers become such strong advocates of a company and it certainly helps grease the wheels of the sales engine, which is all the more important at an early stage of a company’s development. These testimonials suggested that MyMynd has an actual solution to a very real problem.
Product — The background to MyMynd is that the isolation of Covid, and uncertainty of the economy amplified an existing mental health epidemic. Some one in four adults live with some kind of mental health issue (it might be higher — it’s difficult to get the true data). We know that this comes at a £118bn cost to the UK economy.* But the key issue is that the vast majority of these cases go untreated or are treated too late in the day, when the stress and costs have been multiplied.
MyMynd was offering a digital mental health platform that proactively identifies issues for early intervention and directs targeted support precisely where needed to strengthen resilience/wellbeing. The platform is based around a secure online behavioural health assessment based on clinically evidenced and validated tools. The vast majority of respondees are directed towards targeted resources based on their individual needs to strengthen their ability to cope, but priority concerns (c. 10% of respondents) are flagged to MyMynd’s trained responder team for 1-to-1 validation and further guidance. This can include a tailored combination of appropriate coping strategies, or a fast-track referral to appropriate local services.
The vast majority of the existing solutions (many of which are very well funded) ‘reactively’ address mental health needs after they have been diagnosed. What struck us about MyMynd was the proactive nature of their solution. MyMynd’s purpose is not to provide solutions post-factum, but to identify these risks and intervene before they became a major issue or pre-emptively build the protective factors to avoid them.
What really stood out for us was the adoption and engagement rates, which were both off the charts. Many of the leading apps in the space have large reach but low engagement rates; they focus on individuals who are aware of the nature of the problems and want help. MyMynd, on the other hand was/is a proactive tool to help people recognise (and acknowledge) there is a problem before it becomes apparent. It has the potential to save huge amounts of distress, improve productivity and even time off work (which can cause its own level of stress).
Market — The market is also huge. According to the WHO, hundreds of millions of people globally suffer from depression and anxiety and a shocking 700,000 people commit suicide every year globally, a tragedy that affects families and communities and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Billions of pounds are invested annually to address these problems, both publicly and privately, yet the scale of the problem remains undiminished, with misdiagnosis and even no diagnosis more common than an early diagnosis. Throw into the mix a shortage of qualified therapists and it’s clear that there is still huge amounts of work to do. These issues have been exacerbated by the pandemic and will be further exacerbated by the current economic crisis.
The service is sold B2B, which means that it’s not competing with other consumer focused mental health apps. The insights generated are powerful in helping companies align their wellbeing efforts around the specific organisational needs of their workforce, creating a workplace and culture where employees can thrive. We consider this critically important in the war to attract and retain talent where many are ‘quiet quitting’ if they don’t feel supported.
There is a significant additional opportunity in primary healthcare, where the platform can be used as a screening tool to help practitioners manage growing patient demand by identifying those with acute needs for priority attention.
We know that there is a strong correlation between mental health and other health issues. It’s long overdue, but mental health is now slowly becoming as important as physical health.
Our view is that mental health has become a pandemic in its own right, that these issues will only continue to grow in number, and that it’s far more effective to address them (or attempt to at least) before they worsen and become a burden both to employee, employer and wider society. It is in this large market that MyMynd has a proven solution, numerous advocates and a strong team.
* Source: The economic case for investing in the prevention of mental health conditions in the UK, February 2022