Originally appeared in Philadelphia Business Journal, written by Michelle Caffrey.
As demand for mental health services rises, the software platform built by Center City startup NeuroFlow to improve patient engagement with mental health professionals is amid a cash infusion.
The company announced Monday it’s raised $1.2 million out of a projected $1.5 million funding round to fuel hiring and product expansion. It follows its $1.25 million seed round that occurred last fall.
Angel network NJ Jumpstart led the most recent funding round and other backers include Penn alumni VC fund Chestnut Street Ventures, as well as previous investors Independence Blue Cross and combination seed fund and economic development nonprofit Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Notably, at least two of NeuroFlow’s own customers asked to buy in after seeing its product at work — the head of a large health system in North Carolina and an independent psychologist in Philadelphia.
“First, they’re paying for it, and then they’re users of it. And then they’re like ‘This needs to be grown,’” said CEO and Co-Founder Chris Molaro. “I’m beside myself. It’s neat.”
Molaro, a former U.S. Army Captain, and Co-Founder and COO Adam Pardes first launched the company after meeting in Wharton’s InSITE technology fellowship. At first, their focus was centered on putting the startup’s software to use tracking and analyzing data from third-party wearables as it related to issues like anxiety and depression. But as NeuroFlow began testing out its product in clinical settings, they found that only a small cohort of patients benefited from wearing devices that tracks things like heart rate, activity levels and sleep quality. And in some patients, wearing the devices can actually increase anxiety. Plus, the need for a large health system to purchase thousands of devices to implement NeuroFlow’s product was a barrier to entry.
After weighing constraints and studying gaps in the market, NeuroFlow’s doubled down on its core, cloud-based software platform and built out a user-friendly app so patients can complete “homework” assigned by mental health professionals, like worksheets, often key to making treatment stick and keeping patients engaged.
Users can go through standard industry assessments, record pain levels, track biometric data — wearables are still an optional add-on — and doctors can view the results in real time. If a patient indicates they’re in crisis, the doctor is alerted and the patient is connected automatically to hotlines via the app.
Through a partnership with a third-party, patients can also earn gift cards and other rewards for completing assignments – a way to encourage participation.
The startup’s now being used in 105 clinics and hospitals in five countries, from clinical behavioral health treatment settings, where it can be billed to insurance and pricing depends on scale, to independent practitioners like counselors and therapists, who can pay $39.99 a month for access. Doctors in other specialties, including pain management, are also implementing the app as a way to treat the connection of physical pain to mental health.
“We’ve seen a large adoption and excitement from the non-behavioral health setting,” Molaro said.
Through its participation in Penn Medicine Lancaster General and Capital Blue Cross’ Smart Health Innovation Lab, this fall, NeuroFlow will be launched in the hospital’s primary care clinics, an area of medicine that a large portion of patients depend on for mental health treatment.
Implementing the app at colleges and universities — which are facing increased pressure to address students’ mental health needs as suicide rates among young adults continue to rise, along with increases in awareness and advocacy — represents a major opportunity for NeuroFlow. Students already feel comfortable with interacting with digital tools and using them to track their health.
“We believe NeuroFlow will provide a valuable patient engagement tool that will help improve the overall outcomes of the patients being serviced by the platform,” Smart Health Innovation Lab CEO Kim Ireland said in a statement.
Much of NeuroFlow’s time and money over the past year or so has been spent on research and development, proving the product works and that there was a demand in the market, Molaro said, adding that just two percent of its previous $1.25 million seed round was spent on sales and marketing.
Despite few dollars dedicated to marketing, Molaro reports growth of 700 percent this past quarter.
“I told my board, ‘Look, we’ve gotten this traction and growth so far, basically with no money dedicated towards that. I think we have hit on something special here. We’re building, creating something really valuable for people. I want to raise a round meant to fuel that growth and to put fuel on the fire,” he said. “And they agreed with that.”
Neuroflow’s 13 full-time employees work out of Make Office at 1635 Market St., though Molaro expects to grow to about 20 full-time employees by this time next year. He said he hopes to hire a full-time designer, a full-time quality assurance analyst and a full-time sales person by October.