Accelerator

Research

By Jason Levin, Executive Director, WGU Labs & Betheny Gross, Director or Research, WGU Labs 

 

Few debate that the pandemic took a toll on the mental health and well being of young adults, but it came amid a long standing increase in mental health struggles, such as depression and anxiety. 

And the numbers are staggering. University of Michigan’s 2021 Healthy Minds Survey of over 100,000 college students found that 41% are experiencing symptoms of depression, and 34% are experiencing symptoms of anxiety. Only 38% of surveyed students reach the threshold for what is considered “positive mental health.” Although colleges want to support their students, they are struggling to keep up with demand. 

Flourish Labs, a mental health app startup that is partnering with our research team here at Labs, is keen to help solve the student mental health crisis in an innovative and scalable way by leveraging the power of peer networks as a more relatable and trusted source of support.

Innovative solutions can be hard to spot in booming tech markets. Flourish Labs, as a mental health app and tele-health solution sits squarely in two explosive markets.  The mental health app market alone  is predicted to reach over $17 billion in value by the end of the decade. McKinsey reports that the tele-health market has grown 38X since the start of COVID. The tele-health market for mental health services is estimated to reach over $100 billion. 

When we first came across Flourish Labs several things stood out to us about this company and its potential. So, what makes Flourish Labs different from everything else on the market? Here’s what we see:

1 – A Novel View of the Problem

Mental health is a continuum. A great many people who would benefit from trained support do not necessarily need clinicians with advanced degrees. As research cited above shows, over 60% of students don’t have what is considered “positive mental health,” but they still need support even if it’s not from a clinician. Peer supporters, which have been a recognized but underutilized component of the mental health provider system, is well-suited to meet the support needs of a great many students.  

By focusing on the full spectrum of mental health support and building out an underutilized segment of  mental health providers, Flourish Labs can not only ensure more people get the help they need but alleviate pressures of demand felt across the system as people seek care from too few available clinicians.

 

2 – The Transformational Potential of Their Solution

As we’ve seen throughout the last few years, colleges are struggling to train, hire, and staff counseling centers on campuses. What is needed is a truly novel solution that expands who we think of as support providers. Just as we can learn and be educated by those who are not teachers by profession, students can benefit from mental health support from those who aren’t clinicians. 

By activating and mobilizing peer networks who are trained to provide support to like peers, Flourish Labs has devised a solution that can truly scale and have a transformational impact on the mental wellness space – they’re building a network of providers that can provide just the right dosage of support. 

 

3 – Providing Easy Access to a Wider Network of Support

It’s no secret that clinical mental health services have a high barrier to entry. Services are expensive even with good health insurance, therefore pricing out the very folks that need support the most. If you are lucky enough to get connected to help, you typically have only one primary point of contact. Hopefully, that relationship works but if it doesn’t you can be back to square one.

Flourish Labs lowers the barrier to entry with an easy to use app that takes a lot of the bureaucracy out of getting help. By promoting wellness support from peers, Flourish Labs also helps to reduce the stigma for those that are seeking support to truly help all students.

In addition, Flourish Labs uses its technology to connect everyone with a network of trained and qualified peer supporters so you have multiple points of contact who offer a range of relevant backgrounds and experiences. With a network to tap, those seeking help can reach out to the peer supporter who can best relate to their most pressing concerns.   

 

4 – Proven Leadership

With an ambitious vision to disrupt an entire wellness industry, high-power leadership can make a vision into reality, allowing Flourish Labs to achieve the transformative impact it’s working toward. Obi Felten, founder and CEO, has a proven track record of technology innovation across a number of industries, and she brings that leadership to her new company. 

Also notable is Flourish Labs’ Chief Medical Officer, Kim Newell Green MD FAAP, who is a pediatrician and also an Associate Clinical Professor at UC San Francisco, who ensures that their product is evidence-based for maximal impact.

 

5 – Market Alignment

Finally, from an investor standpoint, Flourish Labs has all the ingredients for a successful company. Their solution is aimed at an important problem, reduces barriers to entry for users of the app, can scale, and is a much lower cost solution for folks as compared to traditional counseling and clinical services. With an impact thesis like that and the strength of its founding leadership team, of course we wanted to work with them!

 

Flourish Labs is a true innovator in the mental wellness space, tackling problems of scale in a tricky market, with the clear potential for truly transformational change. We’re excited to see Flourish Labs… flourish.

 

The Accelerator at WGU Labs leverages the talent of 30-plus education and business professionals to boost your company’s impact and business scale. Interested in learning more? Let’s chat.