The ambitious goal of mental health startup Intellect is to be available in Asia-Pacific, but provide localized, culturally competent care in each of the many markets it serves. Today, it announced it has added $10 million to its war coffers in a Series A expansion led by Tiger Global, bringing the round’s total to $20 million. The first half of Series A was announced in January 2022.
Other investors in the renewal round include new backers K3 Ventures, JAFCO Asia, Singtel Innov8 and PERSOL Holdings, with the participation of returning investors Insignia Ventures Partners and HOF Capital.
Intellect describes this as “the largest business round launched by a mental health company in Asia.” The capital brings Intellect’s total funding since the inception of the Y Combinator alum in 2019 to $23 million, and will be used to commercially launch into more markets, expand its business and build its mental health system.
Intellect’s coverage and self-guided programs are available in 15 languages. Although it has a consumer app, the company mainly uses a B2B2C model, with companies offering it as an employee benefit. Its clients include Merck, Philips, Foodpanda, Singtel, Shopee, Omnicom Media Group and abrdn. It currently serves 3 million users in more than 60 countries and has therapists and coaches in 20 countries.
Founder and CEO Theodoric Chew told BestFitnessBands it decided to take on an extension rather than move to a Series B because the company is in a strong position and generating revenue. “With the current economic climate, we wanted to put it in a better position for the next two years and beyond so that we have a strong war chest and not get distracted.”
Intellect mainly sells to regional hubs with many conglomerates and headquarters. For example, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are all core markets. Currently, most of its customers are from Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
The Intellect platform consists of two components. The first is the tech product, which includes its self-guided programs and app. The second is the clinical team of coaches, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.
Chew said the company works with professionals in every market to ensure culturally competent care.
“That’s something we thought about very deeply from day one,” he said. “Essentially, which makes sense for Intellect in any region. It’s about having a product that is hyper-localized for every culture, also for every region and every country. For example, when someone is struggling in Thailand or in Hong Kong, it’s very different from Singapore in terms of stress they have.”
Although Intellect is available in 15 languages, Chew emphasizes that the goal is not just to translate the same material.
“We work with providers in every market, clinicians, psychologists, a team, to make sure we don’t just translate, but we have examples and scenarios for the local context, and that includes the providers’ own network,” he said. “So aside from the app that is localized in APAC in just about every country these days, we have a whole network of local, native, on-the-ground professionals.”
When someone logs in to Intellect for the first time, they are prompted via chat to speak to a provider. Chew said this is important because it results in the most user retention. “Most people in Asia have never seen a professional therapist or coach, so this is a barrel of novelty for them.”
The tech space for mental wellness in Southeast Asia has grown rapidly in recent years. New examples include Ami, MindFi and Thoughtfull, which is backed by Meta, plus a range of startups targeting specific markets, such as Ooca in Thailand or Naluri in Malaysia.
“It’s absolutely amazing to see more and more players pushing and coming to this space,” Chew said. “For us, I think that means there’s more awareness and push to expand the category. It’s a huge cultural shift and push that we’re building for. It’s not going to be a zero-sum game from the start.”
As for how Intellect differentiates itself, Chew said the most important thing is to be an end-to-end mental health platform, ranging from self-guided programs to psychiatric care.
In a statement, Tiger Global partner Jay Chen said: “With its technology-enabled, end-to-end holistic approach, Intellect is poised to become a leader in providing access to mental health services across Asia. We are excited to partner with the Intellect team as it builds a flexible, responsive and modern system for a critical part of healthcare.”