Jan 3, 2023 - Business

St. Pete women's mental health company LunaJoy closes big seed round

Illustration of young seated woman with her head in her hands and a scribble bubble above her head

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Sisters-in-law Sipra Laddha and Shama Rathi understood the challenges of America's mental health system as psychiatrists.

  • But after both having children and experiencing postpartum depression, they realized that to fill some of women's biggest health care gaps, they needed to get into tech.

Driving the news: LunaJoy β€” their St. Petersburg-based mental telehealth startup focused on girls' and women's needs during puberty, pregnancy, menopause and everything in between β€” closed its seed round at the end of 2022 with $2.4 million, Laddha and Rathi told Axios.

  • It's a huge feat for the women-led venture, considering less than 2% of venture capital funding went to all-female founding teams, per Pitchbook data as of late September.

Why it matters: Only about half of women with depression receive treatment, according to the CDC, with the most common barriers to treatment being cost and stigma.

  • LunaJoy estimates its care services cost half of a typical mental health visit.

How it works: LunaJoy connects patients with medical staff who can assess their needs virtually and provide a path for care β€” from holistic therapy to psychiatry and mental health coaching. All appointments are conducted through a voice or video call on their website.

  • "Care can't be one-size-fits-all when women are going through unique life and reproductive transitions," Rathi told Axios.

Details: The site has insurance contracts with Cigna, Aetna, Humana and Magellan and is licensed in 17 states.

  • So far, more than 1,000 clients have used the site.

State of play: The company has grown rapidly since it launched in 2021, raising $1.9 million less than a month after Laddha and Rathi joined the Y Combinator tech accelerator program that year.

  • They also participated in Tampa Bay Wave's TechDiversity Accelerator program last summer.

What they're saying: While approaching VC firms, Laddha said investors were largely polarized about their pitch.

  • "People who understood the problem deeply got it within 20 minutes, but [there were] people who didn't still really think of women's health as niche and not a market opportunity," she said.

Naseem Sayani got it immediately. The cofounder and managing director of Emmeline Ventures said she wished something like LunaJoy was around for her and women she knew growing up.

  • Sayani said she, Laddha and Rathi "come from these cultural dynamics where you don't talk about mental health, you don't say the words out loud and ask for what you need. ... To be able to bring that service to women in our cultural background is very powerful for us."
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