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Mental health startup Ahead got behind

Erin Brodwin
Apr 15, 2022
Illustration of an exit sign with a red cross replacing the "t"
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Ahead, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based virtual provider of ADHD treatment, is shutting down, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: When viewed alongside Halcyon's shuttering, Ahead's closure could be seen as a worrying portent for the venture-backed behavioral health sector.

Yes, but: Ahead and Halcyon had significantly different business models and treatment approaches. So the timing of the shutdowns is striking, but the closures shouldn't be seen as a sign of impending doom within the broader mental health sector, investors and entrepreneurs tell Axios.

  • "These are such deep categories," says Ambar Bhattacharyya, managing director of Maverick Ventures. "Generally you see only one to three companies per category, but not in behavioral health."

Context: Ahead is among a crop of Silicon Valley startups providing access to ADHD medications online — many of which have come under scrutiny for potentially lax prescribing practices.

  • Two examples are Done, backed by Craft Ventures and Offline Ventures, and Cerebral, which was backed by ARTIS Ventures and SoftBank, among other firms, and valued at $4.8 billion.

Flashback: Founded in 2019, Ahead raised $9 million from digital pharmacy enabler Truepill.

Details: Ahead will no longer accept new patients, but will continue serving current users until June 24, Truepill CEO Sid Viswanathan told Bloomberg.

What they're saying: The pandemic-era waiver of the Ryan Haight Act, which blocked companies from prescribing controlled substances online, has fueled a concerning rise in prescriptions for amphetamine medications, sources tell Axios.

  • "They’ve all become Adderall mills because of the waiver," one source, who previously worked for Cerebral, tells Axios. "Everything kind of fell apart from there."
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