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Mental health startup Spill has grown from 0 to 203 clients in just over a year amid COVID-19 boom

  • London-based mental health startup Spill has seen major growth through the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The company offers employees access to therapy via a Slack integration and now has more than 200 clients.
  • Meal replacement firm Huel and second-hand marketplace Depop are among those using Spill’s services.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Mental health startups have seen major growth through the COVID-19 pandemic as the effects of multiple lockdowns impact the population. 

One such growth story has been Spill, a London-based startup that integrates with companies via

Slack
to provide therapy and other mental health education services to businesses. The startup, which allows employees to book virtual therapy sessions, launched its full product in January 2020 and has grown to cover more than 200 companies in the UK, Europe and the US.

“The mental health industry has dramatically changed from lockdown,” Spill cofounder and CEO Calvin Benton told Insider. ‘There’s been a huge rise in burnout because there is no more physical separation between life and work, people’s social circles have changed, and many people are grieving.”

Starting out as a team of five, Spill grew from zero customers to over 100 by the end of 2020 with companies like meal replacement firm Huel and second-hand marketplace Depop among those signed up to the startup’s product. Spill operates with rolling monthly contracts which come in two different plans. The cost is determined by the size of the company, plan of choice, and a metric on how much of the company’s staff are likely to engage in therapy. 

The first four months of 2021 have been even more of a whirlwind for the business, with customer numbers doubling to more than 203 as of this week with 12,000 users overall. Insider also understands that Spill has recently hit £1 million in annualized recurring revenue (ARR), a metric startups use to indicate their business growth to investors. 

Investment in the mental health space has been growing apace from a low base in recent years. The first quarter of 2020 saw a record of $576 million invested in mental health startups, per CB Insights. The total raised for 2019 in total was $806 million, 5 times that of 2014, per data from London-based fund Octopus Ventures

VCs are now looking at the space in greater detail. But Spill, which raised a fairly modest $2.7 million in January, isn’t looking to get carried away with big money.

“The last funding round went mostly to product because we didn’t want the pressure of raising a big round,” Benton added. “The therapy side of the business is the most important so all of our time has been spent investing more in the product, we’ve only spent about £2,000 ($2,778) on marketing.”

Both of Benton’s parents have a background in therapy which he says alerted him to both the benefits but also the inaccessibility of psychological care.

“We’ve been working for two years to build a therapy organisation and we have a very strict hiring process for practitioners to assess their depth and breadth of psycho-therapeutic knowledge but also things like their approachability on video,” Benton said.

“Therapy has traditionally been an in-person industry but bringing the benefits online for the end user has been a real change. We are not an offline solution trying to be online, we are digital first.”

Spill video therapy

A look at Spill’s video therapy sessions in use.

Spill


Spill’s product perseverance may well have been paying off. It’s estimated that in the UK it can take an average of up to six weeks to see a therapist on the NHS whereas the time between booking a session and seeing a therapist through Spill is just 4.5 days. Interestingly, Spill’s own surveys indicated that 53% of users had never accessed mental health support before. 

Getting employees to talk about mental health in the workplace is traditionally no picnic with many companies opting for in-house employee assistance programmes (EAP) rather than external sources. Benton said that most referrals are word of mouth between existing customers to new ones, something he hopes will continue as the company reaches more businesses. “We want to continue to improve the product, not our sales team,” he added. 

Despite that, he admits that the original team of five with limited sales experience found the demand overwhelming at times. The team is now 15 strong and is set to grow to around 25 people by the end of the summer as Spill continues to internationalize its offering. 

“The pandemic has helped to bring conversation around mental health awareness forward with around 60% of people at client companies using Spill,” he said. “We can do more there but need to actually help people. We’re still light years from where we want to be.”

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