Digital health company Big Health announced a new round of $12 million led by Octopus Ventures with Kaiser Permanente Ventures, returning investor Index Ventures, as well as Sean Duffy (CEO, Omada Health) and JamJar Investments, the UK-based investment fund of the innocent drinks founders. They join existing investors Esther Dyson and Peter Read.
Co-founded by Peter Hames (an NHS Innovation Fellow) and Colin Espie (University of Oxford), PhD, Big Health is the developer of the Sleepio app. By automating evidence-based, non-drug solutions like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Big Health aims to make them as scalable and accessible as pharmaceuticals.
Big Health’s first product, Sleepio, is a digital sleep improvement program that helps users overcome poor sleep, and in the process improve their mental health and wellbeing. In the a placebo-group randomized controlled trial (RCT) for a digital sleep program, Sleepio was shown to be comparable in effect to in-person CBT, with 76% of insomnia sufferers achieving healthy sleep (Espie, 2012), and in a separate study shown to be effective in helping anxiety sufferers reduce their symptoms (Pillai, 2015). Most recently Sleepio was shown to be effective in the workplace, with a RCT at a Fortune 500 company demonstrating significant improvements in sleep and productivity for Sleepio users (Bostock, 2016). To date, Big Health has 14 published peer-reviewed papers.
Big Health has offices in both San Francisco and London, and works with employers to improve the sleep and mental health of their employees. After its first year in the US market, Big Health’s Sleepio is already deployed to over 750,000 employees at companies including Comcast, LinkedIn, Boston Medical Center, and Henry Ford Health System amongst others. The National Business Group on Health (NBGH), the industry body representing employers of over 55 million American workers, recently selected Big Health to present to employer members of its Health Innovations Forum.
Peter Hames, co-founder and CEO of Big Health, says in a release: “Over 750,000 employees now have access to our Sleepio program after our first full year in the US market. This new investment allows us to push on towards our goal of helping millions back to good mental health, by growing the number of companies we work with and evolving our products to help address an ever-wider range of mental health issues. But we’ll only achieve this goal—and firmly establish a new “digital medicine” industry—by remaining committed to evidence-based solutions that deliver real outcomes for users.”
Espie says: “Big Health wants to build a better type of healthcare, and this requires a firm commitment to trailblazing research. Everything we do is rooted in scientific evaluation, robustly scrutinized, and published in leading clinical academic journals. So far we have 14 published papers plus a considerable research pipeline, and we openly encourage independent investigators to evaluate our products and publish their findings. We believe an ethical approach to creating health solutions should be a critical value, not an inconvenience.”
Alliott Cole of Octopus Ventures says: “We’re dedicated at Octopus to backing unusually talented teams. In providing funding to Big Health, this will assist the company with its aim to help more people than ever before and also move its product further into the mental health space. We’re delighted to support the growth of the Big Health team.”
Liz Rockett, director of Kaiser Permanente Ventures, says: “At Kaiser Permanente Ventures, we invest in companies that tackle the biggest challenges in healthcare. Big Health is doing just that, pairing a commitment to peer-reviewed clinical evidence with exceptional user experience. We expect our investment to help the company pursue its mission to develop digital therapies to improve health.”
Jon Wright, co-founder of JamJar Investments and innocent drinks, says: “We are excited by the opportunity to allow consumers to improve their mental health without face to face interaction. Insomnia is well suited to in app therapy and both anxiety and depression are huge frontiers that digital medicine can help us cross.”