Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Lantern gets early funding for mental health therapy app

Christina Farr
October 29, 2014
(Reuters) - Lantern, a technology startup that offers online and mobile coaching programs to support mental health, has won early backing for its service.

Executives at the 2-year-old startup said on Friday it has raised $4.4 million from investors led by Silicon Valley-based venture firm Mayfield, with seed funding from SoftTechVC. Facebook Inc Chief Product Officer Chris Cox is serving as an advisor.

While most patients visit therapists at a physical office, Lantern said its founding team has found that researchers support the concept of online coaching, with occasional check-ins from mental health professionals.

For $49 a month or $300 a year, Lantern's service tailors programs for each customer based on a profile created by answering online questions such as, "Is your life meaningful and purposeful?" Lantern will connect each customer with a coach.

Lantern's online and mobile tools teach calming behaviors such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing to help people cope with anxiety, body image issues, stress or even relationships.

Coaches, who take a cut of the monthly fee, will regularly check in via SMS to offer encouragement and feedback.

Internet-based programs to support mental health, while growing in popularity, have only recently gained support from investors. Just a year ago, Lantern Chief Executive Alejandro Foung said, most venture capitalists would not "touch the space." but now there is a growing interest in these digital services.

To develop the service, Foung said Lantern worked closely with researchers at Stanford University, Washington University in St. Louis and Pennsylvania State University.

The National Institutes of Health recently granted the company $4 million to study how to prevent eating disorders and improve body image on campus. Thirty colleges are participating in this study and are offering students free access to Lantern.

(Reporting by Christina Farr; Editing by Richard Chang)
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