Dotcom Therapy, a pediatric teletherapy company, has just closed a $13 million Series A round. It’s far from the only teletherapy company looking to capitalize on the boom in venture capital investment in mental health startups, but it’s operating in a highly-specialized area: therapy for children.
Dotcom Therapy was originally co-founded in 2015 by Rachel Mac Robinson, who was at the time a pediatrician at a neurology clinic in Missouri, and Emily Pardom, also a speech language pathologist. Purdom is no longer involved with the company.
The pair saw a pattern that still holds true in 2021: almost one in five children experience a mental disorder (such as ADHD, or anxiety or depression, for example) in the US, but only accept it Get treatment from a mental health care provider according to the CDC.
The bet of dotcom therapy is that teletherapy can close that gap.
In the company’s infancy, Robinson asked school districts across the country to run teletherapy programs. His first greenlight was a district in rural Alaska, where Robinson delivered a combination of personal and teletherapy.
Today, the company provides speech, business and behavioral therapy entirely online and still focuses on partnering with schools and other youth programs, such as Little League (the company provided mental health services for the Little League World Series tournament). is focused. Dotcom Therapy has so far partnered with over 400 schools (in over 100 districts) across 38 states.
With this most recent round of funding, the company plans to expand operations beyond school districts and scale its service to reach children in and out of school. The program for families is specifically called Zesh, an online therapy platform that connects children with therapists, schedule visits, and hosts video calls.
“Our main customer base was K-12 school districts. “We have the core of our business with our education market,” Robinson says. “But we know we want to expand our footprint, enter health systems and also provide services for private patients by working on different health plans,” she says.
This Series A was led by New Capital Partners A firm with a history of success in the telemedicine space. New Capital Partners was an early investor in Teladoc, a virtual healthcare company founded in 2002. Teladoc went public in 2015 at an enterprise value of $620 million. The round was closed with investments from LRVHealth and OSF Ventures.
Will Cowen, general partner at LRVHealth, Stan Linall, vice president of investments for OSF Ventures, and James Outland, managing partner at New Capital Partners, will join the therapy’s board. In total, the company has raised $14 million in funding.
Before the pandemic, Robinson says the biggest barrier to success would be connecting school districts and families to teletherapy. The pandemic has drastically changed that outlook.
Restrictions on reimbursement for telehealth services, as well as geographic requirements for telehealth services, in response to COVID-19 Were Loose. Use of telehealth services peaked in April 2020, but has stabilized at around 38 times pre-pandemic usage, as of July 2021. McKinsey’s report.
With a move beyond school-based partners, Dotcom Therapy will enter the broader realms of mental health and telehealth, where there is considerable competition. They range. are from talkspace like unicorn For other startups.
At least in Robinson’s view, the special focus on children’s telehealth, and the specific disciplines of occupational and speech therapy, would help differentiate Dotcom in an increasingly crowded space.
“Most of our competitors, I think, are Teladocs, or gingers. But for them, the main focus has been on the adult population,” she says.
Dotcom therapy has general research supporting the idea that online speech and occupational therapy for children works. a systematic review Of the seven studies on telehealth-delivered speech and language therapy, there were significant improvements in children’s language skills that were comparable to in-person therapy—though research is still limited.
In general, The lack of platform specific verification is a criticism common to other mental-health telemedicine companies. dotcom therapy has issued white paper There are suggestions that children have benefited from their teletherapy program. However, Robinson did not disclose any additional ongoing verification studies focused specifically on Dotcom’s service.
Instead she notes that the company has worked with two advisers, Andre Ostrovsky, the former chief medical officer of Medicaid and Colleen Craft, the former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, to develop and track outcome metrics for each service.
“This will include DSM-5 cross cutting measures, functional communication metrics of hope, and proprietary occupational therapy outcomes generated from a team of occupational therapists from masters to doctoral levels,” says Robinson.
On the business side, Dotcom’s current school district-based approach is a multifaceted process – it takes longer than just downloading an app. In a sense, they provide a service rather than just a platform.
Dotcom Therapy aims to be among the school districts the company works with. For example, if a school has about 150 students who need speech therapy, dotcom therapy will determine how many therapists a school may need..
“We have a proprietary calculator that enables us to identify the number of physicians we need to deploy for that specific location,” says Robinson. According to the website of dotcomtherapy, it takes about 21 days in total to match the therapist with the students.
Dotcom Therapy will also coordinate with administrators of K-12 school districts who can stay in the room while children participate in therapy (there’s a video of how it works). Here), and will also handle the scheduling and tracking of all student sessions.
So far, Dotcom Therapy has employed about 200 therapists, Robinson says, all of whom are employed as W-2 employees rather than as independent contractors. The company has a retention rate of about 97 percent for its employees, says Robinson. On the customer side, the company has retained around 90 percent of the customers.
With this Series A round, Robinson says the company is focusing on expanding to all fifty states by January, and building out services for private households.
“I think it’s very important for us to grow fast, but in a very smart way to be able to meet the demand without compromising on quality. So what really keeps me awake at night is It’s making sure we can grow at a healthy pace,” Robinson says.