Some venture capitalists are prioritizing mental health -- and are willing to pay for therapy

Key Points
  • VC firms are starting to see therapy as a cost-effective way to help their companies.
  • Kip is beginning with therapy sessions and plans to eventually add data from health trackers.
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Silicon Valley investors are starting to take the mental health of start-up executives quite seriously.

Venture firms including Refactor Capital and Slow Ventures have agreed to pick up the tab for portfolio company founders to get an initial visit to a therapist. They're offering an option via a startup called Kip, which provides a curated list of therapists online.

Once users book a session, they see the therapist in-person. Kip is currently available in San Francisco. Erin Frey, the company's founder, said Kip wants to work with entrepreneurs to demonstrate the benefits of mental health services.

"This is a low-cost way to ensure you have a high-performing executive team," Frey said. "Think of all the money that is spent on things like Macbooks, compared to dealing with anxiety, stress and depression."

Kip's therapists charge a flat rate of $165 per session and do not take insurance. Kip keeps about 25 percent of the fee.

Approximately one in five Americans face a mental illness each year, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness. Across the country, policymakers and advocates are questioning whether the Trump Administration will prioritize mental health care as it aims to slash spending and revamp the health system.

Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, founders are increasingly speaking out about burnout and emotional toll of entrepreneurship. Founders are encouraged to speak confidently about their businesses in pitch meetings, rather than to open up about their weaknesses or challenges.

Zal Bilimoria, Refactor's managing director, said the therapy sessions are the "right thing to do," and they also maximize a company's chances of success.

"All founders face challenges in building and running their companies," Bilimoria said.

Frey said that Kip captures "data between sessions," so health providers can track how their clients are progressing. That data is self-reported, but in the future, Frey hopes to incorporate data from wearable health trackers.

Unlike most mental health startups, Kip's sessions don't take place via a video consultation. The reason for that, Frey said, is that it can be challenging for therapists to pick up on subtle cues, like fidgeting under the table. Many of the providers specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy, which tends to be short-term, as well as goal-oriented.

Frey said founders should start to see their mental health as a priority.

"We hope this is one way to fight the stigma," she said.