How Family Tragedy Led to Mental-Health Startup Amae Health
  • At a young age, Sonia Garcia saw the devastating effect of intense psychological health issues in her relatives.
  • Drawing on her working experience, she cofounded a startup, Amae Well being, with Stas Sokolin.
  • Amae employs in-person and tech approaches to psychological-overall health treatment. Its buyers incorporate Virtue and 8VC.

Right before she was 16, Sonia Garcia did not assume substantially about mental wellbeing. Rising up in a close-knit Hispanic family of 7 in a tiny Texas city close to the Mexican border, she spent her cost-free time participating in tennis and dreamed of becoming an engineer.

Then the unthinkable took place: Her father died by suicide. 

“When my dad was struggling, it didn’t cross my mind that it could lead to dying,” Garcia reported. “I only thought that was in the motion pictures. It was a reckoning.”

The tragedy has formed her lifestyle. Now she’s channeling that knowledge into a new startup, Amae Wellness, which aims to handle men and women with severe psychological illnesses this sort of as schizophrenia,

bipolar condition

, and significant depressive ailment.

The business has elevated a number of million bucks in seed funding led by the healthcare venture-cash company Advantage. Bling Cash, 8VC, and In a position Associates also participated, alongside angel buyers, which include founders of the startups Cityblock Overall health and Elemy.

A personalized mission

A couple of a long time immediately after her father’s loss of life, Garcia’s brother went lacking. She reported her spouse and children identified him in jail many states away, suffering from mania. For several years they struggled to find him care, but they finally observed an helpful treatment method program, and her brother is now stable, she said.

As a result, Garcia determined she wanted to orient her fascination in engineering toward improving upon results for men and women with extreme psychological ailment. After earning engineering levels from Rice and Stanford, with a task as a health care marketing consultant in in between, she joined Brightline, a household behavioral-well being startup, in 2020 as an early staff.

Garcia advised Insider that as a result of individuals individual and specialist experiences she figured out that the intricate nature of therapy for serious psychological disease demands a more complete solution than


by itself can present.

The National Institute of Mental Wellness defines a critical or critical mental health issues as a single that substantially impedes one or extra significant existence routines. The institute claimed that in 2020, approximately one particular in 20 US adults had a intense psychological illness, while a person in 5 experienced a psychological ailment of any type.

Amae’s model entails a blend of in-human being treatment method — led by psychiatrists, with a strong concentration on local community-based social aid — and

digital health and fitness

companies to facilitate very long-phrase treatment. The corporation ideas to start its first nearby clinic later this yr.

Garcia reported she thinks Amae’s method will make superior outcomes for sufferers and expense savings for insurers and health and fitness companies.

“You can’t address most cancers practically. You can’t take care of kidney dialysis almost,” she explained. “Really serious mental sickness is a long-term illness, and you have to have to take care of it as such.”

Creating the ideal staff

Throughout her time at Brightline, Garcia was launched to Stas Sokolin through a good friend whose health care startup they had been each advising.

Sokolin also knew firsthand the issues of supporting relatives associates with critical mental sickness. As an investor at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic business started by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, Sokolin sought to find startups tackling the problem.

But Sokolin’s lookup came up vacant. He decided he preferred to begin his personal organization. Garcia was contemplating along the exact same strains.

In excess of a assembly in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park final fall, the two drafted plans for a startup. In January, they established Amae Health, with Sokolin as CEO and Garcia as chief products officer.

“A large amount of people today in the mental-wellbeing room see it as a good current market prospect, which is fine — I am in no way opposed to that,” Sokolin informed Insider. “But my occupation has been targeted on resolving big systemic troubles. I required to function with a person performing this for the ideal explanations.”

VC funding for mental-well being startups has boomed in the past 12 months: In accordance to CB Insights, it reached $5.5 billion in 2021, a lot more than doubling its $2.2 billion whole from 2020.

A number of these kinds of startups, like Spring Health, Cerebral, and Lyra Wellness, are now unicorns. Fairly number of are targeted on intense psychological health issues, although there are a handful of emerging businesses, this sort of as Firsthand and Altimate Wellbeing.

1 of Sokolin and Garcia’s to start with priorities was to obtain an individual to head Amae’s scientific approach as the company’s chief professional medical officer. They teamed up with Dr. Scott Fears, who functions in the mental-health division of the Veterans Affairs health care system, in which he has formulated community-based care styles for managing intense mental disease.

The team’s combination of particular backgrounds and experience drew in the firm’s guide trader, Sean Doolan, the founder of Advantage. Just before investing in Amae, he, way too, experienced been looking into techniques to handle severe mental sickness. He instructed Insider that when he met Garcia, Sokolin, and Fears, he realized he had found the appropriate persons to achieve that intention.

“When we initial satisfied them, I could not believe of a better workforce,” he said. “There will come a position as an investor that you get so fired up that you’ve bought to find a way to lover collectively.”