Cognito Health secures $1.1 million for cross-Canada expansion of its mental health offering

Stumped over marketing, Cognito generated a big buzz on Instagram.

Cognito Health has raised $1.1 million CAD in pre-seed funding in its mission to bring mental healthcare to all Canadians. The startup plans to use the funds for cross-Canada expansion.

Garage Capital led the round with participation from serial entrepreneur Rasool Rayani, Andrew Wilkinson (co-founder of Tiny Capital), Jason Warner (Former CTO of Git-Hub & Heroku), Scott Lake (co-founder Shopify), Tobyn Sowden (CEO and founder Redbrick), and Rob Fraser (CEO and founder endūr). The round closed in late March.

Cognito’s CEO Jason Cridge co-founded the startup after a family member experienced a mental health crisis in January 2021. “There’s got to be something we can do about this,” he recalled thinking at the time.

As it turns out, there may well be: in months following, with the help of serial entrepreneur Rasool Rayani, Cridge put together a team and did a soft launch in May 2021.

The startup combines cognitive behavioural therapy and medication for the treatment of depression and anxiety. Cognito’s platform offers digital assessments, nursing visits, physician visits, counselling, coaching, self-directed courses, medication delivery, and daily affirmations for $99 a month.

According to Cridge, before the pandemic, some 3.8 million Canadians experienced depression and anxiety. During the pandemic that number has grown to over seven million.

A pharmacist, Cridge contends that a physician coupled with medication and counselling is the most effective treatment for depression and anxiety. However, he noted that medicine is expensive, few people have family doctors, and counsellors are scarce and expensive.

“Years as a pharmacist showed me how much patients would struggle getting help,” Cridge said. “They are presented with an expensive, time consuming and inaccessible system.”

Cognito’s other co-founders are psychologist Jillian Roberts, family physician Francois Muller, and Marlene Muller, also a family physician.

Cognito is not alone in the bustling mental health marketplace. Headversity secured $12.5 million CAD in Series A financing in January. The Calgary-based startup provides mental health training to employees at firms like Shell, First Group America, and OMERS, and has seen a year of significant growth.

Virtual care provider Maple announced in 2021 that it will expand its digital health services into the delivery of personalized, proactive virtual mental health support, while health and dental benefits provider Green Shield Canada acquired Halifax-based Tranquility Online to support the expansion of its digital mental health ecosystem.

Nonetheless, it bodes well that Cognito has attracted such high-profile investors, with Garage Capital leading. The latter has invested in some of the most successful startups around, including ApplyBoard, Substack, and Trusscore, among many, many others.

And after a slow start to its soft launch last May, Cognito added an Instagram page, which it claims is attracting thousands. “We started resonating with our customers,” Cridge said.

Feature image courtesy of Cognito Health.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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