Panel: Three Psychedelics Companies that Raised in 2022
As covered in our Funding in 2022 piece, last year was a more difficult fundraising environment for companies in the psychedelics space and beyond. But, a number of companies were still able to pique investor interest and raise significant rounds. Psychedelic Alpha spoke with three psychedelic company CEOs who raised in 2022 to learn more about their fundraising process and advice for fellow founders and entrepreneurs.
Part of our Year in Review series
Meet the Panelists
Describe your company and most recent round in a couple of sentences.
Dillan DiNardo (Mindstate): Launched out of Y Combinator in 2021 with an $11.5M seed funding round, Mindstate Design Labs is a preclinical-stage psychedelic drug development company designing states of consciousness for mental health therapeutics. Recognizing the acute subjective experience of an altered state as central to treatment outcomes, the company is mapping the biological basis of the varieties of psychedelic experience.
Yuriy Blokhin (Homecoming): Homecoming is empowering a global community where integrative coaches and therapists can do their life’s best work. Our mission is predicated on enabling providers to maximize client transformation. We help these providers extend the momentum of a powerful session to where growth takes hold: in the fabric of their clients’ daily lives. Providers can offer structured follow-up, share insights and resources, and engage with clients in a centralized way while never losing visibility into their momentum or roadblocks.
Our fundraise wasn’t easy by any means, but ultimately investors saw the potential in providing picks and shovels to the provider community seeking to artfully blend the mystical and medical. Infrastructure as a theme for investment seems to be a very strong pull for the VC community. There’s a near universal realization that without integration, psychotherapy, or coaching, it’s hard to effect sustainable results with psychedelics and yet it’s an order of magnitude more expensive part of the treatment than the medicine itself.
Dick Simon (Sensorium): Sensorium Therapeutics is a biotechnology company leveraging medicinal chemistry, neuroscience, and machine learning to develop nature-inspired psychoactive medicines for mental health. Towards the end of 2022 we closed a $30mm Series A financing, led by Santé Ventures, to continue development of our Biodynamic Discovery Platform™, advance our lead asset SENS-01 and grow our team
What type of investors did you attract, and what were their most common questions or concerns?
Dillan DiNardo (Mindstate): The company’s investor base has significant representation from Silicon Valley tech visionaries. The seed round was led by Garry Tan at Initialized Capital, which has invested in the seed rounds of more unicorns ($1B+ companies) than any venture capital fund. Other venture investors included Metaplanet, Day One Ventures, and K50 Ventures, and angel investors included founders of Neuralink, AngelList, Coinbase, Instacart, and Twitch. Mindstate Design Labs is also backed by VCs with deep conviction in the psychedelic space, including Negev Capital, Neo Kuma Ventures, PsyMed Ventures, Woven Science, Ayuh Ventures, Ambria Capital, Lionheart Ventures, The Conscious Fund, and Empath Ventures.
The most common questions from investors surrounded the details of the aspects of our technology that are unique, such as our target discovery platform for altered conscious states and our combination molecule approach.
Yuriy Blokhin (Homecoming): We were hugely fortunate to bring to board some of the most mission-aligned investors we could imagine in Integrated, Evolve Ventures, Bridge Builders Collaborative, and several other investors, including legends like Amanda Feilding in the psychedelic space and SV Angel in the tech space.
Aside from deep diligence around projected financials and GTM many questions centered thematically on our approach beyond psychedelics therapy, to the broader mental health market: how long before we could enter it, and the existing dynamics that would create headwinds or tailwinds for us.
The strength of our team, which fortunately contains a diversity of top product, engineering, and BD talent from leading consumer tech companies and traditional healthcare (Headspace, Shopify, Etsy, Privia Health), was also a focus area which proved a strength.
Our unique edge in the process was that we’ve gifted 10% of our company’s equity to a pool of strategic non-profits in the space as our reciprocity commitment and ethos. This helped attract the right mission-aligned investors who looked at us more holistically. We’re extremely proud of the alignment of mission and vision on our cap table.
Dick Simon (Sensorium): We were fortunate to partner with Santé, a leading life sciences venture fund managing approximately one billion dollars. We also received support from funds such as Route 66 Ventures, CU Healthcare Innovation Fund, Palo Santo, WPSS.bio, Ocama Partners, Iter Investments, and others. Investors were curious about and impressed by the quality of our founders and team, the rationale behind our lead program, and the ability of our platform to identify and develop novel drug candidates to impact the mental health crisis.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs and founders looking to raise in this environment?
Dillan DiNardo (Mindstate): Make sure you have a deep understanding of the psychedelics space, a unique vision, and a team that is uniquely equipped to execute on that vision. Fundraising in tech and biotech is going to be completely different for the foreseeable future, so stay laser focused on your milestones and your central purpose, and extend your runway in every way you can. If you create something truly transformative the funding will follow.
Yuriy Blokhin (Homecoming): Investors today are needing to be even more scrutinising than they were in February 2022 about cost and margin metrics.
I’d recommend having a really nuanced understanding of your market and target customer segments, and using that understanding to build a view on anticipated CAC and LTV metrics. You should be able to articulate how you’ll optimize those over time, and ideally have a diversity of earned data points that ground those projections in reality.
For us it also means having a clearly defined vision for how Homecoming can expand its TAM beyond psychedelics while the new industry is still forming and is of a relatively small size.
Dick Simon (Sensorium): Make sure you have a compelling case. Be thorough, leave no stone unturned, and make “tenacity” your watchword. Be realistic. In times like these, do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but do what needs to be done to continue marching towards validation and advancement of your idea.
What are you most excited for in 2023?
Dillan DiNardo (Mindstate): We’re excited to level up our platform mapping the biological basis of psychedelic states, complete our preclinical studies, and move on to human trials in 2023. We’re also thrilled to see the regulatory progress that has happened in the past year and are looking forward to more positive momentum in 2023.
Yuriy Blokhin (Homecoming): We’ve spent the past 3 months co-creating an evolved platform with a mission-aligned group of integrative coaches and therapists. We’ve been incredibly heartened by their excitement and buy-in to our expanding vision.
Driving and measuring client transformation is a critical foundation to supporting providers in practicing their life’s best work: but it’s not the whole puzzle.
Through the process of co-creation, we’ve understood that supporting providers’ community of practice – built atop resource sharing, learning, teaching, and collaborating – is of critical importance to them bringing their best selves to their craft. Further, enabling the seamless promotion of their results helps them spend more time doing what they love, while letting their results speak for themselves to drive practice growth.
Our new platform rolls out next month and you can claim a 20% discount off the first year by signing up on a waitlist as a practitioner before February 1st.
Dick Simon (Sensorium): This will be a big year for Sensorium with several key milestones for both our lead program SENS-01 as well as our Biodynamic Discovery Platform™. I’m excited to continue down the path of realizing our vision, in particular with the great team we’ve assembled.
Part of our Year in Review series
This content is part of our 2022 Year in Review, which looks back at the past year through commentary and analysis, interviews and guest contributions.
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