STAT+: How Mindstrong’s rush to roll out a ‘smoke alarm’ for mental illness led to its downfall

“There was a lot of pressure to commercialize this way too early,” said Mindstrong co-founder Paul Dagum.

SAN FRANCISCO — The mental health startup Mindstrong had the makings of a trailblazer in the field: top-tier leaders from companies like Google and Uber with expertise in neuroscience, medicine, and computer science. About $160 million from the same heavyweight Silicon Valley investors who bankrolled industry-shifting companies like Warby Parker and Airbnb. And an alluring pitch to stave off mental health crises with technology.

But now, the company that trumpeted an innovative digital “smoke alarm” has collapsed, after already scaling back its services to simple largely text-based therapy. This month, Mindstrong disclosed it would lay off most of its employees and shutter its Menlo Park office, and it will reportedly stop treating patients in March. Rumors are swirling among former employees that the remaining barebones team is looking to sell the underlying technology off for parts.

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