Temasek's Sheares Healthcare backs Asia-focused mental health startup Thoughtfull

Southeast Asia’s mental health startups are getting more investor attention.

Last week, Intellect announced a strategic investment from IHH Healthcare, Asia’s largest private healthcare group. Now Thoughtfull, another digital mental health platform focused on Asia, has raised $4 million in a pre-Series A round led by Sheares Healthcare Group. Sheares is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Temasek.

The round, which Thoughtfull said was oversubscribed, also saw participation from returning investors Vulpes Investment Management, The Hive Southeast Asia, global family offices and founding members of companies like Grab and Zalora. TechCrunch last covered Thoughtfull in October 2021, when it raised its seed round.

Thoughtfull marks Sheares’ first investment in mental healthcare in Asia. Sheares recently exited from a U.S.-based senior care company called Iora Health that was acquired by One Medical.

Called ThoughtfullChat, the startup’s platform includes personalized self-guided content and progress tracking, and access to mental health professionals through video calls and text-based coaching.

Thoughtfull claims that since its launch in 2019, its revenue has grown 30 times in total. Over the past year, revenue rose 10 times year-over-year despite economic downturns. Its mental health professional network now includes 57 locations in Asia and it has users in 95 locations around the world. Its app is available in 11 languages.

Joan Low, founder and CEO of ThoughtFull with Khoo Ee Ping, chief corporate development officer of Sheares Healthcare
Joan Low, founder and CEO of ThoughtFull with Khoo Ee Ping, chief corporate development officer of Sheares Healthcare

(L-R) Joan Low, founder and CEO of ThoughtFull, with Khoo Ee Ping, chief corporate development officer of Sheares Healthcare. Image Credits: Thoughtfull

The startup tackles challenges like fragmented mental healthcare systems and the lack of coverage in insurance policies, which makes it difficult for employers to include mental well-being programs in their benefits packages.

Thoughtfull says in 2022, it became the first mental health startup in the region to partner with insurers like AIA Malaysia to give corporate customers access to mental health support through AIA’s Corporate Solutions portfolio. It also launched a similar partnership with FWD, another insurer, to provide access to affordable mental healthcare in Hong Kong and Thailand. It says one of the reasons it works with insurers is to make mental healthcare more affordable for both corporate employers and individuals.

In a prepared statement, Sheares Healthcare chief corporate development officer Khoo Ee Ping said, “Thoughtfull’s approach to scaling seamless, end-to-end mental healthcare aligns with Sheares’ mission to invest in companies that are shaping the future of healthcare through innovative and patient-focused care. Their successive payor partnerships clearly indicate the demand for their proposition and attest to the strength of their team.”

In addition to Intellect and Thoughtfull, Southeast Asia’s nascent mental healthcare startup ecosystem includes MindFi, a corporate mental health and wellness platform backed by Canva, Global Founders Capital, and M Venture Partners.