May 01, 2018
David Ebersman, Lyra Health
cofounder and CEO of Lyra Health
There are any number of entrepreneurs and pharma companies attempting to transform the realm of behavioral health via smarter, more empathetic use of tech. But if one were to place an educated bet on the company most likely to distinguish itself among the myriad would-be players, Lyra Health would be the obvious choice.
Much of that is due to Ebersman's presence at the helm. Equally well regarded as a businessperson and a technologist, he spent the five years prior to Lyra's founding as CFO of Facebook. His Silicon Valley cred is further enhanced by his seats on the boards of Castlight Health and SurveyMonkey.
At the same time, Ebersman is the rare West Coast type who has earned pharma's embrace. He spent 15 years at Genentech, working in business and product development before becoming its CFO and EVP.
This breadth of experience is why many health tech pundits expect Lyra Health to succeed in the hotly contested behavioral health space: Ebersman knows all the players. But its value proposition seems well tailored for the times as well. Lyra is concentrating its efforts on employers and organizations that offer health plans, attempting to connect employees of member companies “with therapists and therapies that actually work,” per the Lyra website.
Ebersman provided some of the financial backing for Lyra Health himself. Venrock also contributed a percentage of the seed money. While every entrepreneur and innovator – and many hucksters – rhapsodize about how a given industry or space is ripe for disruption, mental health certainly seems ripe for an infusion of new thinking and technological know-how.
Employees dealing with behavioral health issues such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse “are undiagnosed, untreated, or treated with ineffective therapies,” Ebersman told Recode's Kara Swisher around the time of Lyra's launch. “The system we have is terrible, works poorly, and is frustrating to use. People who are sick suffer and there is a significant economic and productivity cost.”
In the same conversation, Ebersman expressed disbelief that so few solutions to the pervasive problem had been floated, much less devised. “Surprisingly, not much tech has been brought to bear to this problem that is a lonely and exhausting experience. Everyone has someone who suffers from these disorders and has stumbled through trying to get help for themselves, family, or friends. We want to end that.”