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Invest with What If VC - Mental Health
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Note from What If VC - Mental Health

What is What If Ventures?

What if VC is an early stage investment group focused on mental health and addiction recovery startups. There is no fee. There is no commitment. You can opt-in or opt-out of any deal you would like.

Our goal is to get capital flowing into the burgeoning mental health tech market. We aim to make that as friction-less and inexpensive as possible for you.

How big is the mental health startup landscape? Read our overview here: Approaching 1,000 Mental Health Startups in 2020

Our Thesis

1) Billions of people have mental health needs, and most do not get help due to stigma, cost and and lack of access.

2) Stigma reduction is driving increased demand, and new solutions into the market.

3) We invest in entrepreneurs bringing needed solutions to this market.

How Big is the Problem / Opportunity?

--> 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year

--> 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year

--> 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year

--> Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34

--> 300 million people globally suffer from depression/anxiety annually according to W.H.O.

--> Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide

Why now?

Stigma, shame, fear, etc. have kept people quiet about their suffering for a long time when it comes to addiction and mental health. In recent years, celebrities, politicians, business leaders, and many others have started talking about their struggles openly. When we share openly, our shame melts away and when that happens, we overcome our struggles. The increasing amount of openness has led to mass stigma reduction and a willingness to not only talk, or seek help, but to build solutions around a very personal problem set. Founders are coming in droves to build in this space. Just ask the folks at YCombinator about their latest batch of applications.

There is no dedicated early stage capital for this space. Our passion is to build that vehicle, no matter the costs to do so, at What if Ventures.

Who is Stephen Hays? Why Him?

I've lived the problem. I know it inside and out. I've built a community of people around me who are interested in not only investing, but building businesses, and sharing their stories for the sake of helping others (check out the Stigma Podcast). This community / audience will be the source a lot of the early users of the companies we fund.More on my personal story of recovery here.

Investment History

Previously Stephen started and managed a small venture investment vehicle called Deep Space Ventures (portfolio here) which performed well. Anyone can look good on paper, I get that, but of 25 investments, I've had 5 exits, 1 failure and 19 are still operating with a 2.4x TVPI to date (3 and a half years into the life of that vehicle).

The Name: What if Ventures?

In my investing experience, I've found that the most intriguing, and inspiring conversations I have with founders revolve around the the question, "What if?" - When inspired by a founder or an idea, I often find myself wondering what if we applied the solution here, or there, or everywhere. Now I find myself wondering what if, but about solving one of the greatest problems facing humans today: mental health and addiction. What if, we actually solved these problems?

What Kinds of Things Would We Be Investing In?

Measuring and testing for mental health using technology (has never been done before) - using voice, face, blood, heart rate, and other bio-markers to measure mood and wellness

Providing affordable access to care

Using technology to leverage existing resources

Digital phenotyping

Peer to peer platforms for support and treatment

Psychedelic treatments


Child specific resources

New delivery modes and platforms


*No management fee. We will share closing costs as a group. I expect them to be $8,000 (or less).

* You can opt out of any particular deal without penalty. You can opt in to any deal, without fees.


I'm syndicating all deals unless the founder / company explicitly prohibits me from syndicating, but in that case, we probably aren't in the deal anyway.

I source deals by being the most visible, and networked investor in the mental health startup space, and through my deep network of founders, investors and clinicians that I've cultivated in recent years. You can see the debt of that network in the research I wrote recently on the size of the startup market. I'm the first person to analyze this market at this level of detail, and thus, one of the most knowledgeable on the space.

Stephen Hays
Founder What If Ventures - Investing in Mental Health startups Host: www.stigmapodcast.com About: www.stephenrhays.com
Graham Smith
Venture Capital Associate @bionic
Devon George
Founder @dadventures Jack of all trades @prolific-interactive . President @dmv-capital . Start-up & small business mentor.
Maneesh Arora
CEO & Co-founder @mightytext. Product @lyft, @zynga, @google (PM on Consumer, Ads; Founders Award). b4:Enterprise software. CS degree @ucla-1 #PRODUCTBUILDER
Ryan Merket
Seed Fund
Product leader & Angel investor. Prev: Startups at AWS. Product at Reddit. Founded Appstores.com (acq by InMobi), Ping.fm (acq by Seesmic), early @facebook.
Arjun Dev Arora
Founder @ Valence Advisory, XIR @expa, ex-Partner @500startups Founder @retargeter Advisor @nike Passionate about leadership, growth, fundraising & philosophy.
Raj DasGupta
Cloud Computing/SAAS at scale Author of The Icarus Prediction 80+ Angel Investments UMBC Alumni /Stanford AI Graduate Studies If you are in the DC area ping me
Esther Dyson
@WaytoWellville (executive founder). Prolific Investor. @23andme @evernote, @flickr, @meetup, Square, chairman of EDventure, Release 1.0.
Brad Holden
Angel/Seed for AWS & Venture Partner @tomorrowventures
Armando Biondi
Cofounder @adespresso, acquired by @hootsuite in Feb 2017. Investor in 75 startups + @angellist Lead. Guest Contributor, former Radio Speaker, proud #500strong
Stephen has been an ideal board member and investor: He combines a passionate detail oriented posture with a big picture coach. He simultaneously hold my feet to the fire while never letting me forget he is on our team at the same time. He fills in skill gaps that I don't have and is...more
Stephen is a VERY strong and founder-friendly investor. I highly recommend him to anyone in mental healthcare.

After meeting with hundreds of mental health companies (likely more than any other individual), he has created an unfair advantage over most investors in the space. Specifically:
Stephen was one of the first believers in my last company when it was just two guys with an idea and a deck. From inception to exit, he was helpful when we needed it and didn't interfere when we didn't need help. I would happily work with Stephen again and recommend him to other founders.
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