A Cairo-based healthtech startup focused on providing mental health services in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has just secured one of the largest investment rounds for its sector in the region.
O7 Therapy – a digital platform and smartphone app that specialises in online therapy, corporate wellness programmes, and psychoeducational resources for “Arabic-speaking users” – has raised a total of $2.1 million in a funding round led by Hikma Ventures. The venture capital firm is part of the London-headquartered Hikma Pharmaceuticals.
“We are happy to have Hikma join our mission to improve the lives of people,” added CEO and co-founder, Ashraf Bacheet. “Mental health and wellness are of paramount importance. Everyone deserves convenient and, more importantly, trustworthy access to premium mental wellness services. This is what makes us do what we do.”
THE LARGER CONTEXT
Founded in 2019 by Bacheet, Ashraf Adel, and Nader Iskander, O7 Therapy offers a network of psychiatrists and psychotherapists – many of whom are bilingual – to support clients in both Arabic and English.
“This journey is over two decades in the making, and its success is due to the harmony of leaders from different industries, all deeply invested in creating an accessible system to mental healthcare in the region,” said Adel.
Compared to other regions, the MENA is underserved in terms of mental health services and support. For example, conditions such as depression and anxiety are a leading cause of disability in the Arab world, which includes 5·54% of the global population. However, there remains a lack of general awareness and education of mental health disorders, as well as a lack of support via local health authorities, limited mental health services for underprivileged communities, and the social stigma associated with it.
“Our investment in mental wellbeing improves the lives of individuals in all areas of life – student life, work, homes, family, friends, and even physical health. This in turn improves the performance of entrepreneurs, SMEs, corporate and government employees, positively affecting countries economically,” said Iskander. He added that part of the platform was focused on “raising awareness and understanding, creating safe and supportive spaces, and implementing strategies that promote mental wellbeing,” in the workplace.
According to O7 Therapy, the funding round will focus on growing the platform across the MENA, as well as facilitate new product features and developments. It will also allow the startup to expand its workplace wellness programmes to serve more organisations.
ON THE RECORD
“We are excited to be part of a unified effort to revolutionise mental healthcare and therapy to Arabic speakers across the globe,” said Hamzeh Abdul-Hadi, principal at Hikma Ventures. “We believe that Hikma will play an integral role in destigmatising the topic and help in providing access to a larger number of people across the region.
“COVID-19 has both accelerated the adoption of digital health services and tragically made them more necessary than ever, with increases in a range of mental health issues, including loneliness, stress, anxiety, burnout, and beyond. O7 Therapy’s platform is well-positioned to address these problems.”