When Manatee founder Damayanti Dipayana’s brother was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the family took all the steps to ensure that he was properly cared for. All of the things that could have been an obstacle to getting treatment weren’t for Dipayana’s family.
A comfortably middle class background, a supportive family and ready access to care were all available, but still the therapy didn’t take. For Dipayana, it was witnessing the breakdown between the care provided at sessions and the differences in treatment at home, that led her to create Manatee.
“Therapy just sucks for kids,” Dipayana said. “My brother hated it.. It can’t be the best thing for children to put them in a room with an adult and have them talk about their problems for an hour.”
Now the graduate from Techstars Los Angeles has $1.5 million in funding from investors including the Michigan-based investment firm, Grand Ventures; Telosity, a fund launched by Vinaj Ventures & Innovation, that invests in companies improving children’s and young adult’s mental health; and the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, will pursue clinical validation for its suite of apps and services to provide a continuum of care for children with cognitive and behavioral disorders.
Beginning with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Manatee has started a trial with ten clinicians and fifty families to evaluate the commercial use case for Dipayana’s service.
The first targets for care are anxiety and oppositional disorder, Dapayana said.
Image credit: Manatee
“I really want to focus on children. From a social [return on investment] perspective it seems insane to me that we don’t invest more in the early wellbeing of children,” said Dipayana. “If we did then we probably wouldn’t have to deal with a ballooning juvenile detention system.”
From the company’s earliest days the stars seemed to align for Dipayana. She found her technical co-founder, Shawn Kuenzler, thanks to a post on AngelList. A veteran in the health tech startup world, Kuenzler ran engineering at Health Language and Zen Planner and has two exits under his belt. If that wasn’t serendipitous enough, Kuenzler’s wife is a clinical psychologist.
The two Denver-based entrepreneurs then took their startup on the road to the Techstars Los Angeles accelerator. It was there that they were introduced to contacts at companies including Headspace and LA Children’s Hospital that are paving the way for clinical validation of digitally delivered cognitive behavioral healthcare.
“We’re going to spend money and resources on launching our research with Children’s LA to understand the impact for a health system,” Dipayana said. “We position it as everyday therapy for kids. We provide the platform for providers to make it the day-to-day therapy for kids.”
Manatee sells its services directly to healthcare systems to ensure that it can reach the broadest population of users rather than just ones who could afford to access the company’s app-based offerings. Doctors use Manatee as a clinical dashboard and way to communicate to both a child and their family around care plans and treatment.
“I thought about this really long and hard… Looking from my personal experience. Parents and families that have kids with autism… there’s so much snake oil that gets pushed down their throat that they’ll try anything,” Dipayana said. “It was very important to me that one i understand the clinical workflow and understood how the workforce manages behavioral healthcare and whether the work we were doing was valuable.”
A month after TechCrunch watched, discussed and parsed the startups from Techstars’ April batch of virtual demo days, we’re back with the handy May edition.
Over the past few days, TechCrunch has been catching up by watching the shared video pitches from the five presenting demo classes, including the Lisbon demo day, its Seattle batch, the Los Angeles-based music-focused group, the Air Force-sponsored accelerator and the Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator Powered by Techstars .
We’ve also included links to the pitch pages themselves, so you can take a peek and vet the new companies for yourself. The categories are:
As before, we’re narrowing from a half dozen to around 10 companies in each group; what follows is our completely unscientific opinion.
“If you’re going to make a diverse world a better place, it starts with diverse innovators,” said Barry Givens, the managing director of the Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator powered by Techstars, as he kicked off the new accelerator’s first demo day.
Launched in January 2020, the three-month-long program included a company creating supply chain management and distribution services for biomass-to-energy and waste-to-energy businesses; a company trying to create a better process for hiring diverse employees; and a virtual reality company giving kids access to exclusive content and tools to develop their own VR experiences. All of the companies had built interesting, early businesses, but our favorites were those providing college students with access and listings of available resources and a company that’s created an app for teaching math through music:
Like other accelerators, Techstars, a network of more than 40 corporate and geographically targeted startup bootcamps, has had to bring its marquee demo day events online.
Over the last two weeks of April, industry-focused accelerators working with startups building businesses around mobility technologies (broadly) and the future of the home joined programs in Abu Dhabi, Bangalore, Berlin, Boston, Boulder and Chicago to present their cohorts.
Each group had roughly 10 companies pitching businesses that ran the gamut from early-childhood education to capturing precious metals from the waste streams of mining operations. There were language companies, security companies, marketing companies and even a maker of a modular sous vide product for home chefs.
The ideas were as creative as they were varied, and while all seemed promising, about two concepts from each batch stood out above the rest.
What follows is our completely unscientific picks of the top companies that pitched at each of these virtual Techstars demo days. In late May or early June, expect to see our roundup of the next batch of top picks from the their next round of demo days.
Techstars’ inaugural cohort for its accelerator run in conjunction with Abu Dhabi-based technology incubator Hub71 included a number of novel businesses spanning climate, security, retail, healthcare and property tech. Standouts in this batch included Sia Secure and Aumet (with an honorable mention for the novel bio-based plastic processing and reuse technology developer, Poliloop).