Big Health raises $12 million for sleep-focused employee wellness app, Sleepio

By Jonah Comstock

Big Health, the UK digital health startup behind sleep health app Sleepio, has raised $12 million (9.5 million pounds) in a round led by Octopus Ventures. Kaiser Permanente Ventures also contributed to the round, as did Omada Health CEO Sean Duffy, returning investor Index Ventures, and JamJar Investments. The startup's app is not direct-to-consumer, Big Health sells its sleep health program and app to employers.

"Over 750,000 employees now have access to our Sleepio program after our first full year in the US market," Big Health CEO and cofounder Peter Hames said in a statement. "This new investment allows us to push on towards our goal of helping millions back to good mental health, by growing the number of companies we work with and evolving our products to help address an ever-wider range of mental health issues. But we’ll only achieve this goal – and firmly establish a new 'digital medicine' industry – by remaining committed to evidence-based solutions that deliver real outcomes for users.”

The company's first and so far only offering, Sleepio, is in use with employee populations at Comcast, LinkedIn, Boston Medical Center and Henry Ford Health System. It aims to help users fix their sleeping issues. Users are asked to take a sleeping test and then upload sleeping data from a fitness device like a Jawbone or Fitbit if they have one. From there, Sleepio creates a personalized program for the user to follow. "The Prof", an online persona built into Sleepio, leads users through the program to help them learn cognitive behavioral techniques that are meant to improve their sleep schedules. The system also offers various tools including a daily schedule.

“Big Health wants to build a better type of healthcare, and this requires a firm commitment to trailblazing research," cofounder and Chief Medical Officer Colin Espie said in a statement. "Everything we do is rooted in scientific evaluation, robustly scrutinized, and published in leading clinical academic journals. So far we have 14 published papers plus a considerable research pipeline, and we openly encourage independent investigators to evaluate our products and publish their findings. We believe an ethical approach to creating health solutions should be a critical value, not an inconvenience.”

Big Health raised a $3.3 million round in April 2014 to prep for its expansion into the US market. That round included investments from Esther Dyson and Peter Read. Octopus Ventures, the UK-based leader of the latest round, has a broad portfolio but has only invested in one other digital health company, a clinical trial recruitment company called TrialReach