Livongo buys behavioral health app MyStrength for north of $10M

The company has also hired the former VA head of mental health services and the former CEO of Ginger.io.
By Jonah Comstock
Share

Chronic condition management startup Livongo has acquired MyStrength, a Denver-based digital behavioral health company. The company did not disclose the acquisition price, but Livongo CEO Glen Tullman told MobiHealthNews the figure is in the tens of millions.

“This entry into behavioral was to complete what we call the whole person platform, and to be able to go to someone and say ‘Whatever issues your employees or your dependents have, we can cover it,’” Tullman said.

Livongo will bring over the whole MyStrength team, and even plans to expand the team and its Denver office. Customers of MyStrength will continue to have access to the service, with an option to upgrade when the two companies complete an integrated version of the offering in a few months. Existing Livongo customers will also have the option of working with MyStrength right away.

MyStrength has been around since 2011 and boasts more than 130 customers, as well as a good deal of efficacy and validation data. The company offers a web and mobile platform that combines self-tracking, education, community tools and other coping resources. It is designed to be used in conjunction with traditional mental health care to enhance treatment for a range of conditions including depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorder.

“MyStrength not only works with 130 different health plans, but a lot of those are Medicaid-funded community health plans,” Tullman said. “And that’s across 32 different states.”

According to SEC documents, MyStrength has only raised institutional money once, a $5.8 million round in 2017. It also picked up $1.2 million from the Zoma Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit, last year.

In addition to the acquisition, Livongo announced two high-profile hires that illustrate its commitment to this expansion into mental health: Anmol Madan, former CEO of Ginger.io, will join Livongo as chief data officer; and Dr. Julia Hoffman, formally the national director of mental health services for the Department of Veterans Affairs, will step into the new role of VP of behavioral health strategy.

What’s the impact

Livongo began in diabetes and has expanded into hypertension and weight management (the latter also achieved via an acquisition, Retrofit in April 2018). Tullman says all of these moves have been natural progressions based on the most common comorbidities of the patients Livongo already helps.

“Our view at Livongo was to say, you can’t be in just one chronic condition. We have to address all of them. Because what was happening to the actual members is members said with all this new technology, [patients] were saying ‘It’s not getting better; it’s getting more confusing and more complex,’” Tullman said. “…People said ‘What we want is one place to go, one app, one coach. Make our lives easier, not harder.’”

MyStrength was carefully vetted prior to the acquisition, Tullman said, with Livongo hiring a team of outside experts to do a full survey of the space. He said Livongo was swayed by the combination of data-driven efficacy, existing market penetration, a culture fit and a user experience that suggests the program is loved, not liked.

“Our whole metric is, it doesn’t help if people like you, that doesn’t matter. You’re just waiting to be replaced,” Tullman said. “But if they love you, then you really have something. So that really mattered a lot. What do their customers say? The buyers but also the users of the program. Do they love it?”

What’s the trend

This acquisition is the most directly comparable to Omada’s announcement last month that it would also be expanding into mental health by licensing the software of defunct behavioral health app-maker Lantern. Like Livongo, Omada has described itself as naturally following the needs of its patients as it moved from pre-diabetes into hypertension management and, now, mental health.

In the world of telehealth, last year SOC Telemed (formerly Specialists on Call) acquired behavioral health telemedicine company JSA Health in order to add mental health services to its acute telemedicine platform.

On the record

“Simply put, myStrength and Livongo are a great fit. We share a commitment to providing solutions that address multiple conditions and deliver measurable outcomes, and we are like-minded when it comes to mission, values, and culture,” Scott Cousino, CEO and cofounder of myStrength, said in a statement. “This move will now allow us to focus on both the physical and behavioral health of our members and strengthens our ability to bring our clients a broader, more personalized offering.”