Seems that everyone from investors to pharmaceutical companies and academics is investigating the use of psychedelics in mental health treatment. With all that interest, it’s perhaps not a surprise there’s a new accelerator aimed at pre-seed to seed stage companies targeting the burgeoning market. Called the Psychedelics & Mental Wellness Accelerator, the six-month program is a partnership between Woven Science, a holding company for ventures across the ecosystem of psychedelic treatment, and accelerator Founders Factory.
The accelerator isn’t aimed at just anyone in the ecosystem, however. Instead, it’s for ventures contributing to what Nick von Christierson, CEO and cofounder of Woven Science, describes as the “infrastructure” needed to make psychedelic treatment a reality and to build the market. “These are psychedelic-adjacent companies that support the actual treatment itself,” he says. That means such areas as health tech, consumer packaged goods and telemedicine, instead of, say, pharmaceutical R&D.
It’s also one element in Woven Science’s larger holding company approach to building up the psychedelic treatment ecosystem.
Startups receive $75,000 in funding, plus access to mentors in strategy, operations, design—the works—and investors. But because the industry is so new, the services each startup receives are tailored to that company’s needs. And while the usual length of stay is six months, it can be longer.
Satori Health, for example, which has a platform that connects people to psychedelic retreats, was at the idea stage when the founder joined last year and continued to work with the accelerator until April. While the joint venture usually takes a 4% to 7% equity stake in startups, it took a 25% share of Satori.
The other startups in the cohort included HealCommunity, which offers virtual group therapy and coaching; Hyka, which helps match individuals to treatment clinics using a technology that can be integrated into health plans, employee benefits and telehealth services; and Syndi Health, which has developed a platform that evaluates, prescribes and monitors digital health apps.
James Maskell, founder of HealCommunity, started the program in April, with an end date of October. According to Maskell, the bespoke nature of the advice he’s received has been particularly useful. He points to work he’s done refining the product and creating an app to improve the user experience as an example. “It was pretty much tailored to what we needed,” he says.
A Holding Company Approach
Von Christierson and his co-founders launched Woven Science about three years ago, looking for the best model for “building an emerging industry from scratch,” he says. That meant an approach able to support everything from health tech companies to R&D. After three months, they decided on a holding company model.
Now there are three parts to the company. Woven Labs invests in pre-seed to Series A ventures in drug development and health tech. That’s where the accelerator belongs. Woven Wellness focuses on product development and distribution. So far, it’s merged five companies, such as the Alchemist’s Kitchen and Plant Alchemy, into one company.
Then there’s El Puente. The corporate foundation is funded with 10% of company equity and, among other activities, makes equity grants and investments into projects owned and operated by indigenous people. It’s now planning a pilot in a four-hectare area along the Amazon River in Brazil where it’s creating a botanical reserve and retreat center.
“The idea is to create a dialog between scientists, academics, indigenous leaders, drug development CEOs and others to try to understand what models of reciprocity are working,” says von Christierson. “And we designed a participatory equity model so we’re not just donating to a cause, but making sure that indigenous people benefit from the upside of this.”