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Funding moves local company forward in meeting teletherapy goals for Utahns

By Harrison Epstein - | Dec 17, 2021

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Tava Health CEO and founder Dallen Allred is pictured during a Zoom call with the Daily Herald on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021.

The most important factor in a company’s success is its employees. Without workers, no company can thrive, no matter the value in its product.

Knowing this, Lehi-based Tava Health is committed to helping employers provide mental health resources for its workers. According to CEO and founder Dallen Allred, the company was born out of his experience finding a therapist and Utah’s general struggles with mental health.

“I was looking for a therapist for myself, trying to use my health insurance network, and found that same thing. Not enough therapists, 45-day wait times, lots of challenges in accessing — finding somebody accepting new patients that were in a drivable distance — and all of that was before COVID hit,” he said.

The experience left him feeling that the state has a need for available mental health resources, evidenced by studies that rank Utah 48th out of 51 states and territories. The struggles hit close to home for Allred, who grew up in Springville and attended BYU for three years studying statistics and American studies before dropping out to start his first technology company.

Tava differs from competitors in the teletherapy field by working with employers to bring resources to their workers rather than convincing individuals to enroll.

“If you’re using Tava, you’re probably not typing in a credit card, you’re probably getting it for free because your employers agreed to cover the cost for you,” he said.

Allred aded that the company works with self-insured employers at the moment, and they couldn’t announce insurance networks that they will be partnering with until 2022. He did add that they are Utah-based providers.

Employees who enroll can go through and read the biographies of therapists to find someone who they feel they could be comfortable with. Allred mentioned the therapists’ gender — specifically male, female or nonbinary — along with time available or area of expertise as factors that can be searched.

On Dec. 9, the company announced that it received $10 million in Series A funding. Series A funding, according to Investopedia, is meant for businesses with a track record of success that look to have a strong foundation.

“This means that we can just keep expanding, keep growing. But it also makes it possible for us to build the infrastructure that allows us to begin partnering with these insurance networks,” Allred said. “One of the things that people may not realize is that part of the reason it’s so difficult to find a therapist through your insurance network is it’s very difficult as a therapist to work with an insurance network, an insurance medical carrier.”

For a mental health professional, most of whom are self-employed, to work with an insurance provider, they would need to sign contracts and be approved by the provider. According to Allred, this can take months of paperwork and acts as a barrier to the public’s ability to access resources.

He also hopes that therapists who may be frustrated with aspects of the current system reach out to Tava to help the product grow in a way that best serves therapists and their patients.

As a product, telehealth and teletherapy are relatively new. A 2017 study by the American Psychological Association said that teletherapy has existed in some form for over 20 years and was mostly used by members of the military, but the rise of smartphones created this rise in companies offering virtual mental health support.

The industry also saw a boom amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which both raised people’s general anxieties and created a barrier to seeking traditional therapy. While there are benefits, issues have also arisen in the field regarding its lack of regulation and the level to which people’s privacy is really protected.

Allred said he’s committed to making sure Tava protects the data and privacy of its users.

“Employers do not want access to that data. They want to protect their team members’ privacy too,” he said. “We’ve gone through all the steps we need to guarantee someone’s data privacy. Data is not being shared with anybody at this point — not even the insurance carrier, they’re just being sent a medical claim. None of the details are included.”

The group of investors was led by Rose Park Advisors, based out of Boston. Other participants are the Salt Lake City-based Peterson Partners and out-of-state SaaS Ventures, Toba Capitol and Contrary Capitol.

Peterson originally invested $3 million in Tava during their seed round of funding in mid-2020. Sitting on the board of Tava is the co-founder of Rose Park Advisors, Matt Christensen.

Christensen and his father, Clayton Christensen, co-founded the investment firm and named it after Clayton’s childhood neighborhood on the west side of Salt Lake City. The family are also members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Clayton Christensen served as an area Seventy for the church.

Both Peterson and Rose Park invested in Allred’s first company, Artemis Health, which he founded in 2013 while living in New York City and sharing an apartment with his co-founders.

Now, with the booming growth in Utah County and along Silicon Slopes, he has an opportunity to lead a company near his home.

The growth has led to an increase in available talent to hire and potential investors for tech companies, Allred said, along with the issues that have come with the population boom in the valley.

“I’m definitely aware that there’s more competition for housing and other resources. More traffic, more crowding, less water, those sorts of things,” he said. “But generally, I think it’s a net positive.”

Over the next few years, Allred hopes that Tava can become the largest mental health clinic in the state, but for now, it’s all about putting in the work.

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