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29 March, 2019 - 10:37 By Tony Quested

Ieso Digital Health targets $50m Series B raise

Nigel Pitchford

The new CEO of Ieso Digital Health in Cambridge – long-term healthcare VC investor Nigel Pitchford – has outlined an ambitious growth strategy for the business as it bids to raise up to $50 million Series B capital and expand both its technology and global territorial footprint.

Pitchford told Business Weekly that our newly-crowned Business of the Year had huge growth potential in the UK and US and that the massive Chinese market would loom large on the radar within three to five years.

Ieso hopes to complete the Series B in 2019 – which would take the business to profitability – and Pitchford has been encouraged by early engagement from the international investment community. Headcount is already up to 100 but that number will grow as the technology platform, driven by the freshly embedded Artificial Intelligence capability, continues to broaden, Pitchford revealed.

Pitchford has been on the Ieso board since 2013 and says he has always been “a tremendous fan of the business. What they do to help people with mental illness is so important.”

Pitchford said Ieso had clear evidence of the success and popularity of the business model, which had continued to develop since original conception. Endorsements were evident from mental health therapists and  patients utilising the digital technology and Ieso can see differentiated clinical outcomes from people right across the platform.

With the new AI capability sitting behind the delivery platform the full power of the technology was converging to produce a solution for therapists and patients that was genuinely innovative and different – “better, faster and cheaper and a real gamechanger.”

Pitchford said the Ieso proposition was changing the whole paradigm of care in the mental health arena, bringing therapy to people who in the past had either not reached out for it or had no access to it because the sheer numbers of sufferers was simply too great for the NHS to cope with.

The model is now gaining significant traction in the US and clearly had potential to scale into other territories across the globe, like China and elsewhere, he said. 

Over the years as a healthcare investment champion, Pitchford has seen – and backed – some terrific propositions but he is unequivocal in his praise of the Ieso platform. 

“Ieso is the most exciting opportunity I have been involved in. Every day there is the ability to have an immediate and positive impact on other people’s lives. We already have the ability to help tens of thousands of people every year – that will be significantly more with full US roll-out and as we continue to expand.

“It is so rewarding to get the feedback we receive from people we treat who tell us we have had a significant impact on them and their lives. Everyone at Ieso is tremendously motivated by the knowledge that we are helping so many sufferers  – and the projected further impact that we can have. That cannot be said in too many walks of life – that you can see how people benefit from what you do.”

Pitchford says the acknowledgement of high profile figures such as Prince Harry and other prominent people that they had experienced some form of mental issue – either currently or in the past – had changed the debate on mental illness and people’s attitudes towards it.

“This movement from some high profile campaigners has put the issue up for discussion and removed some of the stigma formerly associated with mental health,” he says.

“People realise it is OK to seek help rather than bottle up their problems, which can often make mental health a bigger problem than it should be. This is where our technology sits – in making help more accessible for increasingly large numbers of people.”

The business is not incredibly labour-intensive at this juncture because Ieso does not directly employ therapists – they form part of the network.

“Having said that we will undoubtedly grow headcount in the next few years but new roles will be in systems, AI and other technology areas and in developing our clinical teams. Our vision is to be a clinical centre of excellence for the UK and other geographies around the world.”

Ieso is aware that the US market presents different challenges to the UK in terms of systems, technology delivery and methods of being paid. It takes time and can be hard to crack but the company already has a strong presence across the Atlantic and a sound comprehension of what is required to be a commercial success there.

The big mission – at the company’s much-vaunted Digital Futures Lab and across the wider group – is to defeat mental illness by delivering real insights that lead to cures. 

“This is where the rubber hits the road as far as incorporating AI into our proposition is concerned but the signs are good and if we hit the key targets of our mission I will be a very happy man.”

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