Mental health: coaching startup Sanctus raises £4.25 million from ScaleUp Capital

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startup offering mental health “coaching” to staff has raised £4.25 million as investor interest in the space grows.

Sanctus was founded in 2016 by James Routledge after battling his own mental health issues. Routledge suffered from panic attacks and anxiety that made it difficult for him to sleep after the failure of his first business, a sports-themed social network.

Today, Sanctus works with everyone from startups like Carwow and Joe Wicks’ company The Body Coach to major corporations like Red Bull, Boston Consulting Group and media company Omnicom.

Sanctus offers employees of these companies access to one-on-one sessions with professionally accredited coaches. They provide an “unbiased, confidential space” to discuss everything from thorny work issues to relationship issues and personal struggles, Routledge said.

Sanctus aims to help people prevent mental health problems, rather than treating them as soon as they occur. It deals with everyday struggles and emotions, rather than clinical problems. Routledge said Sanctus helps companies attract and retain their workforce.

Some of Sanctus’ coaches

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Some Sanctus coaches

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The new money will be spent on improving Sanctus’ technology, but Routledge said the company will remain “human-first and tech-enabled.”

“There’s a lot of apps, there’s a lot of AI, there’s a lot of content — it’s all about bringing people together to connect,” he said. “A lot of VCs might want you to make a robot that can solve someone’s mental health problems. It’s not going to happen and that’s not a world we want to be a part of.

“For us, it’s about empowering people to work through some of their problems and then move on with their lives so as not to give everyone an app.”

The investment is Sanctus’ first major cash injection. The company has raised only around £1million from individual investors to date. The new cash injection comes from ScaleUp Capital.

Routledge said he was “nervous” about VCs “because of growth expectations” – “The whole rapid and breakthrough approach in mental health is a bit dangerous” – but said the Sanctus product was now ready to be expanded.

“It’s been two tough things for all of us, but when it’s done one thing, it puts mental health at the forefront of the conversation,” Routledge said. “Mental health support in the workplace has gone from a luxury to an absolute necessity.”

“Any mental health awareness and more conversations about how we feel is essentially a good thing,” Routledge said of the prince’s work. “The Royals have played a huge role in this country.”

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