Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global is teaming up with Zenefits

Thrive has partnered with Zenefits to expand the reach of its wellness content.

Many are familiar with Arianna Huffington’s personal journey from media mogul to outspoken sleep advocate.

In April 2007 she collapsed, broke her collarbone and woke up in a pool of blood, a well-publicized accident she attributes to sleep deprivation and exhaustion. In the years that followed, she shifted her focus to wellness, authoring two books on the topic: Thrive and The Sleep Revolutionand later founded a wellness media company called Thrive Global.

Thrive, which bills itself as a “behavior change” startup, helps businesses help their employees develop healthy relationships with technology and manage stress and burnout — issues with which Huffington is personally familiar. The company has raised nearly $43 million in venture capital funding to date, at a $121.5 million valuation as of May.

Today, Thrive is announcing a new partnership with Zenefits, the provider of software that helps small- and medium-sized business (SMBs) manage human resources, though is still often known for a series of regulatory and compliance issues that led to the exit of its founding chief executive, Parker Conrad.

The partnership will make available to employees of the 11,000 businesses that use Zenefits human resources software Thrive content, tips and tools within the Zenefits platform, and managers will be able to use the Thrive app to track and measure employee well-being.

“People are sleep deprived; people are eating the wrong food,” Huffington told TechCrunch. “It’s very basic things we can change through behavior that affect the bottom line of a company.”

“When you give employees science-based micro steps — that’s how change happens,” she added. “You need little nudges to help you change your behavior.”

Thrive educational content focuses on sleep, humans’ relationship with technology, goal setting and other issues that pertain to physical and mental health.

Huffington and Jay Fulcher, Zenefits CEO, told TechCrunch this arrangement was a year in the making.

Zenefits tapped Fulcher, the former CEO of Ooyala and Agile Software, as CEO last year. He was the third CEO in the span of 12 months after Conrad was ousted and Craft Ventures’ David Sacks stepped down after a brief stint as interim CEO. 

“{Stress] is the tipping point for things like retention, which obviously costs businesses billions and billions every year,” Fulcher said. “We have a very sophisticated and broad tech platform and to be able to put all of Thrive’s content on our platform, we think that is a really good proposition and one that customers are excited about.”

Thrive has historically worked with large enterprises, inking deals with Accenture, J.P. Morgan and others since Huffington launched the company in 2016. A partnership with Zenefits marks its first foray into SMBs. 

Thrive is backed by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Sean Parker, Lerer Hippeau, Greycroft Partners and others. Zenefits, founded in 2013, is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Fidelity, TPG and others. Both companies are backed by IVP.

Former Uber exec Andrew Chapin takes the wraps off his stealth mental health startup

Basis, a mental wellness app, has raised $3.75 million in funding from Bedrock, Wave Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

One can only imagine what it was like to work at Uber in the years leading up to Susan Fowler’s infamous blog post. Many of the company’s leaders were said to be overly-competitive, sexist and inappropriate — “brilliant jerks,” as Arianna Huffington once said, — and its over-arching “move fast and break things” mentality hardly left room for employees to take a step back and reflect on how the company’s culture was impacting their mental health.

Andrew Chapin joined Uber in 2011 as one of its first hires in New York. He worked his way up to head of vehicle solutions and established Uber’s vehicle finance program, which helps drivers obtain and pay off car leases. He says the struggles within the company gave him severe anxiety, something he was all too familiar with from his stint as a commodities trader at Goldman Sachs.

“There were days when I was walking through lower Manhattan and thinking if I got hit by a car and was in the hospital for a week, it’d be better than going to work,” Chapin told TechCrunch.

At both Goldman and Uber, Chapin would go through rough patches but resisted therapy, in part because of the outlandish costs but mostly because of the hassle. Toward the end of his five-year Uber tenure, he realized the dire need for accessible and flexible tech-enabled tools to help workers endure stressful times, as well as the need to destigmatize the mental health issues prevalent within the tech industry and beyond.

In late 2016, he left Uber to build his own startup. Two years later, he’s ready to share what he’s been working on. Basis, an app meant to help people cope with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues through guided conversations via chat or video, is emerging from stealth today with a $3.75 million investment led by Bedrock. Wave Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners have also participated in the round.

“Looking back at the Goldman experience of just kind of wallowing in this unpleasant situation, [Basis] would have been an outlet to talk through things and feel lighter,” Chapin said. “At the time, I bottled it up. In retrospect, if I had something to work me through the emotions I was dealing with, it would have been really helpful.” 

In the app, users can schedule 45-minute phone calls with unlicensed providers for $35. Because Basis works with paraprofessionals — people trained in research-backed approaches but who don’t have the same certifications as a counseling or clinical psychologist — it’s a much cheaper alternative to paying for a therapist. The startup does not give diagnoses or write prescriptions.

Chapin built the app with co-founder and chief science officer Lindsay Trent, a former research psychologist at Stanford who’d grown tired of watching trained psychologists charge outlandish fees and was hungry for an innovative solution to today’s mental health crises.

“I saw a real gap between what we knew was effective and what people actually received,” Trent told TechCrunch. “Clinicians that are charging $300 a session are not providing optimal care. It’s very frustrating for me.”

Basis provides six pathways: Work, Social, School, Finances, Relationships and Parenting. Within each, users can get same-day access to specialists who they can opt to see on a regular basis or just once.

The idea is that Basis fits into your life much like a SoulCycle class or a call with your best friend — on your terms.