Recent departures hint at turmoil at Quartet Health, a mental health startup backed by GV

Quartet Health, a startup backed with nearly $100 million from GV, Oak HC/FT and more, has quietly lost its COO, CPO and replaced its CEO this month.

Backed with nearly $87 million in venture capital funding from GV, Oak HC/FT and F-Prime Capital, Quartet Health was founded in 2014 by Arun Gupta, Steve Shulman and David Wennberg to improve access to behavioral healthcare. Its mission: “enable every person in our society to thrive by building a collaborative behavioral and physical health ecosystem.”

Recent shakeups within the New York-based company’s c-suite and a perusal of its Glassdoor profile suggest Quartet’s culture is not fully in line with its own philosophy.  

In the last few weeks, chief product officer Rajesh Midha has left the company and president and chief operating officer David Liu is on his way out, TechCrunch has learned and confirmed with Quartet. Founding chief executive officer Arun Gupta, meanwhile, has stepped into the executive chairman role, relinquishing responsibility of the company’s day-to-day operations to former chief science officer David Wennberg, who’s taken over as CEO.

“I’m focusing on our external growth,” Gupta told TechCrunch on Friday. “David has really stepped up as CEO.”

Gupta and Wennberg said Liu’s role was no longer needed because Wennberg had assumed his responsibilities. Liu will formally exit the company at the end of the month. As for its product chief, the pair say Midha had “transitioned out” of the role and that an unnamed internal candidate was tapped to replace him.

When asked whether other employees had left in recent weeks,  Wennberg provided the following indeterminate statement: “We are always having people coming in. I don’t think we’ve had any unusual turnover. We’re hiring and people’s roles change and that’s just part of growth.”

Quartet, which provides a platform that allows providers to collaborate on treatment plans, currently has 150 employees, according to its executives.

In a LinkedIn status update published this week — after TechCrunch’s initial inquiries — Gupta announced his transition to executive chairman:

“Still full-time, though focused largely on our opportunity to further evangelize our mission, [I will] drive the change we want to see in this world, and expand our reach … I have tremendous confidence in David’s ability to lead our many talented Quartetians to deliver this next phase.”

Several former employees seemed less than pleased with Gupta’s performance, writing in a number of Glassdoor reviews that he was “abominable,” “kind of a monster” and “by far the worst executive.”

When asked for comment on those reviews, Gupta and Wennberg shrugged it off: “Glassdoor is Glassdoor.” They agreed its important to pay attention to but impossible to vet.

Gupta began his career as a management consultant at McKinsey and served as a consultant to The World Bank before joining Palantir, Peter Thiel’s data-mining company, as an advisor in 2014. Wennberg, for his part, was the CEO of The High Value Healthcare Collaborative, a consortium of 15 healthcare delivery systems, before co-founding Quartet.

In January, Quartet raised a $40 million Series C to expand throughout the U.S. F-Prime Capital and Polaris Partners led the round, with participation from GV and Oak HC/FT. The financing valued the company at $300 million, according to PitchBook.

As part of the funding, Quartet announced it was adding three new directors to its board: F-Prime’s executive partner Carl Byers; Ken Goulet, an executive vice president at health insurance provider Anthem; and former Rackspace CEO and BuildGroup co-founder Lanham Napier. Other outside board members include Oak HC/FT’s managing partner Annie Lamont, GV partner Krishna Yeshwant, Polaris managing partner Brian Chee and former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy.

Quartet previously raised a $40 million Series B in April 2016 led by GV. The investment marked the venture capital investment arm of Google’s first in a mental health startup. Before that, the startup brought in a $7 million Series A led by Oak HC/FT’s managing partner Annie Lamont.

For now, Quartet remains committed to growth.

“We learn from what we are doing and we continue to learn,” Wennberg said. “That is part of growth. It’s hard and you just keep working and growing because we have a huge mission.”

YC grad The Lobby raises $1.2M to help job seekers break into Wall Street

The Lobby will use the funds to build out its finance job marketplace, which founder and CEO Deepak Chhugani says is like a “personalized Glassdoor.”

Six months after completing Y Combinator’s 12-week accelerator program, The Lobby is announcing a $1.2 million investment.

The startup connects job seekers to Wall Street bankers, venture capitalists and other finance “insiders” for advice and personalized career coaching. Founder and former investment banker Deepak Chhugani wants to help people who don’t come from elite backgrounds or have the network of an Ivy League graduate land high-profile finance roles.

“There’s a huge chunk of people that never get noticed,” Chhugani told TechCrunch. “The best opportunities are usually only privy to people that are from those wealthy networks.”

Chhugani, a Bentley University graduate who began his career at Merrill Lynch, believes he was only able to break into Wall Street because the firm had a hole in its Latin America M&A group and he’d grown up in Ecuador.

He and his other non-Ivy League friends who are or have been employed on Wall Street, in venture capital or private equity, are lucky, he says. Despite being perfectly able to succeed, many people of similar backgrounds have had no such luck navigating the finance job market.

“The Lobby is creating the real meritocracy that we tell ourselves the job market is –– or at least should be,” said Matt Mireles in a statement. Mireles, a scout investor at Social Capital, invested personally in the seed round alongside Y Combinator, Ataria Ventures, 37 Angels, former Travelocity CEO Carl Sparks and Columbia Business School’s chief innovation officer Angela Lee.

Using The Lobby, job seekers can connect with professionals over anonymous 30-minute phone calls, where they can conduct mock interviews or fix-up their resumes. Insiders, who are paid by The Lobby’s customers, can give the honest truth about what it’s like to work in finance, a sort-of real-life Glassdoor .

As for the name, Chhugani says he can’t promise any of the startup’s customers a job, but he can promise to get them in the lobby.

“The ones who work really hard and deserve it will get up the stairs.”

AI training and social network content moderation services bring TaskUs a $250 million windfall

TaskUs, the business process outsourcing service that moderates content, annotates information and handles back office customer support for some of the world’s largest tech companies, has raised $250 million in an investment from funds managed by the New York-based private equity giant, Blackstone Group. It’s been ten years since TaskUs was founded with a $20,000 investment […]

TaskUs, the business process outsourcing service that moderates content, annotates information and handles back office customer support for some of the world’s largest tech companies, has raised $250 million in an investment from funds managed by the New York-based private equity giant, Blackstone Group.

It’s been ten years since TaskUs was founded with a $20,000 investment from its two co-founders, and the new deal, which values the decade-old company at $500 million before the money even comes in, is proof of how much has changed for the service in the years since it was founded.

The Santa Monica-based company, which began as a browser-based virtual assistant company — “You send us a task and we get the task done,” recalled TaskUs chief executive Bryce Maddock — is now one of the main providers in the growing field of content moderation for social networks and content annotation for training the algorithms that power artificial intelligence services around the world.

“What I can tell you is we do content moderation for almost every major social network and it’s the fastest growing part of our business today,” Maddock said.

From a network of offices spanning the globe from Mexico to Taiwan and the Philippines to the U.S., the thirty two year-old co-founders Maddock and Jaspar Weir have created a business that’s largest growth stems from snuffing out the distribution of snuff films; child pornography; inappropriate political content and the trails of human trafficking from the user and advertiser generated content on some of the world’s largest social networks.

(For a glimpse into how horrific that process can be, take a look at this article from Wiredwhich looked at content moderation for the anonymous messaging service, Whisper.)

Maddock estimates that while the vast majority of the business was outsourcing business process services in the company’s early days (whether that was transcribing voice mails to texts for the messaging service PhoneTag, or providing customer service and support for companies like HotelTonight) now about 40% of the business comes from content moderation.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

Indeed, it was the growth in new technology services that attracted Blackstone to the business, according to Amit Dixit, Senior Managing Director at Blackstone.

“The growth in ride sharing, social media, online food delivery, e-commerce and autonomous driving is creating an enormous need for enabling business services,” said Dixit in a statement. “TaskUs has established a leadership position in this domain with its base of marquee customers, unique culture, and relentless focus on customer delivery.”

While the back office business processing services remain the majority of the company’s revenue, Maddock knows that the future belongs to an increasing automation of the company’s core services. That’s why part of the money is going to be invested in a new technology integration and consulting business that advises tech companies on which new automation tools to deploy, along with shoring up the company’s position as perhaps the best employer to work for in the world of content moderation and algorithm training services.

It’s been a long five year journey to get to the place it’s in now, with glowing reviews from employees on Glassdoor and social networks like Facebook, Maddock said. The company pays well above minimum wage in the market it operates in (Maddock estimates at least a 50% premium); and provides a generous package of benefits for what Maddock calls the “frontline” teammates. That includes perks like educational scholarships for one child of employees that have been with the company longer than one year; healthcare plans for the employee and three beneficiaries in the Philippines; and 120 days of maternity leave.

And, as content moderation is becoming more automated, the TaskUs employees are spending less time in the human cesspool that attempts to flood social networks every day.

“Increasingly the work that we’re doing is more nuanced. Does this advertisement have political intent. That type of work is far more engaging and could be seen to be a little bit less taxing,” Maddock said.

But he doesn’t deny that the bulk of the hard work his employees are tasked with is identifying and filtering the excremental trash that people would post online.

“I do think that the work is absolutely necessary. The alternative is that everybody has to look at this stuff. it has to be done in a way thats thoughtful and puts the interests of the people who are on the frontlines at the forefront of that effort,” says Maddock. “There have been multiple people who have been involved in sex trafficking, human trafficking and pedophilia that have been arrested directly because of the work that TaskUs is doing. And the consequence of someone not doing that is a far far worse world.”

Maddock also said that TaskUs now shields its employees from having to perform content moderation for an entire shift. “What we have tried to do universally is that there is a subject matter rotation so that you are not just sitting and doing that work all day.”

And the company’s executive knows how taxing the work can be because he said he does it himself. “I try to spend a day a quarter doing the work of our frontline teammates. I spend half my time in our offices,” Maddock said.

Now, with the new investment, TaskUs is looking to expand into additional markets in the UK, Europe, India, and Latin America, Maddock said.

“So far all we’ve been doing is hiring as fast as we possibly can,” said Maddock. “At some point in the future, there’s going to be a point when companies like ours will see the effects of automation,” he added, but that’s why the company is investing in the consulting business… so it can stay ahead of the trends in automation.

Even with the threat that automation could pose to the company’s business, TaskUs had no shortage of other suitors for the massive growth equity round, according to one person familiar with the company. Indeed, Goldman Sachs and Softbank were among the other bidders for a piece of TaskUs, the source said.

Currently, the company has over 11,000 employees (including 2,000 in the U.S.) and is looking to expand.

“We chose to partner with Blackstone because they have a track record of building category defining businesses. Our goal is to build TaskUs into the world’s number one provider of tech enabled business services.  This partnership will help us dramatically increase our investment in consulting, technology and innovation to support our customer’s efforts to streamline and refine their customer experience,” said Maddock in a statement.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2018, subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.