In a year rife with anxiety, a Seattle-area startup called Freespira has raised $10 million to support its efforts to develop and deploy a technology that eases panic attacks and PTSD.
The company was founded by Beth Siegelman after she participated in a Stanford University study exploring the physiological causes of panic disorder and the role played by carbon dioxide, which we exhale when breathing. The Stanford researchers discovered that if they could normalize a person’s CO2 levels, it would reduce their symptoms. The approach eliminated Siegelman’s panic attacks, changing her life.
Siegelman, who is married to venture capitalist and former Microsoft and Kleiner Perkins leader Russell Siegelman, launched a company in 2014 to create a marketable treatment based on the research. The 30-person company was originally called Palo Alto Health Sciences. Its headquarters are in Kirkland, Wash.
Freespira sells a product that includes software to coach people in better breathing techniques and a device for measuring their CO2 levels. Users typically see benefits from the approach within 28 days.
The business has been generating revenue for two years and customers include Highmark health plans, Comcast and the Veterans Benefits Administration. Freespira has FDA approval for treating panic disorder and PTSD.
COVID-19 has in some ways benefited the company. “It has helped because there is now a lot more awareness of mental health issues due to the pandemic, and more specifically, a lot more interest in the need for new solutions for PTSD and panic disorder,” said CEO Dean Sawyer, a digital healthcare industry vet who previously co-founded and led patient monitoring startup Sentrian.
The funding round is the company’s largest to date and was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. Previous investors Aphelion Capital, Medvest Capital and Siegelman, the company’s chairman, also participated. Sawyer declined to say how much the startup has raised in total.