JPM 2022: Headspace Health grabs startup Sayana to build out AI-based mental health tools

man using smartphone
Founded in 2018 and backed by Y Combinator in 2020, Sayana's self-care app leverages chat-based sessions with an AI persona named Sayana, who encourages users to track their moods. (Poike/GettyImages)

Six months after the $3 billion merger with Ginger, Headspace Health acquired Sayana, an AI-driven mental health and wellness company.

Sayana will expand Headspace Health’s ability to provide personalized self-care content to its 100 million users, executives said.

Headspace Health did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

Founded in 2018 and backed by Y Combinator in 2020, Sayana's self-care app leverages chat-based sessions with an AI persona named Sayana, who encourages users to track their moods. The app personalizes users’ experiences based on their check-ins and mood trends and recommends self-care exercises rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), as well as breathing exercises.

The Sayana Sleep app also helps members to improve their sleep based on their mood and sleep patterns.

“Amidst a rapidly growing landscape of mental health and wellness apps, Sayana has developed a uniquely engaging member experience backed by world-class AI and machine learning algorithms,” said Russell Glass, CEO, Headspace Health in a statement.

RELATED: Headspace, Ginger finalize merger to form $3B mental health company

The Sayana app will remain live to its more than 300,000 users while Headspace Health integrates the technology into its platform over the next several quarters. 

During a presentation at the virtual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference Wednesday, Glass said Sayana provides users an "elegant and thoughtful" experience.

"We're bringing in that team to help scale our march to building the most comprehensive mental health and wellbeing platform," he said.

The recent merger deal combined Ginger's teletherapy services with Headspace's meditation and mindfulness app. Headspace Health now aims to provide an integrated experience to tackle the full spectrum of mental health needs —from prevention to clinical care—all from one platform backed by AI and data science.

Headspace leverages AI to power a significant percentage of the care the company delivers, Glass said during the JPM conference, including using natural language processing to extract information from the chats, to summarize coach notes and care information and to monitor for suicidality.

The company uses AI to surface and recommend content in order to foster healthy habit formation and provide users with personalized action plans.

"We've gotten to the point now where content recommendations via AI are higher quality by engagement rate than recommendations from providers themselves. The AI recommendations for content are used more frequently," Glass said.

Ginger leverages AI to support its team of behavioral health coaches, therapists and psychiatrists to ensure quality interactions with members, comprehensive tracking of services and close collaboration among care providers.

With the addition of Sayana, Headspace Health will advance its AI capabilities to personalize member experiences, according to executives.

RELATED: Ginger's mental health app now available in Spanish with full rollout to all 25M users by early 2022

Sayana founder and CEO Sergey Fayfer will join Headspace Health and take on a product leadership role, along with an experienced team of engineers and designers.

“Since our inception, we’ve been on a mission at Sayana to put self-care in everyone’s pocket,” Fayfer said in a statement. "We’re thrilled to bring together our technology, engineering and design expertise to help advance Headspace Health’s efforts to democratize high-quality, affordable mental healthcare around the world.”

Glass said Headspace also is focused on working with more employers through its enterprise brands, Headspace for Work and Ginger. The company currently partners with 3,500 enterprises through health plans such as Cigna.

"We're seeing hypergrowth in that side of the business," he said during JPM. The company reports 59% year-over-year growth in employer bookings.