Karan Singh, co-founder and chief operating officer at Ginger (left), with company CEO Russell Glass.

Ginger is a winner of FierceHealthcare's Fierce 15 awards. See our other honorees here

There is a global mental health crisis, with 450 million people worldwide living with a mental illness. For those who need help, access to care remains an issue, with a shortage of behavioral health providers and disparate coverage.

In a bid to address the access problems, Ginger was founded in 2011 as a spinout from the MIT Media Lab to provide on-demand mental health services.

head shot photo of Russell Glass
Russell Glass (Ginger)

The company's name comes from ginger root, a preventative health remedy originating in Southeast Asia. Ginger executives say the company takes a preventative approach to mental health, addressing issues before they evolve into greater challenges.

Started by a team of data scientists and entrepreneurs, Ginger monitored users' smartphone interactions to identify patterns of anxiety, stress, and depression, and alert patients and their healthcare providers to deliver care.

The company evolved to become a virtual behavioral health care system and offers full-service online and app-based mental health services. Ginger's platform provides text-based behavioral health coaching through the app as well as video therapy and video psychiatry services. The company also uses artificial intelligence technology to personalize the right level of care for members.

For co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Karan Singh, the company's mission had deep personal ties. After learning of a loved one’s suicide attempt, Singh committed to reinventing the way mental health care is delivered around the world.

Ginger now reaches over 500,000 members in 19 countries through its partnerships with employers and health plans. Ginger is redesigning its app experience, incorporating new, interactive cognitive behavioral therapy content into the Ginger app, which the company licensed earlier this year from mental health startup Lantern.

Fierce insights from Ginger co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Karan Singh

What is your best piece of advice for launching a healthcare company that challenges the status quo?

Think member first. If you build a product or service that people love and that helps them get better, and are mindful about where money flows, you can have real impact. I also advise thinking from first principles. Just because something has been done a certain way doesn’t mean it needs to continue operating that way. Fundamentally, remember the importance of your own mental health. Entrepreneurship can be testing, both mentally and physically. By taking care of yourself first, you will be better suited to build a sustainable business.

What is the failure you’ve learned the best lesson from?

Technology alone doesn’t cut it. We saw this firsthand in Ginger’s early days selling into healthcare systems. There was too much friction at every step in the process, from incredibly long wait times for individuals to misaligned incentives that trapped great providers from reaching their patients. We realized the only way to stay true to our vision—a world where mental health is never an obstacle—was to build an entirely new system from the ground up. 

What is one change you predict in healthcare that people wouldn’t expect?

Everyone will have access to support. Preventative mental health care, coaching-led, data-driven, will emerge as an entirely new standard of care. It will gain widespread consumer adoption, acceptance among the clinical community, and ultimately stem the supply and demand imbalance we’re facing in mental health care.