Startup Sprout launches tech-enabled autism care program with $10M seed financing

Early detection is key in treating autism, yet families often wait up to six months to receive a diagnosis. Sprout is focused on modernizing autism care, the company said. (Sprout)

Sprout, a tech-enabled autism care and treatment program, launched this week on the back of $10 million in seed funding.

Institutional investors General Catalyst, Bling Capital and Felicis Ventures backed the round.

Sprout CEO and co-founder Yury Yakubchyk said the company aims to modernize autism care by matching children with therapists who create customized treatment plans that can be administered both in-home and online.

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The seed financing will help the company invest in product development and build a learning and education platform for the company's therapists, Yakubchyk said.

As a software entrepreneur, Yakubchyk launched several other successful startups, including boutique hotel company Life House, which attracted investments from Comcast Ventures and Trinity Ventures. Before Life House, Yakubchyk co-founded Wing, a millennial-friendly wireless phone carrier

Yakubchyk, who was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as a child, said he wanted to turn his attention to solving problems in healthcare.

The current model for autism care is broken and outdated, Yakubchyk told Fierce Healthcare. Families also face a costly process when seeking care for children.

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"[Autism care] is one of the stodgiest and also one of fastest growing areas of the healthcare industry," he said. "We are building a modern software experience that works better for all the stakeholders."

About 1 in 54 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.

Early detection is key in treating autism, yet families often wait up to six months to receive a diagnosis, Yakubchyk said.

"It’s remarkably inefficient in the way that care is provided, often with pen and paper, and a physical caregiver going to someone’s home every day. Often, parents don’t have the opportunity to provide their input," he said.

It's not the first startup to use digital health to tackle the access challenges around autism care. And investors are eyeing autism care as health’s next big bet.

Pediatric digital therapeutics developer Cognoa is developing autism-focused therapeutic and diagnostic products, and the company has raised $20 million to date, according to Crunchbase.

Opya is an autism therapy provider that integrates care with digital tools and has brought in $4 million in venture capital funding.

Floreo, a venture and National Institues of Health-backed startup, is building virtual reality tools for people with autism and has raised $2 million.

Prescription digital medicine company Akili Interactive, best known for its video game for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also is exploring the use of technology for autism spectrum disorder treatment.

San Francisco-based Sprout offers free assessments to properly diagnose children in a matter of days or weeks. Immediately following a diagnosis, families are matched with therapists who work collaboratively to create personalized, at-home care plans that include ABA therapy, speech and language therapy, and occupational therapy. A designated care coordinator also works with families from initial assessment to care, the company said.

RELATED: Cognoa teams up with Autism Learning Partners to distribute its smartphone screening app

Sprout features software-enabled experiences that help families track progress, coordinate care and refine care plans. This tech-forward approach combined with an immersive software experience for parents will increase chances of success in children with autism while lowering overall care delivery costs, according to the company.

Sprout is available nationwide and accepts all major forms of insurance and payment, according to the company.

As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in the U.S., many therapy centers remain closed, which increases the risk that autistic children will regress. The pandemic has accelerated the transition from in-clinic care to in-home care and will help improve access to care for families, Yakubchyk said.

“Today’s outdated autism care model severely underserves children and families by, among other things, deprioritizing those who are unable to afford a formal autism evaluation from a child psychologist,” Yakubchyk said.

Yakubchyk said the company is interested in expanding into other healthcare services, noting Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease and chronic conditions as possible areas.

"Providing care in the home is the next advancement in the healthcare industry. Autism care for us is jut the beginning. Five years from now, we will be in different services lines," he said.

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