Where did Cerebral come from?


Cerebral (cerebral.com)

What is the company? How much have they raised to date?

Cerebral is an online direct-to-consumer therapy and medication management provider. Cerebral was started in 2019 and exploded thanks to incredible amounts of VC funding and celebrity endorsements like Simone Biles. Cerebral has investors like Softbank, Silver Lake, Access industries, and others. If you’ve heard of SoftBank before, they’ve invested in other companies that grew too fast…namely WeWork. 

Cerebral has raised more than $450 million dollars. Its last fundraising round came at the end of 2021. Cerebral raised $300 million at a $4.8 billion dollar valuatoin.

What's their mission? 
Cerebral’s mission is to increase access to online mental healthcare services and medication management.

Who founded the company? Are their clinicians on the executive team? 
Kyle Roberston founded Cerebral and was its CEO until he was kicked out by the Board in May of 2022. Kyle attended Wharton for his MBA education. During the pursuit of his MBA he founded StartU which covered the most promising startups founded by recent alumni of top universities. It seems Kyle wanted to join the list himself, leaving in December of 2018 to start Cerebral in January of 2019. Before his MBA, Kyle was a consultant at Accenture and a part of the National Economic Council at The White House

Today, Cerebral is led by Dr. David Mou. David was Cerebral's Chief Medical Officer from February 2021 until May 2022 when he took over as CEO.

What's the business model? How does this company make money? 
  • Medication and Care Counseling - $99/month and $30 for the first month
  • Medication and Therapy - $325/month and $139 for the first month
  • Therapy - $259/month and $99 for the first month.
What does one get for paying that price? 
Depending on the membership you get access to weekly therapy video/phone sessions or chat at any time. Medication management plans include getting prescribed and monthly medication delivery. It is interesting that a person can just sign up for a medication plan before talking with anyone. Unless you click on the one call-to-action button for the therapy membership, all other generic call to actions to get started default to plan=medication in the url. According to their site, 82% of patients reported a reduction in anxiety.

What is the cancellation policy? 
Users can cancel their membership anytime and are not locked into long-term contracts.

If applicable, what are the pay/benefits for therapists? 
Cerebral’s job applications actually say nothing about pay or benefits for associate therapists, at least as of July 10, 2022. Licensed therapists make $45 per 45-minute session. According to an Indeed review, full-time salary and benefits were taken away around August 2021.

The Review 
Cerebral is a company riddled with controversy and is currently being investigated by the DEA for its prescribing practices. Online conversations about Cerebral talk about the feeling of just filling roles with bodies to grow as fast as possible. With their incredible amount of funding at a multi-billion dollar valuation, it’s hard to imagine how many millions they’re spending on social media advertising. In addition to Cerebral posting ads themselves, there is a myriad of other accounts advertising on their behalf like finvsfin and zenmasterwellness. If you would like to see Cerebral's ads, Facebook now allows you to see ads of companies. Go to Cerebral's page and scroll down until you see the "Page Transparency" section and go to their ad library.

When it comes to marketing tools like Facebook Analytics, it’s obvious they have Pixel installed with the amount of retargeting they do. They also have Facebook Pixel installed on their site and continue to have Facebook Pixel installed after you select a Get Started option and even through account creation. Pixel appears to be collecting page views, microdata, and button clicks. Their marketing practices have come under fire for their imagery and messaging. They’re also the first company we’ve seen to financially incentivize referring your friend to mental healthcare services. They do this by applying a $10 credit to your account for up to 20 referrals. Cerebral's questionable marketing practices continue in their text-based marketing. If you give them permission and your phone number, every two to three days you'll get promotional offers with different words in all caps to get you to act TODAY or on these FINAL HOURS to get 70% off.

From LinkedIn posts from recently laid-off employees to social media comments the story with Cerebral is overworked and underpaid therapists, some upset clients, and some satisfied. With over 25,000 reviews they have an insane amount of reviews on the Apple app store. While the ratings are largely 5 stars if you flip to the most recent reviews many are 1 or 2 stars. Cerebral’s push for growth seems to have lowered the quality and satisfaction of care.

The new CEO, David Mou MD was their Chief Medical Officer from February 2021 to May 2022 before becoming CEO. When being investigated by the DEA for prescribing practices, making a clinician your CEO seems like a wise decision. However, Dr. Mou was the CMO during the time of questionable practices. We’ll see whether Cerebral takes the necessary steps to crack down on quality of care and whether or not the DEA finds anything in their investigation. Cerebral’s PR team is very careful to ensure that Dr. Mou doesn’t admit any wrongdoings in his public statements.