Circles, a platform for online group emotional support, announced today (Tuesday) that it raised $16.5 million in funding in a Series A round led by Zeev Ventures, with the participation of Lior Ron (Head of Uber Freight), and existing investors NFX, Flint Capital, and Sir Ronald Cohen.

The powerful yet simple principle of human connection

Sometimes the world we live in is too much to bear; the experiences we go through are painful in all ways possible; sometimes we feel as though we are in it alone. We have all been there and felt that all we need is a helping hand to get us through our tough times. With the COVID-19 pandemic, these feelings have been exacerbated globally. The pandemic increased the global prevalence of anxiety and depression by 25% as well as deepened an epidemic of loneliness. Those who are able to may seek help in the form of one-on-one therapy, but such a solution is often expensive and has long waiting times. Others may turn to online communities and forums; however, those lack the professional input many are seeking. Moreover, many people also turn to mental health apps to help cope with mental health problems escalated by the adverse challenges they face in life. The global mental health apps market size is expected to reach $17.5 billion by 2030 expanding at a CAGR of 16.5% from 2022 to 2030.

The Israeli startup Circles is offering the best of both worlds; it is filling the market gap between expensive therapy and free online forums or Facebook groups by combining professional, guided attention with genuine support of peers sharing the same unique human experiences, all in their app. Essentially, Circles is a subscription-based platform where people experiencing similar life challenges such as divorce, grief, infertility, etc. are matched into cohorts and meet weekly via group video chat to give and receive emotional support, guided by trained and vetted mental health professionals. As group support has been proven to be an effective measure in coping with depression, lowering reported negative psychosocial outcomes, and improving overall physical and psychosocial health conditions of patients and their families, such a solution can be very valuable to vulnerable members of society. As Irad Eichler, co-founder and CEO of Circles stated: “There's something truly incredible that happens when people who are coping with similar challenges get together – and the better the match, the more powerful the group experience.”

In a conversation with Geektime, Eichler shared with us that when his mother was battling cancer, she talked about how lonely she felt, even though she was always surrounded by family and friends. At some point Eichler overheard her on the phone with a colleague, who was battling cancer as well, and noticed the remarkable difference in how she was talking and her mood afterwards – she felt like someone really understood her; it seemed that she only felt relief when speaking with others going through the same thing. After she eventually passed away, Eichler felt lonely with his grief but noticed how even his grieving father couldn't empathize with him in the same way that his siblings or others who also lost a parent could. These moments were the inspiration behind Circles; the proof that the human connection of people going through similar life events provides invaluable comfort and support.

Making everyone, everywhere feel less alone

Since the platform launched in 2020, it has seen immense growth. Circles supports thousands of members across the U.S. with hundreds of groups, and in the last half of 2021 alone, the number of paying members has increased by 500%, with the company recruiting four times the amount of mental health professionals to facilitate the growing increase in the new groups. With the new capital, the company plans to scale R&D efforts to improve group matching algorithms, thus making groups more accurate and successful, while also expanding its offerings to meet the growing demand of those suffering from loneliness when coping with life’s challenges.

Circles was founded by Irad Eichler (CEO) and Dan Landa (CMO) in 2020.