Modern Health — a behavioral health unicorn that bills itself as a one-stop shop for employee mental health benefits — has added a new chief operating officer. Gyre Renwick, a Silicon Valley alum who was an early employee at both Google (Nasdaq: GOOGL) and Lyft (Nasdaq: LYFT), stepped into the position earlier this month.
Headquartered in San Francisco and founded in 2017, Modern Health partners with companies to provide mental health benefits to employees via its mobile app. The company’s platform offers the full spectrum of care, giving users access to everything from well-being assessments and self-service wellness kits to certified coaches, licensed therapists and more.
Modern Health currently counts over 250 companies as enterprise clients, including big names such as Pixar, Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: EA) and SoFi (Nasdaq: SOFI). Its services are available in 55 countries and in over 50 languages. Plus, it’s raised over $172 million to date and boasts a valuation of more than $1 billion, making it one of the few, pure play behavioral health startups to have made it to unicorn status.
As COO, Renwick is tasked with helping the company grow, as well as overseeing its daily operations, sales and partnerships, marketing efforts and clinical care services.
A longtime tech industry executive, Renwick worked for a Northern California homeless services nonprofit before joining Google in 2003. Eventually, he rose to become the head of the company’s health care business division before leaving in 2016 to join Lyft, where he also headed up its health care business division and eventually became a vice president.
Renwick comes aboard Modern Health as the company embarks on a new chapter of its history: an era of hypergrowth designed to increase access to its platform and reduce stigma around mental health treatment.
Renwick told Behavioral Health Business the sky’s the limit when it comes to the company’s future. But first, he’s focused on scaling Modern Health’s structure to keep up with its expansive growth, building partnerships across the health care ecosystem and “executing what [Modern Health] can control.”
You can read the conversation below, which has been edited for length and clarity.
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BHB: Let’s start by talking about the responsibilities you are assuming in your new role as COO of Modern Health.
Renwick: I’m leading the majority of our go-to-market and operation teams. I lead our sales, customer success [and] partnerships. I also lead all of our operations and our clinical care team, so it’s a pretty significant portion of the company. It’s around 60% of the overall workforce. Then I partner with Alyson [Watson, Modern Health’s founder and CEO,] in terms of strategy, direction and execution for the company.
What was it about Modern Health that made you want to come aboard the company?
I really have always been attracted to mission-driven companies. Especially at this point in my career, I want to be doing something that’s having a positive impact on people’s lives. I want to be really focused on a business that is directly impacting organizations [and] consumers.
The work we did at Lyft was very reminiscent of that, as it was focused on … underserved or underrepresented populations. Just looking at a disruptive [company] that was really trying to bring innovation to an industry that was probably ripe for disruption, that’s something that … resonates with me.
As COO, what are some of those biggest opportunities you’re eager to capitalize on for Modern Health?
The concept I have for Modern Health is that mental health is just as crucial [as physical health]. It’s really interesting to think about what the downstream implications of not addressing someone’s mental health are on their overall health care costs and wellbeing.
I think we need to change the narrative. When we talk about someone’s health, mental health needs to be an important component of that and something that we need to be thinking about. The opportunity is … to change the narrative and educate both organizations and the industry about how important mental health is.
On the flipside, what are some of the biggest challenges Modern Health is facing and how are you tackling them?
Like any good startup, we are growing at just a phenomenal rate. And I think we’re growing sometimes faster than our systems and processes and organizational structure have been built for. And hopefully my role as the COO is to start putting some of those processes and systems in place that will help us scale [presently] and in the future, as well.
There’s plenty more across the health care ecosystem that I really want to figure out [as far as] how we build partnerships across different areas of the health care landscape. At Lyft, we did a really good job of … [that]. [The question is:] How can Modern Health fit in and address the needs of populations through partnerships with all those different areas?
The pandemic has accelerated the move toward virtual care. As someone with a background in tech who is now working for a company that delivers behavioral health services virtually, what do you make of this transition, particularly as it pertains to Modern Health?
In the world we live in today …, traditional therapy may not be appropriate for everyone. Especially during these times with COVID, a lot of companies we’ve talked to are addressing new issues they weren’t experiencing before, like retention and burnout.
The stress that people are under today — whether it’s in their own personal lives or work experiences — sometimes [presents] new challenges. It’s interesting how mental health and the services that Modern Health provides can be a really interesting way [for companies] to attract … and .. retain [workers] and help address those needs.
You were with Google and Lyft in the early days of both companies, back before either one was publicly traded. How does Modern Health — which is still relatively young — compare to those companies and other Silicon Valley startups that went on to hit it big?
From a size perspective, it’s actually pretty similar to when I started at Google and Lyft, as well. There is an amazing amount of success that Modern Health has had, but I still think there’s so much opportunity out there.
Modern Health is a mission-driven company with amazing people and great technology. How we continue to execute and accelerate our growth is just as fun [as with Google and Lyft]. Hopefully my experience [at those companies] helps set us up for having a really successful future here at Modern Health.
Alyson Watson is considered something of a rock star right now in the behavioral health startup world. Marc Schröder of Machsmayer Group Ventures — an early stage investor in Modern Health — ranks the firm’s investment in the company as its best ever. What do you think of the way she has built and led Modern Health through its growth?
It was one of the [main] points about why I joined Modern Health. I’ve been a part of amazing organizations of great founders like Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin, who I] worked closely with when I was at Google. And then John [Zimmer] and Logan [Green] at Lyft, as well.
I will 100% put Alyson in that caliber of leaders. Alyson is incredibly mission-driven [and] incredibly passionate about the work she does. What I love about Alyson is … she cares about her team and the people that work with her. She really invests a lot in the team and the people and really has built a pretty amazing culture.
I also love … [her] vision [and] the aspiration about where Modern Health can be. I love the vision of globally trying to help address the mental health needs of the entire planet. I love that visionary look [of] how we think a lot bigger and not settle for incremental growth.
When BHB talked to Alyson in March, she mentioned the possibilities of one day taking the company public, along with acquiring other businesses. Although she gave no timetable as to when either of those things could occur, can you provide any additional color on that presently, as it relates to the company’s long-term objectives?
I don’t think that’s changed in the last couple months. Our focus right now is executing what we can control. I don’t think we’re ruling out opportunities like that in the future if it makes sense for the business. But I think there’s plenty of opportunity with the work we’re doing now and plenty of problems on our own that we want to solve and address first.
I think an IPO will make sense at some point in the future when the time is right and we’re ready for it. And we will never rule out acquisitions. There are always opportunities — whether it’s building solutions ourselves, whether it’s partnering with organizations or whether it’s acquisitions that we’ll consider. But we’re really heads down at executing where we are today and what we need to focus on.