For CEO Alden Romney, the goal of Opya is clear — to help as many children with autism as possible. The San Mateo, California-based company uses a mixture of in-person therapies and technology to make a difference in the lives of children younger than 6 with autism — the age range during which intervention is critical — many studies show. The need for treatment programs is vast and growing with as many as one in 54 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism by age 8. “There are 1.5 million kids that need help and need support,” Romney tells Forbes. “Our focus is on early intervention because you can achieve the best overall outcomes by treating kids early in the process.”
Opya provides in-home clinician visits with telehealth programs that are personalized for each child, combining behavioral, occupational and speech therapies all in one plan, which is an uncommon approach in the fragmented autism treatment market. “Parents really value the fact that Opya provides multidisciplinary treatments,” Romney says. “Additionally, our proprietary technology enables more efficient communication between the parents and clinicians.” The startup’s HIPAA-compliant app allows parents to check in with providers about different moods and behaviors their child may be experiencing on days they don’t have treatment to get constant support.
Romney, the former CEO at Pacific Fertility care and vice president at One Medical Group, joined Opya in August 2019, three years after its launch and and less than a year before the global pandemic would force the company to pivot from its brick-and-mortar treatment centers to build its own hybrid of the suddenly booming telehealth market. Opya survived and now thrives. After cutting staff to only 12 employees during the height of the pandemic, Opya is now up to more than 100 workers. And this week, Opya raised a $15.4 million Series A round from new investors including SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund, Panoramic Ventures, Disability Opportunity Fund and Raven One Ventures in addition to existing investors Divergent Investments and Altitude Ventures.
“He was able to guide the business through what was a very difficult period of time for a lot of companies out there,” says Austin Poole, Panoramic Ventures senior vice president, who met Romney when he was six months into the job and in the midst of the pandemic pivot. “And not only do that, but also have the presence to step back and look at how the business was organized and actually come up with, in my mind, a better model than when we connected that May.” It was this fortitude that inspired Poole to invest.
While Opya is designed to make navigating the process easier for parents, it also benefits the therapists too. The clinicians are able to use the app to spend less time on paperwork and the operational side of being a provider which allows them to avoid potential burnout and focus more on care. “Not only are they developing a model that is efficient and highly effective, they are also taking an approach that really improves the lives of their therapists and behavioral technicians,” Poole says. “We thought this was really key to Opya being successful but also this entire market improving.”
Opya is currently only available in California but hopes its latest batch of funding — and its more tech-enabled business model — will allow it to expand into more states and reach its goal. A recent Stanford study showed that the demand for this treatment is 18 times higher than the available options and Opya hopes to help close that gap. “We want to be known as the leader of early intervention treatment for autism,” Romney says. “We want to help as many kids as we can and the experiences that I’ve had at One Medical and other behavioral health companies gives me confidence that we can do this. We are a very mission-driven team and I get a lot of pride in what we are doing in Opya.”