Mental Health Startup Providing On-Demand Support Raises $7M to Reach More Students

Samantha Miller

A startup aiming to provide students with instant access to mental health support has raised $7 million in funding to scale its services to more schools across the country.

Clayful, founded in 2021, connects students aged 8-18 with licensed mental health professionals via chat within 60 seconds when they need someone to talk to. The timely support aims to be there in critical moments for students struggling with mental health issues.

Investors Recognize Innovation in Student Mental Health

The latest funding round was led by Google’s Latino Founders Fund and also included Reach Capital, Ovo Fund, Common Sense Ventures, Charter School Growth Fund and Wisdom Ventures. The interest from high-profile firms highlights the innovative approach Clayful takes in addressing student mental health access.

“We want to ensure every student gets a trusted, certified coach in their pockets and/or school device,” said Clayful CEO Maria Barrera. “Our design is based on meeting kids where they are at in and outside of school, online and on their schedule.”

Inspired by Mental Health Crisis

Barrera was inspired to start Clayful after reading a troubling New York Times article about increasing suicide rates among children as young as 8 years old. After speaking to educators, parents and counselors, she realized the dire shortage of mental health professionals available to serve students.

“There were too many kids and too few providers. Those who desperately needed help were getting left behind,” Barrera explained.

Counselor Shortage Leaving Students Stranded

Recommended guidelines state schools should have 1 counselor for every 250 students, but the actual average is 1 per every 444 students. Clayful Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer Melissa Pelochino also taught and consulted in education, confirming that most counselors are overburdened.

By providing instant chat access, Clayful aims to support students in the critical moments when they need someone to talk to, without requiring them to wait days or weeks for an appointment.

Real-Time Support via Chat

Clayful connects students to coaches through chat messaging, enabling real-time dialogue to take place conveniently and privately. Users do not meet with coaches in-person but can work through issues by chatting.

“That means students can get support where and when they need it, even in the middle of a heated argument, without needing to wait for an appointment,” Barrera explained.

Inclusive Platform Reaches Diverse Students

Available in over 130 languages, Clayful is designed to be inclusive and accessible for all students. The service is completely free for students, with costs covered by the school districts who purchase access to the platform.

Early data from schools using Clayful this school year already demonstrate improved attendance among students who connect with coaches compared to those who do not. Students using the chat support had 95% attendance on average, versus just 91% for those not participating.

Rapidly Growing Startup Supporting Students’ Mental Health

As a fully remote company with over 100 employees, including coaches and support staff, Clayful will leverage the new funding to hire more great talent. The company hopes to scale its reach to help many more schools provide students the timely mental health support they desperately need.

“Our goal is for Clayful to be available to every student across the country,” said Barrera, “so no child ever feels alone when dealing with a mental health challenge.”

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Samantha Miller is a business and finance journalist with over 10 years of experience covering the latest news and trends shaping the corporate landscape. She began her career at The Wall Street Journal, where she reported on major companies and industry developments. Now, Samantha serve as a senior business writer for, profiling influential executives and providing in-depth analysis on business and financial topics.
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