It quickly became clear that Gaia had a problem. As the competition grew the waitlist halved and then halved again. In some markets it completely went away. For the first time since its first days, Gaia had empty treatment rooms during peak hours. The company was nowhere near to meeting its projected growth rate. To make matters worse, with expansion plans in motion across five cities Learie already needed to raise more funds.
It would be an understatement to say her investors were concerned. Nearly $10 million had gone into Gaia Health. Some of them had seen it purely as a prudent bet – new mental health treatment complete with desirable cultural cache; disruptive technology with high growth potential.
Other investors believed Gaia to be a sound business idea, but above all were attracted to its potential impact. Nearly all of the company's investors had family or friends suffering from addiction or depression, anxiety or trauma-related symptoms. They were people of means who set out to use their wealth, and the wealth entrusted to them by others, to catalyze positive change in the world.
What could be more impactful than a transformation in mental health, unlocking human potential to live full, meaningful lives?
But the impact investors, like their peers, had a mandate to their own investors – the companies, funds and foundations who pooled resources with them expecting a return. Impact is only an idea if the company is not profitable. Impact may be the soul, but profit is the heartbeat.
Suddenly Gaia appeared at risk not only of not generating a return on the investment but of failing altogether.