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Founder Focus

Marcus Capone

Co-Founder and CEO, TARA Mind

As many as 60 percent of people living with mental health conditions are unresponsive to traditional treatments, or “treatment resistant.” In March of 2023, Red Cell Partners publicly launched mental health company TARA Mind to enable safe, equitable, and affordable access to life-changing psychedelic-assisted therapy – starting with ketamine-assisted therapy (KAT) – for the millions of individuals grappling with treatment resistant mental health conditions.  

We sat down with Marcus Capone, Co-Founder and CEO of TARA Mind, a Red Cell incubation, to talk about his company’s origins; the efforts underway at the company to get KAT covered as an insurance benefit for employees living with treatment resistance mental health issues; and how, he says, psychedelic-assisted therapy changed his life for the better.     

What inspired you to found TARA Mind? 

Marcus: The concept of TARA Mind was born out of the work my wife and I have been doing for years through our nonprofit, Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS), which expands affordable access to life-saving mental health treatments for military veterans. VETS was so successful that it garnered a lot of attention beyond the veteran space. One of our early supporters was Red Cell Founder, CEO, and Chairman Grant Verstandig. Grant saw the life-saving outcomes that PAT was driving for VETS recipients and recognized a need to make this work available to the broader population After several discussions, we agreed to co-found TARA Mind together. 

TARA Mind has become one of the first companies in the nation to partner with employers to offer KAT as a covered health insurance benefit. Why focus on the employee health benefit space? 

Marcus: Right now, insurance companies do not cover any of these treatments even though we’ve seen this huge uptick in mental health issues like depression. KAT is currently a cash-pay business, but most Americans struggle to pay a $1,000 emergency bill, which means that the majority of folks who need these treatments can’t afford them. Until payors start subsidizing ketamine therapy, we have turned to self-funded employers to cover these treatments as a health benefit for their employees. This will allow us to not only make these treatments more affordable, but to collect outcomes data to prove the efficacy of these treatments and demonstrate to payors how they can both offer better treatment solutions and lower costs.   

Why did you choose to build TARA Mind with Red Cell? 

Marcus: Red Cell is extremely forward-thinking. The best and brightest minds are here, along with great resources. Red Cell has everything a founder needs to help them carry out their dream and build their business.  

How has Red Cell  helped you to build your business?   

Marcus: Red Cell has offered tremendous support for my operations. I’ve received assistance with hiring, contract negotiations, legal support, budget projections, and reconciling expenses every month, to name a few. Really, everything you need to run a business from the operations side, Red Cell has it covered.  

How did Red Cell help you nail down your business model? 

Marcus: We started with a question, ‘How do you make these treatments accessible and affordable?’ We looked at all types of business models with a focus on safe and affordable access. Ultimately, the only thing that made sense was to build a Center of Excellence network of vetted clinicians and therapists supported by a tech-enabled platform that helps to coordinate care between providers and patients. We felt that this was the most scalable model that would enable us to reach, and help, the greatest number of people.  

“Red Cell is extremely forward-thinking. The best and brightest minds are here, along with great resources. Red Cell has everything a founder needs to help them carry out their dream and build their business.”

You are the co-founder of VETS, a non-profit organization committed to ending veteran suicide. How did your experiences with VETS prepare you for building TARA Mind?   

Marcus: My experience founding VETS has been a huge influence on my work with TARA Mind. From my early days at VETS, I learned how to navigate the startup world, which I’ve always enjoyed. While it’s high-risk, it’s also high-reward. There’s never a boring moment and every day you’re waking up to new challenges. I’m a Navy SEAL and Special Operations veteran. While I was in the military, we often found unconventional ways to solve problems. So, for me, the startup world was a very natural progression. There’s no roadmap. There are some left and right limits, but overall, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure endeavor. It’s gratifying to blaze new trails and to have the opportunity to innovate alongside great partners.  

Can you tell us about your personal struggles with your mental health and your experience with psychedelic-assisted therapy?

Marcus: When I was medically retired from the military after 13 years of active combat duty and multiple tours overseas, I struggled tremendously with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and mild traumatic brain injury. I was given antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications and underwent  hyperbaric oxygen therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation. Nothing worked. I was one of those individuals who was treatment-resistant. This was extremely frustrating because you’re trusting your doctors who assure you that these traditional meds will work alongside psychotherapy. So, when they didn’t, it was devastating.  

True healing came for me when I traveled outside the country and received my first psychedelic treatment paired with psychotherapy. Within days, my life was radically changed.  I’m honored to be able to build and run a company like TARA Mind so I can help expand access to these treatments and pay it forward.   

TARA Mind recently raised $8 million in seed funding. How did Red Cell help with the fundraising process? 

Marcus: When it came to raising our external round, Red Cell was with me every step of the way. They made introductions, attended every meeting with investors, helped us put all our investor decks together, and worked with us to craft our pitches. It’s a great feeling to know they were with us throughout the process and will continue to support us during future fundraising rounds.  

What’s next for TARA Mind?   

Marcus: As we work to build partnerships with employers and have TARA Mind covered as a health benefit for employees, we are embarking on a big education campaign over the next year. There’s a lot that people don’t know about psychedelics and  KAT. So, we’re dedicating some of our efforts to helping them, particularly employers, to understand the benefits of these lifesaving treatments – from remission and increased productivity to less staff turnover and lower employee absenteeism.  

We want to help employers, and the general public, understand that psychedelics are not some new fad. They’ve been used by indigenous cultures for thousands of years. They’ve also been the subject of many studies by scientists who have been able to show, when coupled with psychotherapy, that psychedelic medicines can be powerful tools for healing.  

What impact do you hope TARA Mind and psychedelic medicines will have on those living with mental health conditions?  

Marcus: My hope is that TARA Mind and psychedelic medicines will change lives for the better by keeping families together,  making people healthier, happier, and helping them to be more productive. Our aim is not to just address a single problem that a person is dealing with, but to take care of the whole individual. On a broader level, I hope that our work helps remove the long-time stigma around psychedelic medicine and opens people’s eyes to the benefits of these treatments so that people today and generations to come can benefit.   

What advice would you provide to anyone who’s thinking of founding their own company?  

Marcus: If you want a 9 to 5, startup life is not for you. If you don’t like things messy and crazy, again, startups are probably not for you. But if you don’t mind the chaos and are willing to work hard to navigate it as best as you can, then the reward on the other side can be life-changing.  

Also, if you’re an entrepreneur that’s in healthcare, national defense, or cybersecurity, Red Cell is a place you can call home. They will be alongside you, supporting you every step of your journey.  

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