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HoCo health tech startup Backpack Healthcare made a second acquisition

The RealLIST Startups honoree once known as Youme announced in August that it acquired DC’s Hurdle and was rebranding as Backpack. Now, CEO Hafeezah Muhammad said, the company has made another similar move.

The Backpack Health (formerly Youme) team. (Courtesy photo)

After being named to our RealLIST Startups list in January, startup Youme has made two acquisitions to grow its work in the health tech space — and adopted a new name.

In August, Youme acquired Hurdle Health, a DC-based digital mental health platform and fellow RealLIST honoree. With the deal, the company rebranded to Backpack Healthcare. Alongside those moves, founder and CEO Hafeezah Muhammad told Technical.ly that the company made another move in this transition: acquiring SHE Health

The acquisitions, Muhammad said, are a strategic expansion to provide more opportunities to help with the mental health crisis in the US. The company started to expand and grow and was looking to share the tech with the world when the Hurdle opportunity came up. 

“That’s why we had the name ‘Youme,’ because we wanted to ensure that it was you and me, we’re in it together,” Muhammad said. “But as we continued to evolve, we had an opportunity to acquire Hurdle Health which was the first telemedicine company to put a multicultural framework in its practice.” 

Backpack, based in Elkridge, Maryland, offers mental health services such as medication management and talk therapy for children and families. Hurdle worked in over 27 states, which worked well with the national expansion Backpack was planning. Muhammad also noted that Hurdle did a great job of reaching multicultural households, and she wanted to strengthen the company’s work with those patients. 

Along the way, Muhammad said that Backpack also had the opportunity to acquire SHE Health, a New York City-based startup offering mental and sexual health services for young adults. With the rebrand, she wants all three companies to become one. 

“With alarming rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide among youth, especially youth of color, the world needs Backpack,” said Kevin Dedner, CEO of Hurdle Health, in a statement. “Hurdle was the first mental health teletherapy company to put a multicultural framework to use in its practice. I am pleased that this legacy will continue through the capable stewardship of Backpack.” 

The name “Backpack”, Muhammad said, comes from the emotional backpacks everyone wears every day, and how the startup wants to help lighten the load while also tapping into a very common experience. 

“That’s something that can resonate with anyone: No matter what their age, their background, everyone has worn a backpack,” Muhammad said. 

The integration of all three companies has already taken place, and Backpack was able to acquire all the technology from the two companies. Some of the staff was let go, she said, but the company plans to hire again in Q4 or the first quarter of 2024, and she’ll be pulling from that pool first. 

Going forward, Backpack plans to push forward in partnerships with school districts and employers. The company also developed a tool called Bibliotherapy, which incorporates clinical, interactive books that help children discuss their feelings. She hopes to get those in the hands of even more children, especially after starting the company in response to her son’s struggles with mental health. 

“The way in which I started this company was a personal reason and now we have the opportunity, the resources to be able to help as many kids everywhere in the US as much as we can to save their lives,” Muhammad said. “It’s the best feeling because now I finally have found my why to exist.”

Companies: Backpack Healthcare / Hurdle

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