Quick Guide to Psychedelic Startups

How to Raise Capital for a Psychedelic Startup: Industry Info You Need to Know

In the recent past, psychedelics were considered dangerous drugs. Today, more and more scientists recognize their medical potential. Investors are already investing in the young industry.

Psychedelic drugs have a complicated history. They had a heyday in the 1960s but then fell into disuse. Recent research has partially brought psychedelics back. Today, scientists see them as promising compounds for treating many diseases.

Given the above, it is quite fair to say that the era of the so-called psychedelic renaissance has begun. Since 2020, the number of psychedelic companies has started to increase greatly.

Let's take a look at the reasons for the increased demand in the psychedelic industry. Learn how to raise capital dealing with this type of business.

Psychedelics Boom

Despite Covid-19 and the collapse of the economy, investors are starting to pay attention to this industry. They bet that psychedelic-derived drugs can become a real business and help millions of people. Researchers, activists, and journalists have been the driving force behind the psychedelic renaissance.

Benefits of Psychedelics

Many startup companies are developing drugs based on psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms), LSD, MDMA, and ibogaine. They are banned in the United States, except ketamine, which is also used in the development of such medicine. These companies hope to develop a psychedelic therapy treatment for a wide range of mental illnesses. They include depression, anxiety, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Medical regulators are also gradually turning toward psychedelics, as they show potential in treating depression. In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called Usona Institute’s psilocybin program for major depressive disorder "breakthrough therapy." 

However, researchers will have a tough road to winning FDA approval.

How Medical Companies Turned to Psychedelics

In early 2020, the drug company Mind Medicine (MMEDF) went public. It received the financial backing of Kevin O'Leary and the guidance of cannabis entrepreneur Bruce Linton. In one interview, O'Leary explained his reasons for investing in psychedelics and talked about the lagging efforts to treat growing psychiatric disorders.

In 2013, Linton became a co-founder of Canopy Growth (CGC), the largest cannabis company in the U.S. He left in 2019 and later became director of Mind Medicine. The main goal of the company is similar to Compass Pathways. They plan to bring psychedelics to market and conduct research on LSD, mushrooms, and other drugs.

Investing in Psychedelics

Venture capital investors were at the centre of the psychedelic boom. In early 2020, startups in the field said they were beginning to see signs of growing investor appetite.

Venture capital firms focused on psychedelic companies soon began to appear. Insider's list of the top 11 venture capitalists in the field shows $139.8 million invested in such startups in just a few years. 

Kevin O'Leary and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel make big bets on magic mushrooms. Their big plans for mind-altering mushrooms have nothing to do with festivals or raves but deal with biotechs instead.

Negev Capital, a psychedelic medical intervention investment fund, invests in companies that are developing new drugs to treat mental disorders based on psychedelic compounds. Negev has invested in 20 psychedelic drug development companies and has more than $30mln under the management

The fund recently doubled down on its substantial investment in Small Pharma Inc, a neuropharmaceutical company specialising in developing new treatments for mental illness with a focus on depression.

Another representative of psychedelic medicine is ATAI Life Sciences. It’s a "drug discovery platform" from Germany. The company invests in research of possible uses of psychedelics and other drugs for medical purposes. As of January 2021, they had raised more than $210 million, much of it from Thiel Capital and Christian Angermayer.

ATAI Life Sciences has taken a majority stake in Recognify, which was founded by Thomas Südhof, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. Recognify’s aim is to develop drugs to help treat schizophrenia. The company focuses on cognitive impairments (CIAS) that interfere with verbal learning and memory. Their new drug, RL-007, although not derived from psychoactive compounds, has already undergone positive clinical trials.

Another company is Compass Pathways (CMPS), which went public in the United States back in September 2020. The British company, invested in by Thiel and Angermayer, has patented a synthetic form of psilocybin. It helps people with treatment-resistant depression. 

The company launched clinical trials that involved 233 patients at several sites across Europe and North America. It is the most rigorous trial on psilocybin, which adds great weight to previous, smaller studies of the drug. In November 2018, FDA called the company’s treatment “breakthrough therapy.” This means the approval may come soon if trials are successful. Compass will start Phase 3 trials in the near future. 

Cybin is a biotech company focused on the development of psychedelic therapeutics. In October 2021, it completed its 74th pre-clinical study of psychedelic compounds for potential therapeutic applications in several psychiatric disorders. Over 50 new compounds have been evaluated with the help of experienced contract research organisations.

The company seeks to build a portfolio of world-class psychedelic molecules that could become commercially viable drug candidates for both internal development and future partnerships.


The current psychedelic boom is only the beginning of the industry’s development and expansion. Considering investors’ attention to this type of medicine, more startups will emerge in the future. Active research on psychedelics has resumed in recent years, after its peak in the 1950s and 1970s. It may lead to great scientific progress and heal millions of people.