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Saturday, September 3, 2022

"Growth Market"

The Politics of Autism includes an extensive discussion of autism service providers.  Since the book's publication, a big change has consisted of a massive increase in private equity investments.

Dan Feshbach at Barron's:
The good news is investors are, at last, recognizing that autism is a growth market. The bad news is much of that investment is flowing toward services that don’t scale, often overpromise, and frequently underdeliver. In many ways, the complexity of the autism market reflects the disorder itself. It is an immensely complex condition, consisting of countless overlying subtypes and a wide range of obstacles. It’s not autism we are all working to address, but many forms of autism. Even with our growing understanding of the condition, families remain haunted by four questions: What type of autism does my child have? Why can’t my child communicate? How can my child get a job? Who will care for my child after I pass?

New startups and companies are, at last, starting to find the answers. Innovations in diagnostics and big data are on the verge of allowing families to discover the condition earlier, with companies such as BioRosa working to develop a blood test and biomarker for autism. Floreo and other platforms are tapping the power of virtual reality to teach important communication and interpersonal skills, while startups like Daivergent and Mentra are linking individuals with autism to employers and providing them with support in the workplace. Impruvon Health is offering medication management devices and Advasys is creating tools to help identify sexual abuse. The nonprofit I founded has created a global database that now tracks over 500 technology and life sciences companies within the autism and intellectual or developmental disability space.

Meanwhile, autism and intellectual disability impact investors are creating early-stage funds to support these kinds of young companies. The Disability Opportunity Fund, founded 13 years ago, has recently been joined by the Autism Impact Fund, and then by the Difference Fund, Divergent Ventures, K-Ventures, Enable Ventures, Neuvation, Arc Capital Development, and Moai Capital. These initiatives invest in startups that have met key private investor criteria and provide them with funding, mentoring, and a greater understanding of the market.