Woebot Labs has secured an $8 million Series A funding round from leading venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA) with participation from Andrew Ng’s newly launched AI Fund.

The announcement comes on the heels of the company’s iOS app launch earlier this year, and in advance of the Woebot app release for Android, coming later this month.

The company will use the investment to further develop the AI technology powering Woebot and expand the delivery of high-quality mental health care worldwide.

The burden of mental health problems has doubled in the past decade, and according to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability globally with over 300 million people affected each year.

Mental health chatbot Woebot was founded with the goal of democratizing access to the best, scientifically validated approaches to mental health.

Woebot uses natural language processing to analyse daily, one-on-one interactions with users to deliver a self-guided version of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) — the most rigorously studied and effective treatment for mental health problems.

“Our funding marks a new chapter for Woebot as we work to constantly improve the overall experience for our users,” said Woebot CEO and founder Dr. Alison Darcy.

“Considering the immense human and economic costs associated with mental health problems, it’s crucial that we meet this challenge head on. Backing from NEA and the AI Fund will allow us to grow our team and help Woebot deliver great coaching, 24 hours a day.”

In the last quarter, Woebot has seen 50 per cent month-over-month growth, receives more than two million messages a week and is used in more than 130 countries around the world as a free, accessible tool to receive quality mental health care.

“In the coming years, AI will impact almost every industry and digital mental health care is poised to see a significant transformation,” said Andrew Ng, general partner at AI Fund.

“Woebot brings a unique combination of clinical research, domain experts, and AI to address the mental health crisis and improve people’s daily lives, and I’m thrilled that they’re one of the first investments for the AI Fund.”

“Woebot is a trailblazing digital health technology, and has already delivered mental health care to so many people who may not have otherwise received any form of help,” said Carmen Chang, chairman and head of Asia at NEA.

“Woebot has the ability to make significant contributions in both the clinical and global community, and NEA is proud to partner as they continue to grow and make meaningful impact and improve lives worldwide.”

Woebot can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store and is available for use on Facebook Messenger at m.me/drwoebot. Users can download the Android app from the Google Play store in early March.