Guide to the Psychedelics Industry: Companies, Investors, Science

  • A year ago, nonprofits and scrappy startups made up the psychedelics space. 
  • Now, companies are raising millions from investors and going public on major exchanges.
  • Here’s what you need to know about the booming psychedelics industry.

The psychedelics space is booming.

Over the past year, startups focused on turning psychedelic compounds into approved medicines have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from private investors and dozens have gone public.

Research on compounds like psilocybin, the active compound found in magic mushrooms, and MDMA is resurfacing after years of neglect amid the war on drugs.

Here’s a look at the booming psychedelics industry:

A row of psilocybin mushrooms growing against a black background

Psilocybin mushrooms


VCs have deployed millions into psychedelics startups — here’s what they say will happen next

Venture-capital investors have been at the center of the psychedelics boom. In early 2020, startups in the space said they were beginning to see signs that investor appetite was growing.

Then, we saw a flurry of activity, which one industry exec called a “psychedelic renaissance.”

Soon, VC firms focused on psychedelics companies specifically began to emerge. Insider’s list of the top 11 venture-capital investors in the space collectively deployed $139.8 million into startups in just a few short years. 

They also gave us their predictions for the coming months. Some told us that biotech giants were looking to get into the space, while others predicted a boom in tech companies and clinics that would lay the groundwork for when medications come to market. We can also expect to see new compounds and a slew of startup failures, they said.

Read more:

Meet the top 11 VCs who’ve bet the most cash on turning MDMA and magic mushrooms into medical treatments

Top VCs in psychedelics say Big Pharma is knocking at the door — and it could fuel a wave of deals

Top psychedelics VCs predict a tech boom and a rise of clinics over the next year

Top VCs predict new compounds and impending failures will shape the future of the psychedelics industry

CEOs set the tone for the burgeoning space

ATAI CEO Florian Brand

ATAI Life Sciences CEO Florian Brand.

ATAI Life Sciences

A slew of companies have entered the psychedelics industry, but a few stand out as frontrunners.

In February 2020, Atai CEO Florian Brand said that he was turning to pharma and biotech investors as the company looked to further grow. At the time, Atai was a private company that made headlines for winning over backers like Mike Novogratz and Peter Thiel.

In March of this year, the company raised a record $157 million, pushing psychedelics further into the mainstream.

Meanwhile, change has been bubbling on the state and local levels. In November, Oregon legalized psilocybin for therapeutic purposes — but that doesn’t mean you’ll see the giants rush in.

The biggest companies in the space told Insider they were focused on seeking approval for their experimental substances from the Food and Drug Administration. Atai founder Christian Angermayer said recently that while he personally supports decriminalization, he thinks legalizing psychedelics could create a backlash for the industry.

Compass Pathways CEO George Goldsmith told Insider soon after the company’s IPO last fall that he expects treatments to come on the market by 2025. Atai’s Brand said there are challenges to address between now and when treatments become widely available, such as scalability and reimbursement.

Read more:

The CEO of a $1.2 billion psychedelics company told us he expects psilocybin-based treatments by 2025 and predicts a ‘Cambrian explosion’ of innovation in the industry

The founder of the biggest psychedelics company says legalizing magic mushrooms risks creating a backlash that could undermine the industry

The CEO of the biggest psychedelics company lays out the 3 challenges he has to address before treatments hit the market

Startups are raising big sums for drug development and clinics

Compass Pathways 2019 Pitch Deck Slide 1

The first page of Compass Pathway’s 2019 pitch deck.

Compass Pathways

Drug development takes a lot of capital, and startups are focused on getting the funding they need.

Insider got ahold of three pitch decks that companies used to raise tens of millions of dollars. Beckley Psytech raised $18.6 million in December to develop a slew of new treatments focused on rare diseases and mental health.

Compass Pathways raised $80 million from investors like Founders Fund in 2019, fueling its rise to the top.

Meanwhile, startups focused on clinics, where psychedelic treatments are expected to be administered, are raising capital too. Novamind raised $7.8 million with this pitch deck.

Magic mushrooms

Psilocybin found in magic mushrooms is a type of psychedelic

Alexander Volkov/Getty Images

Another way to get access to capital is to go public, and there are now dozens of psychedelics companies in the US and Canada.

We broke down the 7 companies with the biggest market caps and laid out their business models, drug pipelines, and timeline to get treatments to market. 

Read more:

What to know about the major public psychedelics companies, including a guide to their business models and when they expect to sell medications

See the pitch deck a psychedelics startup just used to raise $18.6 million to develop new treatments derived from the Sonoran Desert toad

See the 20-slide pitch deck a psychedelics startup used to raise funds to build out a network of ketamine clinics

See the pitch deck that Compass Pathways used to raise $80 million and fuel its rise into one of the world’s biggest psychedelics companies

The top startups are racing forward

The Synthesis Institute

A look at a legal psychedelic retreat hosted by The Synthesis Institute

The Synthesis Institute

Private startups are still a core part of the space.

Earlier this year, we published a list of the psychdelic startups that raised the most cash in 2020. The 14 names on that list raised over $222 million.

We recently asked the biggest investors in the space to name two top startups in the industry — one they had invested in and one in which they hadn’t — and came back with 15 names.

Read more:

Meet the top 14 psychedelics startups raising the most cash to develop new ways of treating depression, addiction, and more

VCs name the top 15 startups in the psychedelics industry

Academics, lawyers, and analysts are wading into the burgeoning space

A woman participates in DMT research at Imperial College London

DMT research at Imperial College London

Thomas Angus, Imperial College London

Meanwhile, it’s not just investors and companies that are building out the foundation for what could become a $100 billion market.

Academics have continued to publish promising studies on the benefits of psychedelic compounds. 

Wealthy philanthropists are responsible for the rush of funding entering academia as prestigious universities set up psychedelic research centers. One scientist told us that as psychedelic research has emerged from the fringes, donors have begun to catch the “psychedelic bug.”

“What psychedelics seems to do is, when it grabs you, you really seem to get it,” he said.

Lawyers and analysts are also wading into the space. As a slew of companies began to go public, analysts at investment banks began to cover the industry. Lawyers originally focused on cannabis clients also took the plunge.

Amid all this growth, a key battle over the role of patents in the psychedelics space has been brewing, as companies race to protect their intellectual property and longtime advocates in the space work to protect information that they say belongs in the public domain. 

Read more:

A Canadian investment bank that capitalized on the cannabis rush is now looking toward a new market. Meet the first analyst covering the burgeoning psychedelics industry.

Cannabis lawyers are wading into the psychedelics industry as companies push forward with mega-deals and medical trials to win a slice of the $100 billion market

Wealthy donors are fueling a psychedelics renaissance as universities vie for funding to study ‘magic mushrooms’ and MDMA

A landmark study shows the main compound in magic mushrooms could rival a leading depression drug

Experts share how a brewing fight could shape the future of the $100 billion psychedelics industry