James Farese knew that he wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age. The Boca Raton native graduated from Olympic Heights High School but was homeschooled for almost all of his childhood. He also attended Florida Atlantic University but dropped out to pursue more profitable activities.
“Nothing against school,” Farese told Refresh Miami, “but it wasn’t accelerating my path towards entrepreneurship as fast as I wanted it to at the time.” So Farese swapped the books for something a lot sweeter by opening a self-serve frozen yogurt store.
Not long thereafter, Farese became the sixth employee at Deerfield Beach-based public procurement startup GovSpend. That’s where Farese said he really cut his teeth: “I got to watch the company go from six people to almost 300 people, watching world-class founders do what they do best – put all the pieces of the puzzle together and build a company.”
After two and a half years at GovSpend, Farese left to work with a friend who had acquired a substance use treatment center. “I worked in every position in the business,” Farese explained. “I got to learn how the healthcare business works in America.”
In summer 2019, Farese launched startup Reachlink as a telehealth provider focused on supporting patients recently discharged from substance use treatment centers. “Typically clients would do well when they’re in treatment, but relapses would happen when they got back home” Farese said. “I thought that telehealth could be an interesting way to help clients with that transition.”
After a few months of success with using Reachlink in this aftercare context, in February 2020, Farese decided to pivot to offering a broader array of behavioral health services. The startup’s business skyrocketed shortly after that, as the pandemic kept Americans at home and in need of such services. Today, Reachlink is active in 45 states and has 100 mental healthcare practitioners on top of 16 full-time employees. Farese reports that the company has experienced 4x growth since this time last year.
“Our ultimate goal is to be a one stop shop for people that are looking for mental health services that are affordable, high quality, and accessible – regardless of what type of insurance coverage, or even if they have no insurance coverage,” said Farese. The startup is currently in-network for some of the biggest insurers in the US, including Humana, Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, and Medicaid.
Reachlink, named this week to South Florida Business Journal’s 2022 Best Places to Work list, is headquartered in Florida Atlantic University’s Research Park in Boca Raton. This location has been strategic for Reachlink in a few ways. For one, Farese enjoys the support of being in FAU’s ecosystem and in close proximity to other programs like early-stage incubator FAU Tech Runway.
Being located at the Research Park has also been good for Reachlink’s fundraising efforts. A spontaneous encounter with Elias Janetis, founder and CEO of fintech startup Squeeze, resulted in a fundraise. “I met him in the parking lot and told him what we did,” recalled Farese. “He had heard me negotiating a term sheet with another investor on the phone, and he said, ‘Hey, whatever they’re doing, I’ll beat it.’” Within 10 days of meeting, Janetis and Farese signed a funding deal, Farese said.
Farese is bullish on Boca Raton’s role in the South Florida startup scene. “It’s amazing what’s happening here,” he said. “Boca is a great place to plant your feet and get access to Miami.” He also praised the local government for promoting Boca Raton to entrepreneurs, investors, and tech talent throughout the US.
Check out James Farese’s feature in Forbes’ Next 1000 list.
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