Youper is a mental health application with a chatbot that calls an “emotional health assistant”, has raised $3 million in seed funds from Goodwater Capital. The funds will be used to accelerate Youper’s development of its artificial intelligence-based capabilities and the growth of its user base, according to Tech Crunch reports.
Based in San Francisco, Youper was co-founded in 2016 by Dr. Hamilton. For a decade, Hamilton worked as a psychiatrist in clinical settings, serving more than 3,000 patients. While talking to them, he realized that a handful of barriers prevented many people from seeking help before, even if they had dealt with anxiety or depression for years.
“First is the fear of talking about your mental health, understanding your mental health.” «Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist is« super intimidating ». That’s why all my patients used to say the same thing. The second barrier is the cost, of course. Psychiatrists and therapists are very expensive.”
Hamilton partnered with co-founder Diego Couto, the company’s director of growth and products, and Thiago Marafon, his CTO, to create an application that would make mental health less intimidating and more accessible. Originally they created an application that did not have a conversation interface. Instead, Hamilton says he took a similar approach to Calm or Headspace applications.
But this resulted in a very low user participation rate and, after a year, the team realized that Youper needed to provide a more personalized experience, matching users with the correct psychological techniques, including the techniques of cognitive behavior and mindfulness, for your needs.
Chatbots as a health key solution
Youper is part of a growing list of applications that use AI-based chatbots to help users improve their emotional health including Woebot, Wysa and X2’s Tess. Hamilton says that Youper wants to differentiate with his focus on personalization, combining mental health research and user data to match the right psychological techniques with users.
The startup claims that Youper has been downloaded more than a million times so far. The majority of its users are young adults, and there are more women than men who use Youper.
“I think that’s because women face new challenges in our society by conquering new spaces and taking on new roles, and that represents an emotional cost. Another reason is that women are more attuned to self-care than men, “he says. «Sometimes I feel that men wait too long suffering in silence».TechCrunch
For users who have never consulted with a provider, Youper provides a kind introduction to the types of questions and exercises they may experience in therapy. The questions and exercises provided by Youper’s chatbot are intended to help users achieve a better understanding of their emotions, thoughts and behavior.
Youper’s chatbot asks users to focus on their thoughts and identify how they feel from a menu of descriptive words. Then, a scale allows you to rate the strength of that emotion from “slightly” to “extremely”. More questions help them reduce what is causing those feelings and track their mood. Users also have options for mindfulness exercises and suggestions for journaling.
Hamilton says that the average time users spend in each session with their chatbot is about seven minutes, with 80% reporting a reduction in negative moods after a conversation. The startup also claims that after 30 days, a quarter of the people who registered with Youper are still active users.
Currently, Youper is free, although the company can try a freemium model in the future with premium features. It uses data from anonymous users in its own research to improve Youper, but keeps them private and does not share or sell data or user information.
Of course, an application is not a replacement to see a therapist or psychiatrist, but Youper presents a much smaller barrier to entry for people who are worried about the stigma of seeing a professional. Hamilton says he hopes the use of Youper will encourage more people to seek medical treatment sooner if they need it by making them more comfortable with the idea of talking about their emotional health.
“On average, it takes 10 years for someone to finally talk to a health specialist. This could become 10 minutes with an application like Youper”, says Hamilton. “Having an application with a very low barrier of entry, without stigma, something that has to do with emotional health and taking care of oneself, shows that you do not need to be afraid”.