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Contxto – Due to the frenetic nature of the media and news industry, lately my stress levels have been soaring higher than a Boeing 737.
To calm my nerves, I use Youper, a Brazilian AI-powered chatbot that supports people like me to clear their heads for a more balanced mental space.
The company recently raised a seed round worth US$3 million from Goodwater Capital fund. While founded in Florianopolis, it has been operating in the United States for almost two years now.
This news may have come out two months ago but it is still worth covering!
Opportunities in the wellness market
Frequented mostly by young adult women and allegedly with more than one million downloads, the company is seeking to expand its subscription base even further. Also, the capital will allow it to finetune operations and keep developing its AI.
While the Brazilian mental health industry is big enough, Youper relocated to the United States mainly because of the market’s maturity for these kinds of products. Other incentives included its high-number of English speaking users as well as fundraising opportunities.
In Brazil, Youper has participated in incubation programs including Santa Catarina’s MIDI Technological incubator. Nonetheless, it still preferred to move operations to the U.S. market, according to SC Inova.
Psychiatrist José Hamilton Vargas, graphic designer Diego Couto, and CFO Thiago Marafon combined their expertise to create Youper. Based on the founders’ background, it makes sense why the Youper chatbot is so in-depth, well-rounded and still preserve a friendly UI.
Reluctance against mental health
One of the pains that propelled Vargas to create Youper was the low-rate of young Brazilians seeking mental health care. Costs, social rejection, not to mention the fear of talking about one’s issues, were the main causes preventing people from seeking a psychologist.
“The first one is fear, taking care of yourself, talking about your mental health, understanding your mental health,” said Hamilton to TechCrunch.
“Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist is super intimidating. That’s why all of my patients were saying the same things. Costs are the second barrier, of course. Psychiatrists and therapists are super expensive.”
Inspired by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) research, users can detail and talk about what’s on their mind. All the while, the bot guides sessions with assistance and tips. In other words, the bot “limits” responses so it can take you where you need to be.
While this is certainly not a substitute for in-person therapy or mental health consultations, founders believe it’s the first step for people to start taking control over their mental health.
Iteration and previous developments
Once upon a time, the app was more similar to Calm and Headspace. At this time, there wasn’t any interaction or conversation between bot and users. After trial and error, in addition to realizing that user retention and its engagement was gradually lowering, the startup opted for a more tailored experience.
Now, users input their emotions instead of just consume pre-loaded content. In fact, Youper’s value-add is personalization. Both mindfulness and CBT techniques inspired the pairing of users’ input and thoughts with proper feedback.