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Brazilian startup Youper helps users achieve happiness

This post is also available in: esEspañol (Spanish)

Contxto – Mental health can be so underrated.

Bad experiences, traumas and negative emotions can obstruct our pursuit of happiness. What’s more, people often go through emotional turmoil without getting any professional help for up to ten years.

More than 60 percent of those facing these issues don’t even have access to viable solutions, like health coverage. In the process, these issues prolong themselves.

Realizing this, I found out about Youper, and how it is helping people overcome these issues. I reached out to Youper’s founders but still waiting for a response. Although I’d like to provide their insights, I’ll go into as much detail as possible.

Snapshot

Description: Youper is an AI-powered assistant assisting people to manage their emotions and behaviors.
Country: Brazil
Industry: Healthtech – AI
Founders: Diego Dotta, Jose Hamilton Vargas, Thiago Marafon
Founding Date: Jan 2, 2016

What?

You + Super = Youper.

This app encourages you to be your best self. Youper is an AI-powered chatbot programmed to help you overcome anxiety. It benefits people trying to manage their emotions and behaviors through an interactive and self-guided platform.

Users share their thoughts and feelings with Youper’s virtual mental health assistant. This way, the technology identifies and monitors patterns with the ultimate goal of motivating you to reach a healthier mindstate.

The startup’s machine learning technology is powered through psychological theory and behavior analytics. Designed with theory in mind, users can recognize and even reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, as demonstrated by a study submitted to a peer-reviewed publication.

Simply put, Youper aims to improve people’s lives. Supposedly, this app only treats social anxiety but wasn’t my impression, however. Everything felt way more holistic.

There are other similar apps where people chat with actual therapists. Youper is different, though, because it’s actually an AI-powered robot guiding you every step along the way.

How?

From my perspective, this technology is a highly-personalized platform. Users test and identify behavioral patterns thanks to diverse tips, chat features, as well as task options.

Here’s the step by step process for Youper:

  1. Download the app from any store
  2. Answer a quick questionnaire
  3. Start activities to measure your pain points and receive practical tips

Unlike most apps within this genre, Youper isn’t simply a chatbot where patients share their deepest fears and receive professional feedback. After all, assuming you’ve downloaded this to overcome your social tribulations, the last thing you’d want is to actually talk to someone, right?

Keeping this in mind, Youper functions as a customizable platform in which every user receives genuine attention. Based on the circumstances, each person gets customized tips and tasks to tackle their frustrations head-on.

When the user downloads Youper, they answer a questionnaire to measure social skills. Based on this, you can choose your own areas for growth. Following this, there’s a behavioral assessment based on a social anxiety test created at Duke University in the United States.

Developers realized that some of the most feared theoretical scenarios among 11,000 participants have been: public speaking, embarrassing oneself at a social event or talking to strangers.

Once you complete these steps, you can start doing some activities to treat anxiety. These range from breathing exercises and coping mechanisms to avoid negative thinking. From time to time, users retake the social skills test to track progress.

Why?

Most people endure emotional challenges at one time or another. Specifically, one in four faces serious mental health issues across the world.

In the United States alone, 43 million people are affected by problems like anxiety and depression, but 60 percent don’t get support. One of the most common barriers is lack of health insurance.

Generally speaking, mental health care is a US$200 billion market that will grow even more as underserved segments of the population start accessing to innovative solutions.

It’s also estimated that half of the planet’s population experiences some form of shyness and that 12 percent suffer from a social phobia. Nonetheless, less than 10 percent of them have a psychological diagnosis or follow-up.

According to Dr. José Hamilton Vargas, the lack of information and high costs are the biggest barriers for people trying to overcome social anxiety.

As a personal tool, we can be with our users 24-hours a day, seven days a week at Youper. This is something very powerful in terms of expanding response time for any treatment.

Dr. José Hamilton Vargas

Story

Brazilian psychiatrist José Hamilton Vargou created Youper alongside co-founders Diego Dotta and Thiago Marafon. Within this partnership, a psychiatrist, a developer and a designer joined forces to become emotional health first-responders.

Together, they wanted to ensure that people seeking help didn’t have to wait for years to receive it. To do this, a lot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy research went into developing the gadget in addition to the business model. In the end, this has proven to be one of the most effective psychological models for anxiety treatment.

Status

Youper began in Brazil but currently based in San Francisco. Today, the app is available in English and Portuguese on Android and IOS. Weekly plans cost US$ 25.

Business Model

Youper operates under a Saas freemium business model, which enables clients to use the app with no expiration date. If you’re looking for the full experience, though, you can purchase the premium version with more advanced functions. This plan costs US$25 per month.

Funding

According to CrunchBase, the company raised US$530 thousand in seed funding.

Future

Stay tuned.

Thoughts

I downloaded the app and I found it super interesting. I spent quite some time exploring its functionalities, using the chatbot, and I even took the Myers Briggs Personality Test to understand myself better – turns out I’m an ENTP, in case you were wondering.

In my opinion, Youper’s UX is key to its functionality. It seemed as though as the founders masterfully planned user actions to minimize churn rate or bouncing out of the session.

Instead of making users type long responses, all they have to do is click on predetermined answers. This may detract people from wanting to quit because nobody wants to write a novel when they’re seeking mental help.

Everything is well-designed, ranging from how the questions are phrased to the responses. Even the opt-out notifications impressed me.

From nootropics to neuroplasticity games, people are constantly searching for “mind hacks.” Yet some hesitate to reflect and identify potential detractors such as anxiety, fear, anger or depression.

Meditation was always an option for me to uplift my mood and perform better during the day. That being said, I had never really considered therapy. It’s been a few days since I started using Youper, and all I can say is that is does feel good. Keeping track of moods and thoughts, in order to identify patterns and just get it out of your mind is absolutely refreshing.

Just by speaking with an unbiased source – such as Youper’s chatbot – can improve these variables. Although therapy certainly isn’t a one-stop shop to remedy mental illness, it can definitely alleviate bad moods, bad habits or even bad mental states.

-VC

Victor Cortéshttps://www.contxto.com/
CEO & Co-Founder of Contxto. Passionate about tech, startups and venture capital. I eat sushi five times a week.

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