Jo Aggarwal hopes that you will find it easy to confide in a robot. He happens to be the founder and CEO of Wysa. Wysa is a very powerful AI-powered mental health app. It is Aggarwal’s company that maintains headquarters in Bangalore, Boston, and London. Wysa is similar to a chat that responds to the words of affirmation. Sometimes it also guides a user through one of the 150 different therapeutic techniques.
Wysa is Aggarwal’s second venture. The first being an elder care company that did not fit the market. Agarwal, I was on the edge of falling into depression. She says it was at that point when she got the idea of Wysa in 2016.
Wysa and Google Assistant Investment Program:
In March, Wysa was one of the 17 apps in the Google Assistant Investment Program. In May it closed a Series A fund round of $5.5 million. This was led by Boston W Health Ventures, the Google Assistant Investment Program, Pi Ventures, and Kae Capital. The company has raised a total of $9 million in funding according to Aggarwal. The company is home to 60 full-time employees and 3 million users. Eventually, the goal is not to diagnose mental health issues. Wysa aims to help the people who want to vent. Most users visit the app to improve their sleep, anxiety, or relationships.
Statement from Jo Aggarwal:
“Out of the 3 million people that use Wysa, we find that only about 10% actually need a medical diagnosis,” says Aggarwal. If a user’s chat with Wysa equals high scores on traditional depression questions like PHQ-9 or GAD-7, it will suggest talking to a human therapist.
Obviously, you don’t need to have a clinical mental health diagnosis to benefit from therapy. It is an additional tool that the user can interact with daily. “Sixty percent of the people who come and talk to Wysa need to feel heard and validated. But if they’re given techniques of self-help, they can actually work on it themselves and feel better,” Aggarwal continues.
Wysa’s approach towards its users:
Wysa’s approach has been refined through conversations with users and through input from therapists, says Aggarwal. For example, during a conversation, Wysa will categorize the statements and then assign the therapy type. It is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy for acceptance and commitment therapy based on the responses. According to them, it would select questions or therapeutic techniques written ahead of time by the therapist and begin the conversation with the user. Wysa is gleaning its own inside from more than a hundred million conversations.
“Take for instance a situation where you’re angry at somebody else. Originally our therapists would come up with a technique called the empty chair technique where you’re trying to look at it from the other person’s perspective. We found that when a person felt powerless or there were trust issues. The teens and parents, the techniques the therapists were giving weren’t actually working,” she says. “There are 10,000 people facing trust issues who are actually refusing to do the empty chair exercise. So we have to find another way of helping them. These insights have built Wysa.”