Welcome to the 11th volume of Wellness Wisdom, a newsletter covering the mental health tech space + best resources to support your internal space. Fwd’d this newsletter? Sign up here.
Hey amazing human!
With Twitter announcing that WFH will extend until forever and LA shelter-in-place stretching out to July, it truly feels like an endless “today”..
Helen Rosner: Today in therapy we talked about how (for those of us currently healthy and taking isolation seriously) right now we live in an infinite present. No future plans, no anticipation of travel or shows or events or celebrations. It’s an endless today, never tomorrow.
Despite time being “on pause”, as humans we crave progress and seek purpose from circumstances we’ve yet to fully understand. Could all the activity around making “meaning” from quarantine and creative endeavors be a distraction as opposed to true progress?
There’s a residual discomfort that comes from being truly present with ourselves in the “endless today”. For maybe the first time we are faced with the question: who am I without a past that feels distant and a future void of plans? Who am I without my story?
This morning I laid between rose bushes and counted clouds as they flowered across the vast sky. I realized something. Roses and clouds don’t have goals. Nature doesn’t brute force its own destiny.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~Lao Tzu
All too often we rush through our days, anxious to get things done at the fastest speed. However, going faster doesn’t necessarily mean accomplishing more or better. In reality, the opposite is true. If you slow down, you make fewer mistakes, are able to think more clearly, and act with purpose. Paradoxically, you’ll achieve your goals faster.
Going into this week I’m reminded to enjoy the journey and grow at the universe’s pace, not mine. To approach my days with ease and unwavering faith. To spend more time “being” instead of “doing”. To embody more of the Tao Te Ching:
“All things, said Aristotle, have been discovered and forgotten many times over. Progress, he assures us, is a delusion; human affairs are like the sea, which on its surface is disturbed into a thousand motions, and seems to be headed somewhere, while at its bottom it is comparatively changeless and still.” - Will Durant, On the Meaning of Life
Companies I've been a part of, like Stitch Fix and DoorDash, aren’t doing anything fundamentally novel. Whether it’s getting dressed or feeding ourselves, technology enables us to express the same core human needs, just in different ways.
The Elements of Product Value pyramid demonstrates that the best products address core needs that sit at higher levels of the pyramid. Functional needs are table stakes, whereas needs in the realms of emotional, life-changing, and achieving a social impact, garner increasing customer loyalty.
TikTok is not really about fun videos, but about creativity/self-expression. Facebook and Airbnb is about our need to “belong” to a tribe. Peloton is about keeping up physically with the tribe. Every new product is a re-interpretation of how we can express and achieve core needs that remain unchanged over the centuries
Today, I’d like to talk about how traditional realms of our emotional support systems are (again) being “reinvented” by technology. As coronavirus continues to force major areas of our lives online, so are the ways in which we receive emotional support from a community. 1-1 therapy has already made progress in transitioning online, as indicated by companies like Talkspace, AbleTo, and Ginger - but what about other parts of our emotional lives?
I’d like to share wellness start-ups on my radar that are at the forefront of this shift across family, religion, wellness, group therapy, marriage counseling, and substance abuse support.
👨👩👧👧 Moving our interactions with loved ones online
- Cocoon ($3M Seed backed by YC, Foundation Capital, Shrug Capital, etc.) - started by ex-FB and YC alumni, is an app targeted at long-distance friends and family who want to stay in touch. Relative to iMessage, cocoon’s intentional features set it apart I.e. threaded chats, live flight status updates, sharing step counts, and the ability to strike up serendipitous chat.
💒 Moving our religious lives online
- Pray.com (Series A $16M backed by Greylock and TPG Growth) - is a social network for churches where members can chat, request prayers and donate money. With congregations unable to meet in person, Pray.com enables churches to broadcast sermons. Analytics help pastors gauge engagement and grow the community. (I’m picturing retention cohort break-downs and hockey-stick growth charts during weekly priest stand-ups). This is a fascinating shift and begs the question: Could 3 months to a year in quarantine be enough to permanently change our religious habits?
🧘♀️ Moving wellness classes online
- Kensho Health ($1.3M pre-seed backed by Founders Fund) - coins itself as holistic health’s first discovery platform backed by science. Recently the team has enabled at-home customers to discover new wellness courses, all hosted virtually. Courses like: Yogic breathing, Qi Gong, Sound Bowl meditation, and nutrition 101.
🛋 Moving group therapy online:
- Hims ($197M raised to date Series-C led by Forerunner, Founders Fund, etc) - recently launched virtual group therapy. Right now all sessions are free for a limited time before they go up to $15 - these include sessions on self-compassion, romantic relationships during COVID, and sleep.
- Another start-up called 7Chairs is also offering free virtual wellness sessions on unemployment, battling severe illness, and being a caretaker during COVID.
❤️ Moving marriage counseling online:
- Lasting (Series A) - is a marriage therapy app that is built on the Gottman approach (the most widely used method of couples therapy that focuses on attachment styles).
🍸 Moving substance abuse support online:
- Tempest ($10.4M Series A led by Maveron) - offers a $647 8-week virtual “sobriety school” to help people, particularly women and “historically oppressed individuals,” get sober. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, Tempest has a modern and playful brand (like many D2C start-ups) and takes a tech-first approach.
- Another company called Monument ($7.5M seed) is an AA-esque platform that features an online anon community of peers, virtual therapist-led support groups, and 1-1 options for therapy.
It’s exciting to see all the ways in which technology has brought traditional emotional support systems online. The silver lining of COVID is that constraints induce innovation, an ethos that the mental health space could use more of. Paired with stigma that’s gradually abating over time, I'm looking forward to more people having access to emotional support.
Nonetheless, we mustn't forget the first principles that serve as the building blocks for the Product Value Pyramid. At the end of the day, technology shouldn’t be built for technology’s sake. We are still designing and building for fundamental human needs, just in novel and creative ways.