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Product: Health care app
Product launch: 2016
Founders: Rita Deek and Nicholas Chehade
Rita Deek, a trained psychologist, was continuously approached at children’s birthday parties by mothers anxious about the psychological behavior of their children. After several rounds of questions, examples of which included how parents should deal with child bullying, she and her co-founder, child and youth counsellor Nicholas Chehade, decided to put together MomAdvice. The startup, which was formed in September 2015, is a mobile phone app that connects mothers with a team of 10 specialist child psychologists, who are vetted and have their credentials thoroughly checked by the two co-founders.
The investment in e-health related technology has been earmarked by Lebanon for Entrepreneurs (LFE) and the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL)’s joint survey on development opportunities for Lebanon’s ICT subsector. Deek has identified mental health as an area which still attracts social stigma, and has developed an application which she feels provides an important source of support for mothers concerned about openly seeking help for their children. The app provides one-to-one chat features with psychologists who receive queries about users’ children, and respond accordingly, in a WhatsApp-style chat facility. There is no age limit to the child that can be discussed, and the app is currently being developed for both Android and iOS operating systems.
Therapy sessions are often expensive, and in Deek’s experience in Lebanon, mothers are often reluctant to seek crucial support due to financial and social pressure. The revenue model is based on subscriptions, and is currently valued at $15 per week or $50 per month for each user, with an 80:20 revenue split for the psychologists and MomAdvice respectively. While competitors exist in the US, research conducted by Deek identifies that within the region there are no psychological platforms which specifically cater to mothers and children, and she feels this gives MomAdvice an added boost as a startup which solely focuses on a niche market. MomAdvice’s ambitions for expansion stretch far beyond the region. They intend to recruit local psychologists who are certified and legal within their country of operations, and ensure they remain country specific. Currently 50 beta testers (who are mothers based in Lebanon) are giving very positive and helpful feedback. The app is due to be launched in 2016, and MomAdvice has recruited both a business and a software developer after a capital injection of $25,000 from AltCity’s Bootcamp program. According to MomAdvice’s projections, by the third year of operations the company should reach 60,000 users and generate $500,000 in income.
Overcoming the stigma surrounding the discussion of mental health is important, a stigma which is often present in any culture, and Deek hopes that the social impact of her startup will provide vulnerable individuals the chance to discuss anxiety-inducing problems. While she stresses that her team of psychologists will advise users to seek face-to-face counseling for serious issues, she concedes that there is no intermediate support network for mothers looking to receive advice on how to deal with lesser problems, such as continual bedwetting. This is a gap MomAdvice is hoping to fill.